Golfers have been travelling to Rosapenna since the late 19th century when the Old Tom Morris Links was ranked 3rd in the British Isles behind only The Old Course at St.Andrews and The Royal County Down Golf Club. With the addition of the hotel soon after the Old Tom Morris Links opened in 1893 Rosapenna is the true first golf resort in the world. Both the Old Tom Morris Links and Sandy Hills Links are ranked in the Top 50 of Golf Digest Ireland’s Top 100 Courses. The Sandy Hills Links was ranked No. 11 in Golf World’s Top 100 courses in Ireland List 2015. In the summer of 2015 the Old Tom Morris Links proudly hosted the Irish Women’s Close Amateur Championship won by Sarah Helly of Enniscrone and the Sandy Hills Links hosted the Golfing Union of Ireland’s Men’s Interprovincial Championship won by a strong Leinster side.
In 1891, while a guest of Lord Leitrim at his nearby estate, Old Tom Morris of St. Andrews, a winner of four Open Championships in the 1860’s, took a drive to enjoy the Donegal scenery. Old Tom was quick to see the golfing potential of this fine stretch of coast line and before returning to the home of golf he had staked-out the first Rosapenna Links, incorporating wide rolling fairways amidst the undulating terrain and of course those delightful greens.
Back at St. Andrews, Old Tom was quick to tell of his discovery and so it was that Rosapenna became a place of pilgrimage for golfers at the turn of the century. Amongst those to follow were two other great golfing champions Harry Vardon and James Braid (in 1906) who won 11 Open Championship titles between them. They added length and more detailed bunkering but were wise enough to leave those wonderful natural greens untouched. Further changes were made by the great Harry Colt of Sunningdale in 1911.
In September 2009 the new Strand Nine opened at Rosapenna to replace the original back nine which played across the main road on a number of holes. These new links holes which are now played as the front nine are routed through the low-lying dunes to the east of the Sandy Hills Links and are fashioned much like the original Old Tom Morris Valley nine that runs along the beautiful Tramore beach overlooking Sheephaven Bay which have now become the back nine. Laid out by Pat Ruddy of the European Club these new links holes, which have striking views across Mulroy Bay, have matured to a condition that has seen them settle into the Old Tom Morris Links layout to provide a seamless connection between each nine.
The original back nine of the Old Links known as the “Coastguard Holes” are now played as a separate nine-hole course beginning and finishing at the practice ground. Running to just under 7,000 yards off the championship markers the Strand and Valley nines which now make up the Old Tom Morris Links are a testing combination of traditional and modern links holes which bridge a century of golf design influences.
The Golf Pavilion which officially opened on June 16th, 2005 represents a €3 million investment is classic 21st. century modernity. Covering an 18,000 square foot floor area, the two-storey structure has state of the art ground floor changing rooms, and fully stocked golf shop. Spacious restaurant, and lounge, billiards room, committee room, and conference room are located on the first floor.
The interior design and furnishing concepts reflect an elegantly styled luxury with subtle light patterns which engage with striking views of Sheephaven Bay and Muckish Mountain landscapes. Architecturally, the Pavilion design draws from Open Championship venue, Turnberry in Scotland, and from elevations and style of the old Rosapenna Hotel, built as a holiday lodge by the Earl of Leitrim in 1893. In another connection with the past, the site of the Pavilion is the exact site of the original holiday lodge.
The ideal place to warm up before your round, the Practice Ground is located just opposite the entrance to the Golf Pavillion. There is a ball dispenser on site that accepts €1, €2 & 50c coins. They have multiple turfing areas as well as a number of covered bays with no restriction on how long a club you can use (350 yards to the end). There is also a 12-hole par-3 course which starts and finishes from the Practice Ground office.