By Matt Smith
The ultimate stop on Golf Digest Middle East’s Ireland tour whisked us back to the east side of the country and to the ‘links in the sky’ that is Druids Heath, the sister course to the famous Druids Glen…
Druids Glen, Newtonmountkennedy, Co Wicklow
18 holes, par 71, 7,415 yards
• Irish Open (1996-1999)
Our final outing takes us to the County Wicklow hills, high above the Irish Sea. Buffeted by the wind and looking out towards Wales (on a clear day), Druids Heath offers a 360-degree panorama of the beauty of Ireland’s rugged east coast, including surrounding ranges and the magnificent peak of Sugarloaf Mountain.
Contrasting its more-famous parklands sister course — the magnificent Druids Glen, which is undergoing a major 12-month renovation and aiming for a new look and new chapter by May 2023 — Druids Heath plays much more like a links course in the hills.
The tree-lined fairways guide your way around this challenging track, while the wind and rain can play just as crucial role in your score as your tee shots on the more exposed holes.
Do not let the beauty of the various flora fool you as this is a course with bite — a trip into the rough in shorts will result in a painful meeting with the thick and jaggy gorse that is as omnipresent as the thick rough. A caddie is recommended for the more curious golfer to point out the various landmarks and historical features Druid’s Heath has to offer as well as the on-course hazards to avoid.
The course was designed by Pat Ruddy and opened in 2003. And it plays long — the 7,415 yards often aided by downhill tee shots and wide, rolling fairways. Again very ‘linksy’.
The approaches to most greens require a deft touch as the plentiful, often deep, bunkers will welcome any wayward shots.
While each hole offers its own challenges, there are quite a few that deserve special mention. The 2nd hole is as much a mental test as it is a physical one as the downhill par five will tempt the longer hitters to take on the two lakes that front the small green.
After the short and very watery 3rd (mind the geese!), you begin to see the true length of Druids Heath and see her teeth. Gorse and as many as nine bunkers await, but an accurate, long drive could pay dividends. The signature 12th is a real up-and-down monster. If you catch the downhill slope you are laughing, but anything left, right or short will have you scrambling. A favourite of Golf Digest Middle East’s trip to Ireland must be the 14th. Set in a picturesque gorge that was once a quarry, this par-3 is a short delight that should help eradicate any nasty memories of what just went before on 12.
The closing holes take us back uphill to the highest point of the course, where golfers are once again rewarded with that breathtaking view before a well-earned recuperation in the clubhouse.
The five-star hotel offers fine dining, a relaxing terrace bar and family-friendly activities, including a pool, kids club and 2.3km walking trail.
WHERE TO STAY:
The onsite five-star hotel is a perfect spot to enjoy a mixture of nature and luxury, while ideally placed to set up camp for exploring the surrounding area and Dublin City itself. druidsglenresort.com
Just 20km north of Druids Glen is the breathtaking 1,000 Powerscourt Estate (above), home to two majestic golf courses, a distillery and Powerscourt House with its award-winning gardens, which are worth the visit alone. Miles of nature trails around the estate take in the tranquil surroundings such as the 200-year-old giant redwoods and famous waterfall, making this one of Ireland’s top attractions.
This not-so-little little hideaway is nestled in the hills on the border between County Wicklow and County Dublin and claims to be — along with many other hostelries up and down the country — ‘the highest pub in Ireland’. Established in 1798, it certainly is one of the oldest and offers traditional Irish fare and live music seven nights a week to give visitors a real taste of the famous Irish hospitality.