Golf Course Architecture - Issue 66, October 2021

56 EYEBROW – NAME OF COURSE T o know, from the very start of a golf project that if the result isn’t a course worthy of being ranked in the top five in so golf-rich a country as Ireland, the project will basically be a failure, must be daunting, even for someone with the track record and self-confidence of Tom Doak. But in essence, that was the situation facing Doak when he was commissioned to build a new course on the St Patrick’s Links site, adjacent to the long-established golf resort of Rosapenna in County Donegal, to Ireland’s far northwest. St Patrick’s was originally developed as a 36-hole complex by local hotelier Dermot Walsh: legendary Irish architect Eddie Hackett and former Royal County down assistant pro Joanne O’Haire designed the two courses. A Dublin- based developer bought the site in the early 2000s and commissioned Nicklaus Design to build new golf courses; the Nicklaus crew had been on site only a week in 2008, just in time to clear the vegetation from a swathe of the site when the key lender, Bank of Ireland, ran into difficulties, and the project had to be abandoned. The site lay fallow for several years. Ownership was transferred to NAMA, the National Asset Management Agency, created by the Irish government in 2009 in response to the financial crisis, and it was finally sold to the Casey family, owners of Rosapenna, in late 2012. Architect Doak was engaged early on, and the routing was largely finalised during 2013, but construction of the golf course was deferred for some years, finally getting under way during 2018. Most of the greens were built during 2019, and although the Covid pandemic meant that Doak was unable to return to site during 2020, the on-site crew of Eric Iverson, Clyde Johnson and Angela Moser were able to finish the job. The five year gap between finalising the routing and starting the build can partiallly be explained by our starting point. In truth, Rosapenna had no particular need of more golf. With its Old Tom Morris course – which in fact includes work by Tom, James Braid, Harry Colt and Pat Ruddy – the Ruddy- designed Sandy Hills course, and the Coastguard nine, the original back nine holes of the Morris course, plus a popular pitch and putt, the resort had ST PATR I CK ’ S L INKS Ground movement, as seen here at the ninth, plays a key role at St Patrick’s “ St Patrick’s is close to being the best piece of golfing land I have ever seen” Photo: Clyde Johnson