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Golf Australia Express : Issue 4
We visualised Doonbeg as a place where distressed golfers knelt before grand sand mounds with fingers pointing skyward in prayer to the golfing god’s to take pity on their games. So imagine our surprise when we learned Doonbeg was in fact a relatively newcomer on the stage of world golf. It opened for play in 2002. From the first day Norman roamed these sand hills, he knew something special could be fulfilled, and those lucky enough to have enjoyed the Doonbeg experience will say The Shark has achieved just that. Known for an affection for links golf, Norman made 23 visits to the County Clare site. He calculated walking up to 200 miles during those visits in order to discover the golf course that lay within this remarkable land. “ The sensitivity of this piece of property required a total hands-on approach. You do not get too many opportunities to work on a piece of land like this one,” Norman said. “Thisis a course I want to be identified with. One that I will be able to say with pride everywhere I go, ‘I did this one!’ It’s Ireland. It’s Irish golf. It’s links golf; sand dunes like you’ll never see again because golfing land like this is preciously finite.” The par-72 layout features a single loop of nine holes out and nine back. It plays 6848 yards (6261m) from the back tees. Some of the quirky features on course include: a stone wall on the right side of the third hole; another wall that encroaches on the fourth green; a third down the left side of No.10, and a 15-foot sod wall bunker, cavernous enough to swallow a day’s worth of foursomes at the par-3 11th. On a course that boasts many standouts, hole 14 is one to receive much adulation. Some regard it as among the best short par- 3s in the world. Measuring just a touch over 100 yards from the back, like a true links hole it can play a whole lot longer. Norman, always regarded as a long hitter, was once forced to hit a 5-iron to it when the wind was up. With gnarly grasses surrounding it and any shot missing the playing surface inevitably resulting as a lost ball, the 14th plays similar to an island green. The real marvel of Norman’s creation is the fact Doonbeg looks and plays as though it has been there forever. Fairways pitch and roll naturally with every ridge and rumple of the earth. The green contours are also ‘lay-of-the-land’ and the bunkers are hand-dug, some edged by tall layers of stacked sod, others by shaggy tufts of native grass. The result is a genuine Irish links of unexpected breaks, unanticipated results and undeniable thrills. The ocean is visible from the green, fairway, or tee at 16 of the 18 holes. But the journey that is Doonbeg doesn’t end with the golf course alone. Long before you hit off the first with the sound of Atlantic waves ringing in one’s ears, the sight of a spectacular, stone-structure standing tall on the horizon will captivate you. With 47 suites snugly nestled around it, the Doonbeg Lodge makes it the perfect destination for golfers and with add-ons like the superb spa, casual and gourmet dining facilities and surrounding scenery it’s also the perfect base for non- golfers, too. OTG