Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Seve Ballesteros Didn’t Design That Many Golf Courses But One Of His Best Is Tucked Away In The Very Heart Of Ireland…

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The Heritage

There is something most engaging about playing two parklands, back-to-back, with such different characteristics. Close to the heartlands of Ireland, west of Dublin, I teed it up at The Heritage and then Portarlington. The Heritage is the big-ticket item, a course designed by Seve Ballesteros, with length and muscle, rolling fairways, big bunkers and water in play on eight holes. It is an impressive set-up, all the more for having the hotel alongside. The Seve Trophy was played here in 2007, only three years after the course opened. Seve captained the European side but they were soundly beaten by Great Britain and Ireland. As I approached the clubhouse I was greeted by a statue of the Spaniard. A little inspiration goes a long way.

Looking across the 9th green to the 18th green at The Heritage

(Image credit: Kevin Markham)

There is plenty of room for the course over its 300 acres and, with its Championship credentials, it comes as no surprise to learn it is long. The back tees weigh in at 7,319 yards, but I played from the 6,516-yard forward Green tees. Even from there, length off the tee is required. Be grateful that landing areas are generous, trees prefer to give you room and there’s a good choice of tees. Five par 4s stretch over 400 yards with the longest being the Index-1 12th at 446 yards. The green is pinched by water and rough-strewn banks and for mortals it should be played as a par 5. There is but one short par-4 – the 289-yard 11th is named ‘Quarry, What Quarry?’ and that unseen quarry, right of the green, may come as a late surprise.

The Heritage’s greatest strength is its consistency and rhythm. It has strong holes, sure, but the flow ensures a sweet momentum. Holes that stand out are the parallel par-4 beauties on 9 and 18, wrapped around a charming lake that stretches tee-to-green. They are a perfect ending to each nine… assuming the water doesn’t claim your ball. The pairing is regarded as the course’s signature along with the downhill par-5 2nd, where water threatens constantly, and the par-3 4th where the green has more water around it than you care to know.

The 9th green and hotel at The Heritage Resort

The 9th green and hotel beyond at The Heritage

(Image credit: Kevin Markham)

The attractive and modern hotel next door comes with a 5km woodland walking track which encircles the golf course. Maybe a stroll with a notebook the evening before your round will reap rewards. The hotel has 98 bedrooms and five two-bedroomed apartments. Ask nicely and you might get a room overlooking the course.

Portarlington

Portarlington lies at the other extreme, a members’ parkland course neatly routed over low terrain, just five miles from The Heritage. Towering beech and oak flood the course, pushing it all the way to the edges of the River Barrow. The trees and red squirrels add considerable colour to your day while some excellent holes will live long in the memory. I struggled – as does every visitor – on the straight Index-1 par-4 7th. It is a nightmare for the wayward, an enchanting corridor of oak offering no forgiveness for 402 metres. Put me down for a five. And a mulligan.

The 8th hole at Portarlington Golf Club

The 8th hole at Portarlington just five miles from The Heritage

(Image credit: Kevin Markham)

I found the biggest thrills at the end, the sharp dogleg 14th starting a brilliant run of four holes, with the Barrow very much in play on 16 and 17, and the trees hugging you close throughout. I thought the 7th was tight… but that’s nothing compared to the short par-4 15th, which demands needle-threading skills. Portarlington is a perfect foil to The Heritage, offering just as much entertainment but in a very different way.

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