WHERE ELSE BUT in Ireland could you go into a pro shop and be told in answer to your question of how old the club is, ‘The course officially opened in 1993 but the land is much older than that’?
Welcome to Carne Golf Club in Belmullet, a wild and rural spot in County Mayo that gazes out onto the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
Isolated the course may be but it is a must play destination, especially if combining a west coast of Ireland tour with three other wonderful tracks at Enniscrone, Sligo and Connemara.
Carne is a young course as the assistant pro confirmed but it is set amidst age-old, towering sand dunes between which course designer, Eddie Hackett, threaded his fairways.
Hackett’s CV in Irish course design is hugely impressive with Ballyliffin, Rosapenna, Donegal, Enniscrone, Carne, Connemara, Ceann Sibeal and Waterville all to his name. What all these courses have in common is the spectacular nature of their setting.
What he has done at Carne is to make full use of the elevations with many tee boxes built on hill tops and greens sited on raised plateaus or down in hollows.
The course is as wild and natural as you want and, with each nine holes snaking their way back to the clubhouse, there is a sense that Hackett simply followed the land in the way that nature intended the course to be shaped.
There are few bunkers, with problems more likely arising from misplaced tee shots finding the coarse, ragged grass on the dunes or else slopes and undulations kicking a wayward shot even further into trouble. This is a course that demands a round is put together step by step with any attempt at that once in a lifetime, let’s go for it shot almost bound to end in disaster.
The setting is classic links although we do not come in full view of the Atlantic until we have played the 527-yard, par five, 13th with its out of bounds stakes all down the right hand side. As we climb the hill onto the stepped green that brings any under hit shot tumbling back down to re-join us, we finally see that mighty ocean stretching out before us in a grand coastal panorama. On a fine day this is one of the great views in golf.
The most difficult hole does not come until the 17th and how richly it deserves its stroke one index. Measuring 436 yards from the back, white tees, the fairway rises and falls like a series of crashing breakers in the Atlantic whilst on the left the ground slides away into a giant chasm from which it is difficult to see the fairway let alone the green perched on its plateau, where another gaping void awaits anything hit too far right. A bogey here is cause for mild celebration, especially when the wind is blowing.
There is now only another 541 yards to traverse across a gentle left hand dog-leg and we shall be back in front of the clubhouse ready for a pint of the splendid Guinness served in this most welcoming of venues and possibly one of the delicious steaks that are always available.
Carne is one of the great courses of Ireland and one that deserves far greater accolades than it traditionally receives. With regular flights into Knock from London Gatwick do try and get there before the crowds discover its wonders.