County Louth Golf Club (Baltray)
Designers: Tom Simpson
Situated at the mouth of the River Boyne as it flows from Drogheda into the Irish Sea, it is difficult to find a better golfing site nor one more steeped in Irish history than County Louth. When in the 11th century the Normans finally defeated the dreaded Vikings and drove them from Ireland, Drogheda became the island’s first great Norman seaport. Nearby, in the 17th century, the era of Protestant domination of Ireland officially began when their forces under William of Orange defeated the forces of James, the Catholic pretender to the throne in the Battle of Boyne.
Whilst the origins of the Club date from a meeting in October of 1892, the current championship links owes its existence to the mid 1930s work of Tom Simpson. Though he is little known in the States, Simpson’s contributions to marvelous seaside golf include Muirfield, Royal Porthcawl in Wales, the Old Course at Ballybunion and the wonderful figure eight design at Cruden Bay in the Scottish Highlands. He was also associated with Sunningdale, the famed heathland complex in suburban London.
Number one is a difficult dogleg opening hole but we find the meat of the course begins with number three, as good a par five as one could hope to find. Those attempting to reach in two are confronted with beautifully natural humps protecting a smallish green. The shot falling short is pitched into treacherous rough, perhaps never to be struck again. Gauging the wind on holes five through eight is especially challenging as Simpson laid them out in four completely different directions.
We find the most scenic, and best, consecutive holes on the course are numbers 12 through 15. These two longish par fours, a devilish short four and an interesting three play amid some of the most rugged dunes on the property. They are followed by three excellent and difficult finishing holes.
Baltray has been home since 1941 to Ireland’s premier 72 hole amateur event, the East of Ireland. We find it a most fitting venue. It was also a most challenging venue for the 2004 Irish Open which was won in 14 under with very mild, calm playing conditions. Image if the wind had blown and the old girl shown her teeth!
Major Basil Haversham, OBE
Your guide to the greatest golf holidays in Ireland
Independent travellers: From Drogheda, follow the signs about five miles towards Baltray. Report to the professional’s shop.