Athlone Golf Club - Par 71 - 6,570 Yards
Athlone Golf Club was founded in 1892 making it one of the longest established clubs in the country. It is situated on the shores of Lough Ree in the centre of the country having magnificent views of the lake. The course is partially built on the ancient esker Riada that helps drain the course making it one of the best winter courses in the midlands. Athlone Golf Club is currently undergoing an ambitious three year plan to introduce 18 sand based greens and tees. Some holes are being redesigned to introduce additional water hazards and maximize the views of Lough Ree. Care has been taken to complete work in the off-season, bringing six redeveloped holes into play each summer thus minimising inconvenience to members and visitors alike.
With so many good holes on the course it is difficult to choose the best. The first is daunting, an elevated tee overlooking a fairway lined on both sides by mature trees. It will take another good strike to hit the elevated green. The 2nd can be heart-breaking, only 160 yards but yet so testy. The green falls away by some 20ft to the left, anything on this side leaves you contecnding with heavy rough, overhanging trees and a very awkward stance. The redesigned 5th is a tough, dogleg par-5 that now features a large water hazard to guard the green. The 6th is an a brand new par-3 and what a gem - all carry across water from tee to with no shelter from any breeze that might blow across the lake. Not for the faint hearted!
Love it or loath it, the 12th is a hole the few visitors to Athlone will forget. A blind tee shot over a hill into a valley, the more you dare to cut off the hill on the drive the shorter the approach to the green, a classic risk reward scenario. Once in the valley you have a blind approach to the green that is guarded by a sand bunker on the left and grass bunker on the right. The long par-4 16th is a hole that would enhance any parkland course. OOB on the right and a fairway that slopes to mature trees on the left intimidates all but the stoutest of hearts. A long iron or fairway wood will have to negotiate the grove of five mature sycamores on the right hand side before getting near the target. A falloff to the left and a sand bunker guarding the right of the green compound the difficulty and justify the hole's #1 stroke index.
The 18th is a terrific finishing hole, plenty of timber trouble left and right off the elevated tee. You are then left with a blind approach shot to an elevated green where you need to take your line from the tall trees behind the green.
The clubhouse boasts one of the best views in the country sitting on top of an esker with panoramic views of Lough Ree below. The clubhouse has all the conveniences one expects from a club of this standing. Members believe that the best pint of Guinness in the province is served by Noel and Chrissie behind the bar.
Quotes and Comments
I'd recommend this club to anyone who's in the area. Very well maintained good greens, some interesting holes, and great views over the loch and very good clubhouse facilities. The pro was a hell of a nice guy too. A group of us played here in July on our way over to the West Coast and everyone was impressed. Highlight of my round was a thinned 5 iron to a foot on the par 3 14th for a tap-in 2.
Eoin Dickson (from GolfEurope.com)
In June I returned to play a round of golf with my brother in law for the first time in 13 years and was amazed at how well the course looked. Being Scottish he has played on a number of courses and rated Athlone golf course on par (excuse the pun) if not better with many Scottish courses. The extended 5th & 6th holes make the course as challenging as ever. Well done to the green keepers and management.
Alan Henehan (from GolfEurope.com)
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Athlone has hosted many Irish national amateur events including the Irish Cups and Shields finals in 1998 and the Irish Amateur Youths chamionship in 1979 which was won by future European No. 1 Ronan Rafferty. More recently, Athlone has been the home course and nurturing ground of 2003 Walker Cup team member Colm Moriarty.
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