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.
The Sandy Hills Links at Rosapenna opened for play in June 2003 and has matured into one of Ireland’s finest modern links courses. Where Old Tom settled for a course alongside the dunes, Pat Ruddy has gone straight through them from start to finish and created an awesome course that will test any golfer, yet somehow still seduce those that cannot live with it. Each hole is spectacular and the views across the Old Tom Morris Links toward the beautiful Sheephaven Bay will salve any wounds inflicted by this incredible golf course.
Sandy Hills is in many ways the ideal of a modern links. Intended for the serious golfer, its narrow fairways appear constricting from the tee, but the landing areas sculpted from the dunes are deceptively wide. Measuring a hefty 7,255 yards from the tips, Sandy Hills was designed with championship play in mind. However, don’t allow this to deter you, with a multiplicity of tees there is a length to suit all strengths.
Above all, the appeal of Sandy Hills lies in its beautifully balanced routing through the high dunes cloaked in marram grass. These sandhills bear a striking resemblance to the ones near the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland that form the spine of Royal Portrush, Portstewart and Castlerock. Many of the holes feature elevated tees and greens, with drives into natural bowls on the dune floor. Most of the holes run north and south along the dune ridges, parallel to the front nine of the Old Tom Morris Links below, and above Tramore, the large beach alongside Sheephaven Bay that caught the Scotsman’s attention so long ago.
There are no average holes on the new layout, but the best come at the stretch of Nos. 6-13, which romp across the interior dunes. No. 6 is at the far southern end of the course, with the drive over a crest that reveals a picture-postcard view of the sickle of beach and bay with Muckish Mountain straight ahead. No. 7 is a downhill Par-3 to a sliver of green peeking from the dunes, and the eighth leads inland, tumbling downhill and then rising toward the backdrop of Carrigart and the Lough Salt Mountains in the distance.
A few of the holes, like the Par-3 third, Par-3 seventh, the Par-5 eighth, and the Par-4 10th, 12th and 15th, run across the dune ridges, lending a change of pace and overwhelming sense of seclusion in the dunes. The 10th hole heads back towards the sea through a secret valley in the dunes, with the raised green framed by the grey peak of Muckish. No. 12 continues in the same direction, coursing upward through the dunes, and the 13th, having reached the higher ground, is a seamless band of smother fairway that coils to the right towards Murloy Bay. No doubt Old Tom would approve of what has become of this links land that he so keenly recognized more than a century ago.
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.