Greg Norman’s highly anticipated links course, Doonbeg Golf Club, will officially open on 9th July. Doonbeg is Norman’s first course in Ireland and is said to be one of the last true links in Ireland or the United Kingdom.
To mark this historic occasion, the two-time Open champion will take on Irish Ryder Cup star Padraig Harrington in an 18-hole exhibition match. This will be the highlight of a four-day celebration that begins with an official opening ceremony on that morning and concludes with the Palmer Cup matches, college golf’s most prestigious international competition.
“When I first looked at this site, I thought I was the luckiest designer in the world,” said Norman, who made more than 20 visits to Doonbeg to ensure the course lived up to its potential. “If I spent the rest of my life building courses, I don’t think I’d find a comparable site anywhere. It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth.”
Doonbeg is set along 1.5 miles of crescent-shaped beach encircling Doughmore Bay in southwest Ireland. The ocean waves are visible from the green, fairway, or tee on sixteen holes. The par-72, 6,885-yard course features a single loop of nine holes out and nine holes back, weaving through centuries-old dunes that reach nearly 100 feet.
Norman employed a “least disturbance” philosophy in routing his masterpiece through the marram-grass dunes. Twelve of Doonbeg’s fairways were simply mowed and the putting green undulations follow the lie of the land. The best and most natural 18 hole layout amidst the dunes resulted in an uncommon combination: five par-3s and five par-5s.
Golf critics who have previewed the course have written extraordinary reviews. Noting Doonbeg’s location midway between Ballybunion and Lahinch – legendary courses that are both in Ireland’s top 10 – Golf Magazine concluded that Doonbeg is destined to join them as an “Irish shrine.” Sports Illustrated proclaimed the course to be “Greg Norman’s Mona Lisa” and rated Doonbeg’s 14th and 15th holes as the best par-3 and par-4 in southwest Ireland – even before the course was complete.
“This is a course I want to be identified with, one I’ll be able to say with pride,’I did that one,’” said Norman. “I’ve said it from day one, I can’t wait to hear what the best players in the world think of Doonbeg.”
Doonbeg was considered the ideal links setting in Ireland as early as 1892 by officers of the Scottish Black Watch but they selected Lahinch which, unlike Doonbeg, was accessible in an era when rail transportation was essential. Today, Doonbeg’s “remote” location is an asset and Shannon International Airport is only 40 miles away.
Doonbeg Golf Club will be a private club with some public play. Even before the official opening, interest has been high for the international memberships, with 136 paid members to date. Non-member greens fees are 185 euros. When complete, the site will contain luxury accommodation, a leisure centre, a village of golf cottages, a pub, restaurant and golf shop. Initial on-site accommodation is expected to open by 2004.
Doonbeg Golf Club is the creation of Kiawah Development Partners in association with Landmark National. Their last joint effort was at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, host to the 1991 Ryder Cup Matches.
Kiawah Development Partners www.kiawahisland.com
Doonbeg Golf Club www.doonbeggolfclub.com