I’ve taken two golf trips to northwestern Ireland, and I’ve played some of my favorite rounds there, including ones at Carne, Enniscrone, Narin & Portnoo, Portsalon, and Ballyliffin. (You can read about one of those trips here.) Since then, several people have told me I missed a gem: Cruit Island Golf Club, a nine-holer, which lies at the outermost tip of a sparsely populated island that’s connected to the mainland by a causeway. (The drive from Donegal to the golf club is roughly an hour and a half. My rule for estimating driving times on Ireland’s sidewalk-size back roads: think of the kilometers as miles, then multiply by two.)
Vic Thompson—a reader in southern Illinois and a member of Lake of Egypt Country Club, which I have now moved to No. 1 on my list of the World’s Best-Named Golf Clubs—has played there twice, in 2012 and 2013. Recently, he wrote to urge me to play there, too.
Excerpts from Thompson’s report:
I first traveled to Ireland in 2001 and played the southwestern courses, Lahinch, Ballybunion, Tralee, Waterville, and Old Head. I returned in 2003 (Scotland & Ireland), 2011 (with my wife just to sight-see), 2012, and 2013. Of all the courses I have played in Ireland, Cruit Island—pronounced Critch Island—was the most fun. It has blind tee shots, tee boxes set on top of large high dunes, and great putting greens. The first tee is high atop a dune, giving the golfer a panoramic view of parts of the course as well as the cliffs and ocean. The sixth hole is a 140-yard par 3 that is all carry over a stunning wave-crashing gorge. The scenery is stunning. The azure waters and rocks surrounding the course are breathtaking.
My first visit was in 2012, on a trip with my golf buddy Bob. We were staying at the Lake House Hotel in Portnoo, and one of our hosts recommended that we drive up and see it. We did, and the course manager—who happened to be a relative of another of our hosts at the hotel—invited us to play nine holes and provided us with an electric cart, all at no cost. He was so proud of the course, which opened in 1986, and the more he talked the more excited he became.
I went back with my daughter, Jenny, in 2013. Jimmy said, “We’ll settle up when you finish,” and after our round he said that fifteen euros should take care of it. I thanked him, and commented that this was the most fun I had ever had on an Irish course. Cruit Island is out of the way, but I recommend putting it on your itinerary. Heck, the drive alone is worth it.