The first course at Lough Erne Golf Resort in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, is now close to being finished, in preparation for a 2008 opening. Created by Faldo Design, the 7,300 yard course lies five miles west of Enniskillen and will weave its way between Lower Lough Erne and Castle Hume Lough. The resort will include a 60-bedroom hotel, 25 lodges and an opulent private members lodge. Conceived as the Irish answer to Loch Lomond, membership of Lough Erne is restricted to 100 and is based on a preferential share option costing £25,000, plus a £1,200 annual subscription. Yet, with the course due for completion in 2008 and the hotel opening this summer, the club already has a waiting list of 15. Nick Faldo described the location as overwhelming, and added: "I couldn't have hoped for more dramatic surroundings. I am confident that this is reflected in the inspirational routing and that this project will produce one of Europe's – indeed one of the world's – most visually stunning golf courses." Architect Guy Hockley said: "Lough Erne is on a superb site and is going to be a great golf course. The most salient point is the drama of having loughs on either side of the property, so you have a view of at least one from 16 holes. That is pretty much in the realms of the unique." Lough Erne was one of the first projects Hockley worked on after joining Faldo Design from Gary Player's practice in 2000. He described the year-long process of finalising the land parcels and preparing an initial routing as exhausting. "The configuration of the land was quite irregular, so it wasn't a simple procedure to get a routing plan that gave us all the balances we wanted.
Due to the irregularity and narrowness of parts of the land we don't have a returning nine. We have the ninth green at the opposite end of the property." From the outset, Hockley said, Faldo was involved in the strategic design of each hole including the bunkering, sloping of fairways, green complexes and putting surfaces. In fact, Faldo visited the site three times, the first of which ended in the twelfth, fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth holes being reversed and the closing three holes being totally revised.
"We ended with a par four, but to accommodate the location of the hotel, we adapted the finishing stretch," Hockley explained. "It's something we do together on site. That's the beauty of having Nick out there early in the design process – he has direct input. It's unusual, but Faldo Design is not a signature design company. It's Nick Faldo's personal design business. It's not a service that Nick avails himself to an architecture team who are as comfortable putting other names to the design. The design process is very much Nick Faldo and his design team working together." Construction is ongoing and an opening date has been set for summer 2008.