Delightful Doonbeg a links of wild, enchanting beauty

The views across Doonbeg Beach in County Clare
The views across Doonbeg Beach in County Clare

Doonbeg is a study in contrasts: the rugged and quintessentially Irish beauty of the Clare coastline with the 2006 American-built stone castle that overlooks it. The flat farmland which stretches for miles around and the towering sand dunes which dominate this stunning links. 

And yet anyone who has stood here,  felt the power of the ocean forcing its way along the coastline and tasted its rain washed air, knows what a special piece of land this is. The backdrop is Doughmore Bay and its crescent-shaped beach which clings to Doonbeg golf course like a child to its mother – 16 of 18 holes are in sight of the Atlantic at some point – it’s hard to go wrong with this canvas.

Nature is, however, both a friend and an enemy in this part of the world: Doonbeg golf course has been battered by huge winter storms since 2013, a timely reminder not only of the power of Mother Nature but also just how much this golf course and the land on which it sits, is at her mercy. 

Doonbeg Golf
The approach to the 18th at Doonbeg


In recent years, the 18th fairway has been significantly narrowed by coastal erosion, while the course’s two best par 3s the 9th and 14th have also been damaged. That none of that is even remotely noticeable during our round is down to the tireless work of the team here: Director of Golf, Brian Shaw and the highly-regarded architect Martin Hawtree, who has updated Greg Norman’s original design, have been key. Between them, they have produced a Doonbeg golf course that feels like it has been built with hands and shovels, not bulldozers. It is immediately clear that this entire resort makes the most of  the incredible natural beauty of the land. And although we know that greens have been ripped out and replaced, tees moved and bunkers added – you would never know it. 

Whatever your political views about the owner (and this is a golf website, not one about politics) the resort is hard to fault: some 300 jobs now exist here where they did not before and no detail has gone unnoticed. The isolation of Doonbeg is part of its allure. The style is very much modern luxury meets manor house, chimneys everywhere and tall glass windows set beneath granite arches. The public areas as beautifully done, the restaurants are excellent and there are a multitude of diversions for non-golfers, including dolphin-watching, treatments in the spa, or the simple joy of drinking a pint while watching golf and the endless ocean beyond. I was, however, here to play golf and not watch it – thank the Lord. And having eaten a hearty lunch overlooking the 1st tee, it was our turn. 

Doonbeg Golf Course 1st green
The 1st green at Doonbeg


I had heard the opening hole here described as the most beautiful in all of golf – quite a claim. It’s a gentle 567-yard par-5 which plays slightly downhill to a green surrounded on three sides by towering, 10-storey sand dunes. From the fairway the Atlantic Ocean can be glimpsed through gaps in the dunes. The bunkering challenges you off the tee and on your second shot, whether you go for the green in two or not. There are no fewer than eight bunkers within 50-yards of the putting surface. And the natural amphitheatre created by the dunes does make it a stunning way to start.

The 3rd is a short par-4 with a large bunker at the elbow of a gentle dog leg left before the gargantuan 4th, measuring 659-yards (one of the longest holes in Ireland) from the back tees comes into view. Our day was brought to life not only by the beauty of the landscape and the excellent Doonbeg golf course but by the caddies who carried our bags. 

Doonbeg Golf 9th hole
Benjamin Smith on the 9th tee, flanked by caddies Douglas and Odhran Lynch.


It took us 7 holes to work out that caddies Douglas and Odhran Lynch were – in fact – brothers. Their stories, humour and wit kept us laughing even when the course was punishing our wayward drives. It was an education – in golf and life. And a pleasure to spend a few hours in their company. You could do worse than to ask for them. Although if Douglas tells you a putt comes from the left it may well come from the right! That’s my excuse and I am sticking firmly to it!

The pick of the front nine are the tremendous par 4 6th and the spectacular par 3 9th. At only 365-yards, the 6th it is not long but accuracy from the tee is paramount and anything left will end up on the beach, which the tee sits directly above. The 9th is a challenging par 3, with the stunning beach running the entire length of the hole. Anything left and you will be shouting down to the dog walkers and surfers to ask for your ball back. Good luck with that. 
Anything right and you will end up blocked out by a vast sand dune. It’s a really terrific par 3, although not the best on the course. That is to come. 

Doonbeg Golf 6th tee
The 6th tee at Doonbeg


The back 9 begins by turning away from the ocean but it really gets going with the brutal 13th which should, on the face of it, be a birdie opportunity at just over 500-yards but in reality is anything but. Likely to play into the prevailing wind, the second shot requires a big carry and a piercing ball flight to avoid the bunkers and dunes that line the way. A 3-shot approach is a good idea. 

But it’s the 14th that really steals the show. Another stunning par 3. This is and perhaps always had been the signature hole here at Doonbeg. Writing in his terrific book, “A Course Called Ireland”, Tom Coyne described it as “perhaps the most beautiful 100-yard hole I’d ever played, the green stuck into the side of the beach head like a saucer of grass hanging over the ocean.”

Doonbeg Golf 14th hole
The view from the tee at the incredible 14th

And that describes it beautifully still. It’s a 150-yard hole these days but it’s still breathtaking. The tee high above the green. The ocean just five steps to the right. On that day, I knocked it to six feet. I missed the putt, of course, but I was already surprised and delighted at how much I was falling for this place. There are six sets of tees at this golf course, the largest difference from back to front is 161 yards. So although it is like wrestling a bear from the back tees when the wind is up, it doesn’t have to be for everyone.

Doonbeg Golf Course 15th
A long putt for birdie at the par 4 15th


The 18th is an excellent finishing hole, with the ocean once again back at your side for the final 432-yards of your round. A good tee shot up the left side should leave a mid to short iron into a green that slopes sharply away to the left and that is protected by the beach and the ocean to the right. The windows of the clubhouse are a pitch-and-run away and the overriding emotion as you walk off the 18th green and back past the 1st tee on your way to the bar, is ‘is it OK if I just go out and play that again now, please?’

Doonbeg Golf 18th green
The 18th green at Doonbeg

I genuinely didn’t think I would like Doonbeg Golf Course as much as it did – I was prepared not to , I was prepared to be critical, if I am honest. And yet all that melted away not because of the luxurious resort but because of this magnificent golf course, which I fell head over heels for. It may not have the history or even some of the subtle charm of its near neighbours, Lahinch and Ballybunion, but make no mistake, this is first and foremost a really tremendous Doonbeg golf course and then a resort. 

All I can suggest is that you, like me, park any preconceptions (and I had plenty) you might have at the door and let the golf win you over. Because it will.

Doonbeg Golf Course
The immaculate grass paths between holes at Doonbeg


Phone Number:  +353 65 905 5600
Website: Trumpgolfireland.com
Email: [email protected]
Greg Norman and Martin Hawtree.
Length: Par 72 – 7,026 Yards
Where it ranks: Voted the best golf resort in Ireland 2017


How much are Doonbeg golf caddy fees?

Doonbeg golf caddies start at around  €50 per bag for two bags or €65 to carry one. A forecaddie is €25 per person with a minimum of 3 golfers required to book. These prices do not include a tip and all caddies at Doonbeg Golf Resort must be booked in advance, to guarantee availability.

How long does it take to play a round at Doonbeg Golf Resort?

The maximum expected time for an 18 hole round of golf at Doonbeg golf course is 4 hours and 30 minutes. Tee time intervals are every 12 minutes.

How much are Doonbeg golf green fees?

At the time of writing, Doonbeg golf green fees range from around €75 in the winter, to an eye-watering €450 per player in the summer. What your Doonbeg golf green fees will be, may depend on when you want to play and any deals and offers that are on at the time. Stay and play offers at Doonbeg tend to offer much better value for money. For the latest information click here

How much are Doonbeg golf club membership fees?

There are a number of different categories of Doonbeg golf club membership fees including Irish Resident Individual Membership, Irish Resident Family Membership, Corporate Membership and International Family Membership. Members at Doonbeg Golf Resort benefit from exclusive events, while membership at Doonbeg also includes access to all 18 Trump owned golf properties around the world, including Turnberry and Doral in Miami. In July, Doonbeg hosts Members’ Week. So the question of Doonbeg Golf Membership fees will depend on many factors, not least which category you choose. For the latest information on Doonbeg Golf Membership fees click here


Doonbeg Golf Scorecard
The scorecard for Doonbeg

Doonbeg Golf Course Map


Doonbeg Ireland map


The founder of The Wandering Golfers, Ben grew up on the links of Scotland learning the game from his beloved Grandpa. Previously a writer and broadcaster for The Times and BBC


  1. Such a wonderful write-up, thank you!

  2. Just commenting to show my support. Your post and writing is really well crafted. Nice job!

  3. Vivid and wonderful review. Really enjoyed it. Doonbeg is going on my ‘Must Play’ list

Comments are closed.

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