Donegal is a golfers paradise, with stunning courses all over the county such as Murvagh, Rosapena, Nairn and Cruit, but if its a natural classic links your looking for then you must experience Gweedore golf club, West Donegal. This is the perfect starting point for your holiday in Ireland, as you can fly direct from Dublin airport to Donegal airport for €35 and be here in just 40mins. Gweedore Golf Club is a prime example of the gems you'll find in this undiscovered corner of Ireland. Here a round of Golf is only €15 for 4 hours. I think the locals have been trying to keep this gem all to themselves, but the secret is getting out as visitors touring the Wild Atlantic Way are looking for unique places to tee off to the sound of the Atlantic ocean just metres away.
The club is used mostly by local members, that's changing says Paul, one of the long term members of the club, "we're noticing more visitors than ever before. We've been working hard on developing the course for the last 5 years from a noble 9 to a fighting 14 and we're not stopping there, soon we'll have an 18 hole course that can rival the best courses in the world".
As well as a loyal local following the club enjoys regular visitors from Northern Ireland, who say this course to be one of the best in the county. Even if you come unprepared, you can rent clubs on site. "We have many big events throughout the year, classics, mixed competitions, lots of women play here, we have very strong women’s league. In fact the women recently won the latest competition, in fact the women cleaned up on the last competition laughs Paul, they deserved it.
"Which shows the level of these ladies” Kathleen bar manager at the club says “one thing I really love about this club is how supportive the men are to the women players, its really encouraging, even when we win – and that’s very often, laughs Kathleen. Other clubs have a men’s only policy on Sundays for example, we don’t have that here".. The Máire O’Donnell Competition is the biggest event of the year, Máire O'Donnell used to play for Ireland, one of our most famous lady golfers, she’s in her 90’s now, Murvagh is her home club, "she was an amazing player, she didn't quite make it pro, but as good as, says Kathleen. We’re one of the strongest clubs in terms of women players, 10 years ago we didn’t exist, now we’re winning competitions – we won the West Coast Alliance, for the last 5 years, I really love being part of it. The scenery is spectacular, says Kathleen, people usually walk in and just can’t believe the location". But this Donegal secret is getting out....
"We forget how stunning the location is because we're here all the time, so when you see how visitors react to the islands, beaches and mountain views that surround the course, that really reminds us just how special this place is and we want to share that" says Paul.
"A couple from Sweden who were traveling the Wild Atlantic Way – made their way to Gweedore – all the way from Belfast to spend the day on the course and said it was worth every minute, they played 18 holes, enjoyed a pint of Guinness and some food as well as plenty of banter with the locals, says Kathleen. They had been in Dublin and didn’t really enjoy it she explains, but thought Donegal is simply amazing". Lots of the work has been done voluntarily, a real community effort has brought this club to the standard it is today, and you can feel that when inside the club, that sense of community, with a warm Irish welcome for all their guests and members alike. I certainly felt welcome.
Gweedore is known as Ireland's cradle of culture, this is a place where the Celt and the Gael are in abundance, where the Irish language is still spoken every day and ancient traditions survive. If your travelling with family, there is an endless choice of adventure and activity.
Fun Fact: International local star Enya is a former player and the Clannad classic was here for years, and then changed it to Altan. Also a lot of Celtic players frequent, Martin McHugh and Packie Bonner all play here from time to time.
When to go? "This is the perfect course for every weather type, says Paul, the layout of the course offers a natural drainage, with the sand and even If it does rain, you can save your fee and come back when it stops! The club is open all year round.
John Mac Clean, The Sun Newspaper, is a regular visitor to Gweedore, so I asked him to contribute to my blog, this man is clearly inspired with this course, thanks John!
"STANDING on the sixth tee at Gweedore Golf Club, I glanced to my right past the golden mile-long strand and the azure waters of the Atlantic to the white cottages of Inis Méan and Gola islands bathed in glorious sunshine little more than a mile away: a million-dollar view for just a handful of Euros, and with a game of golf thrown in for good measure. Not that I'd dare to suggest that these classic links are only worth visiting for the scenery. This unique collection of 14 greens and 18 tees spread out over an idyllic corner of Donegal's coastline offers numerous challenges and delights. White out-of-bounds posts extract cruel penalties from the wayward driver while scores of bumps and hillocks test every shot-maker's imagination. Truly, there are no boring holes at Gweedore. You can choose to play the first nine – including its mammoth, picturesque sixth – or shorter back nine, with its stunning short 15th, which is also down by the beach.
Ideally, though, you should find the time to visit all 14 tees and savour the thrill of plotting your way round a layout that, much like life itself, first heads for the ocean before returning home via a graveyard. Then you can linger awhile at the 19th hole to reward yourself with a pint or a whiskey (or both) served up in the clubhouse bar along with copious portions of good-humoured banter. There are very few rules to intimidate or annoy the casual visitor. If you can't find a tee, ask a local; they're a friendly bunch. If your shot hits one of the many big, white, furry grass-cutters that wander harmlessly round the course, just take it again; the sheep won't mind. Gweedore is an experience to be enjoyed by golfers of all standards. All for a fee that is less than you'd pay for any public or park course in the UK". - John Maclean, The Sun Newspaper
Where to stay? I recommend Teac Campbell, Máire & Charlie have been running this central family guest house for 30 years, you'll be greeted with the smell of home baking and chickens roaming freely. Go leor gaeilge sa teach seo and good value for money. On a Saturday evening throughout the summer, they host a family friendly traditional music session.
Where to eat? Gweedore Golf club offer light bar snacks, but just up the road you'll find Sean Ógs bar and restaurant, seafood is their speciality, the seafood chowder is known as the best, as well as many other local delights fresh from the sea, and at great prices. Expect a rustic feel, plenty of locals and always impeccable service.
Music? Gweedore is home to Teach Huidaí Beag, or Hiudaís as its fondly known locally, here you will find the best Irish traditional music session in the country. Monday is their official night, but they also have sessions on Fridays and live music at the weekends. They also stock local craft beers and have a top shelf of the finest whiskey that should definitely be visited. Willy will look after you.
Gweedore Golf Club is open 7 days a week, check out their facebook page for weekly competitions and if you would like more information, give them a call, they will be more than happy to help. Donegal Airport is just 15 minutes away from the club offering flights from Dublin and Glasgow. If you would like a unique weekend package with Golf coupled with the Whiskey Pilgrim tour contact Moira@mng.ie. Or join our newsletter for regular updates on our tours, adventures and how mng is helping businesses grow.