If you were a bit surprised to see Slieve Russell in at number 22 in the recent Irish Golfer Top 100 Courses ranking, you shouldn’t be. Its position in the ranking means it is rated as the third best parkland in Ireland, behind Adare and the K Club (Palmer), and that is exalted company.
I spent a couple of days there in January, and my fondness for the course (and the resort) grows on every visit. Paddy Merrigan is the architect behind Slieve Russell’s design and as its maturity grows so its colour and depth get richer and richer.
True, playing in January, in the heart of Co. Cavan, may not be your thing but the drainage here is good and there were no boggy landings for my drives. I played the final nine holes in sunshine, which was quite a contrast to the snow that fell the following day. It was a beautiful and peaceful round.
You don’t just come here for the golf. Slieve Russell offers much more than that, although there is a 9-hole par three course (think Maguire twins) and an entertaining crazy golf course next to the tennis courts. There is a highly appealing spa including a Hydrotherapy Suite that takes you away from the busy corridors, bars and restaurants and smothers you in peace and isolation. There is a gym and a pool, there are mapped out walks around the estate and there is a large wedding/conference venue around the back, next to the clubhouse.
It is a place that has everything and yet it is not as widely visited as it should be… and that definitely applies to the course. Maybe now that the Irish Golfer Top 100 is considered as the most serious and most thoughtful rankings, more golfers will be inclined to visit.
The food is good, the welcome is warming and the golf is superb. If you have children then Slieve Russell will prove highly attractive. With so many families around I couldn’t get close to the Air Hockey or pool tables.
When I visit somewhere I typically come away thinking about my ‘strongest memory’, in much the same way that after a competitive round of golf I identify the best shot I hit and then use that to drown out all the rubbish shots on either side of it. At Slieve Russell, my memory is the same every time I visit: how good are holes 11, 12 and 13!
One final thing to leave you with is that 2019 saw a seven per cent increase in the number of rounds played on the golf course, so its popularity is definitely growing. That’s down to several reasons and becoming one of only a handful of global golf venues to be endorsed by The PGA, last spring, is certainly high up there. And maybe Irish Golfer’s continued high ranking is stirring interest, too.
There is plenty of great golf nearby and Slieve Russell is actively promoting their golf stay-and-play packages, including the new PGA National Ireland West Coast Links Tour, which includes rounds at Strandhill, Donegal and Co. Sligo.
* Hideaway was recorded by American house-music band De’lacy in 1995.
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