Paul McGinley explains why County Donegal is the ideal golf destination
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 16/08/18 6:24am
The stunning natural beauty of County Donegal was showcased by the huge success of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open last month, with the Glashedy Links at Ballyliffin proving immensely popular with players and fans alike.
The north west of Ireland enjoyed its first taste of hosting a big European Tour event, which was won by Russell Knox as he holed two huge putts on the 18th green on a thrilling final day as he edged out Ryan Fox at the first extra hole.
Irish Open week was an emotional and enjoyable experience for Ryder Cup legend Paul McGinley, who spent a vast amount of his youth in County Donegal and rates the region as one of the finest golfing destinations in the Emerald Isle.
McGinley has also highlighted a number of "hidden gems" not far from Ballyliffin, where it's not just the Glashedy links that is well worth a visit. The adjoining Old Course is another genuine links classic and is regarded as one of the favourite layouts of six-time major winner Sir Nick Faldo.
"For me personally, it was an emotional experience being back in County Donegal," said McGinley shortly after Knox was crowned champion. "My mum and dad are from here, and I've spent so many days in my youth coming here at every opportunity.
"To finally see an Irish Open come here was tremendous, and this week will showcase Donegal around the world and will surely attract a lot more tourists. And, most importantly, it will create a big legacy as well as help the local economy.
"There are spectacular views all over County Donegal and it truly is a special place. And the support from the local community at Ballyliffin was incredible. They really embraced the tournament and all helped to put on an amazing show."
McGinley was unflinching in his admiration for the Glashedy, a course of the "highest calbre", and he added: "I'd almost forgotten what a good course the Glashedy is, and how good the design is.
"It deserves to take its place in the very upper echelon of great courses in Ireland, and that includes the likes of Royal Portrush up the road, which will host The 148th Open next year."
There is certainly no shortage of high-quality courses and resorts in Donegal and along the Wild Atlantic Way, and McGinley believes Portsalon and Rosapenna are two which represent the very best of golf in the country.
Portsalon, situated just across Lough Swilly from Ballyliffin, is one of the oldest and most historic courses in the country, and is one of the founding members of the Golf Union of Ireland.
The huge expanse of beach borders the picturesque links, where every tee has a view of the ocean and the mountains beyond, and it is truly one of Ireland's most iconic courses.
Further west, and on the famous Wild Atlantic Way, is the beautiful resort of Rosapenna - another venue steeped in history. How many courses can claim to be designed by Old Tom Morris, with a few tweaks made by six-time Open champion Harry Vardon?
And, as well as the Old Tom Morris links, the Sandy Hills course is another classic and a superb test of golf for players of all standards.
As McGinley says, County Donegal is steeped in Irish heritage and is blessed with great golfing terrain. And when you're not on the course, there is plenty of natural, breathtaking landscape to enjoy.
There is Malin Head located on the northern tip, of the Wild Atlantic Way, while the spectacular beaches of Portsalon and the iconic mountains of Errigal and Muckish are a must-see.
Don't just take Paul's word for it. Experience the beauty of County Donegal for yourself. You can enjoy the delights of Rosapenna from just £229 per person for a two-night stay, which includes bed and breakfast and two rounds of golf.
Visit Golf Ireland's Industry partner Your Golf Travel - https://www.yourgolftravel.com/rosapenna-golf-hotel for more details.