After a few days at Portmarnock Resort, I could’ve been persuaded the holy trinity is, in fact, good golf, good whisky and a good dose of sea air – at Jameson Links I found all three in glorious abundance.
Nestled in a quiet enclave along one of Ireland’s most stunning stretches of uninterrupted coastline, this renamed and remodelled links is not only an excellent test of golf but another wonderful example of why Ireland is such a special golf destination. The course itself incorporates everything you’d expect from a true links layout – firm, fast playing conditions? Check. Rolling sand dunes? Check. Sea views? Check.
So, what makes Jameson Links stand out? Well more than 160 years of golfing history along with a link to one of Ireland’s most famous whisky brands certainly helps. Set in the grounds of the old Jameson estate of St Marnocks, the family developed a private 12-hole course in 1858 that stretched as far as the infamous 15th at neighbouring Portmarnock Golf Club. And now with new ownership and an injection of new investment, the golf course feels ready to step out of the shadows of its more illustrious neighbour.
As you tee off from the 1st there is an unmissable reminder of the family heritage, with the Jameson graveyard just off the right of the fairway. Luckily, I managed to avoid what could have been the most uncomfortable of out of bounds, but I was surprised to see that both John Jameson III and his son Willie both lived until their 80s. What did we say about golf, whisky and sea air being good for the soul?
Two men who might know that better than most are club captain Paul Power and greenkeeper Mike Brennan, who I was fortunate to play with on my visit to Portmarnock Resort. Paul has been a member for six years while Mike has basically grown up on the course. His father Fintan has been greenkeeping here since the modern course was designed by Ryder Cup hero Bernhard Langer in 1995. The relaunched Jameson Links opened for play in October 2023, having undergone a renovation led by Jeff Lynch, who introduced five new green complexes and four new teeing areas. A number of greens and tees have been raised to allow golfers to take in the views not only of the sea, but the Dublin city skyline beyond.
Neither Paul nor Mike can believe the changes that have been made in the last year. They agree the designers have done an excellent job of integrating the course into the natural wonder which surrounds it, it’s as if the course has always been this way, with the land lending itself to what is an excellent layout.
Playing Jameson Links is like golf through a postcard: the backdrop of the Irish sea, framed by dramatic dunes and the changeable weather make for a captivating atmosphere. The whole place is immaculately presented and it’s a joy to walk while taking in the awe-inspiring scenery. As Mike says “you can come out here in December in your slippers. The links course is so bouncy that you’re fresh when you come in.”
Mike shows me his father’s beehive just off the 2nd, while Fintan is also a keen beekeeper and is trying to grow more wildflowers on the course to enhance the environment but also his improve his own Portmarnock honey. It isn’t until the 8th that the real changes begin. From the tee you can hear the sound of crashing waves which should serve as a soothing backdrop, but when you’re standing on the tee box with what Paul calls a “breeze” blowing your cap off, your stress levels can’t help but rise. The hole has changed from a dogleg left to a dogleg right. Paul tells me he was the first person to birdie the new hole but Mike chips in quickly saying he was the first to eagle it. It’s a tough school playing golf with these two.
Despite all the work that’s been done, the course conditions on the whole at Jameson Links are impeccable. The fairways, barring the 8th, are lush and perfectly manicured, the greens are fast and true, and the bunkers are strategically placed to add an extra layer of challenge. Mike and his staff take great pride in maintaining the course, it shows in the consistently high-quality playing surfaces. Amazingly the course was never closed during the work, something they all can be very proud of.
Jameson Links strikes an excellent balance between being demanding and fair. The layout requires real precision, as errant shots are often penalised by the natural surroundings. The par-3 signature 9th, played into the prevailing wind, was beautiful to look at but you need to take at least two clubs more than you normally would just to reach the green. The 12th was my favourite hole: previously a par-4, it has been lengthened to a par-5, which now boasts a raised green that can present a golfer with all manner of problems. Paul still can’t work out the best approach and he’s played it 25 times.
This variety of routing ensures that every club in your bag gets a workout and that it’s a course which keeps you thinking and engaged throughout your round.
The old course was always known as a tough test: now they’ve injected a little fun into proceedings. You’d think that might mean the average score would come down but apparently not. Paul says “we always find a way of mucking it up.” You can see the pride that he has in the course. Paul invited his counterpart from Portmarnock Golf Club over for a round. Apparently, he hadn’t played the course in 20 years and couldn’t believe the improvements and was effusive in his praise.
Portmarnock Golf Club, which borders Jameson Links to the south, has always loomed large. There is now talk it might become the first golf course outside the UK to host The Open Championship. Before the rebrand, Jameson Links was known as Portmarnock Links, which caused confusion at times. The rebrand has, unquestionably brought clarity and with stunning vistas, challenging layout, and top-notch facilities, it can now stand alone as a must-visit destination for golf enthusiasts the world over.
Whisky and golf are two inseparable pillars of Irish life: trust me when I tell you that there is no better place to experience them hand in hand, than at Jameson Links at Portmarnock Resort. Sláinte.
*For more information on Jameson Links or to book a stay visit Portmarnock.com
*Alex South was a guest of Portmarnock Resort
JAMESON LINKS SCORECARD
JAMESON LINKS: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
So is Portmarnock Golf Links now called Jameson Links?
Yes, that’s right. In October 2023, Portmarnock Resort announced it had renamed its championship course the Jameson Golf Links. The relaunch followed a significant and ambitious renovation of Bernhard Langer’s 1995 design. The name is a nod to the resort’s long and storied association with the Jameson whisky dynasty, who called this piece of land home for almost a century from 1847. The renaming of Jameson Golf Links also ended lingering confusion with Portmarnock Golf Club, which borders the Portmarnock Resort but is a separate golf club.
So is Portmarnock Golf Links no more?
The name Portmarnock Golf Links has been replaced by Jameson Golf Links but the hotel and resort still carry the Portmarnock name.
Is it the best Portmarnock golf hotel?
Portmarnock Resort is an excellent place to stay if you’re playing golf in Dublin because not only do you have Jameson Golf Links on site, but you have Portmarnock Golf Club, which is hoping to become the first club outside of the UK to host The Open Championship, next-door, Royal Dublin a few miles down the coast and The Island Golf Club close by. The European Club, which is fantastic, isn’t too far away either.
What about Portmarnock Golf Club? What is that like?
Portmarnock Golf Club is consistently ranked amongst the best golf courses in the world. The club, which is completely separate to Portmarnock Resort and Jameson Links, dates back to 1894 and has hosted many major professional and amateur events including multiple Irish Open and The Walker Cup. It is now in talks with the R&A to host The Open Championship and the Women’s British Open.
How far away is Royal Dublin Golf Club?
Royal Dublin Golf Club, which was founded in 1885, is a magnificent links course and widely thought to be one of the best golf courses in Ireland. It was designed by Harry Colt, who also laid out Sunningdale Old Course and Royal Portrush. It sits 7.5 miles from Portmarnock Resort.
Where can I find the best Portmarnock hotel deals?
The best Portmarnock hotel deals aren’t difficult to find online with lots of choice around Dublin but we would recommend you start with Portmarnock Resort and the best deals can be found at Portmarnock.com