Wild Wild West*

Kevin Markham

Carne Golf Links

At a time when everyone is moping around at the closure of our golf courses it seems appropriate to reflect on the positives of the year. You might think there isn’t much to be positive about but I would say you are wrong.

Clubs have suffered significantly – specifically those that rely so heavily on golfers from abroad (i.e. our famous links) and on corporate and society outings – but there are bright points too. It all depends on whether you view the glass as half empty (green fee income down, catering decimated) or half full (membership up, number of rounds up, green fees at top venues reduced).

Here’s an example which – by some strange twist of fate – comes from my favourite golf course. In March, Carne Golf Links was in a tough situation as the year’s tranche of international visitors affected by Covid-19 got in touch to cancel or postpone to 2021. Carne may be a big course but it is a small, tight-knit club, lacking the financial resources of the big-name clubs in Kerry and Clare. As a result, the months of spring and summer no longer held the glow of optimism in what would have been the club’s most promising year.


They got fabulous support from Tom Coyne, No Laying Up and The Golfer’s Journal in the United States, as well as similar support at home, and this was vital to the club’s survival and its spirit. You only have to listen to Gerry Maguire’s ‘Pandemic Diary’ podcast with Tom Coyne (The Golfer’s Journal) to understand the anguish being felt in the wilds of Co. Mayo, and the gratitude for the support that followed.

International golfers might not have been able to travel but those in Ireland used the opportunity to make the journey once the restrictions were lifted. In much the same scenario that you don’t visit the tourist attractions closest to you because ‘they’re there and I can go anytime’, golfers had been putting off the trip to Ireland’s most muscular and charismatic links on the edge of County Mayo.

We all discovered that taking a holiday at home became the big buzz, an opportunity to explore far flung locations on the Wild Atlantic Way and elsewhere. Think Carne, think Connemara, think Dingle, think Ballyliffin. These are places we look at and go… “oh maybe next time.” But not this year.

Fiona Togher is the General Manager at Carne Golf Links:

“It really has been a year of change for Carne, and one of the benefits of the lack of international travel has been that our share of Irish golfers increased hugely this year, and their general consensus is that they will be returning to Carne – it was a course that many said they had been meaning to play for years, but felt it was a bit far, but given the circumstances this year they made it part of their staycation and decided it really isn’t that far after all!”

Visitors clearly agreed:

“Six of us were lucky enough to play 27 holes on the 8th of August, just passed. We travelled from Tralee after hearing great things about Carne golf links. What we experienced was something beyond our expectations. A marvelous day out from start to finish. Nathan in the pro shop was extremely patient as I tried to explain to him which way we wanted to play the course. The course itself was magnificent. I have played a lot of golf courses in several parts of the world but I don’t think I ever experienced anything like Carne. It was the most brilliant, challenging, exciting and breath taking course I had the pleasure of playing. The fantastic food and first class service from the bar staff rounded off what was the perfect day and one which will live long in the memory.” (Bryan T)

Add to all this the launch of the Wild Atlantic Dunes course, which combines the back nine of the Hackett course with the new Kilmore nine:

  • Holes 1-7 are the Hackett holes 10-16;
  • Holes 8-12 are Kilmore holes 5-9;
  • Holes 13-16 are Kilmore holes 1-4;
  • Holes 17-18 are Hackett holes 17-18.

That makes for a rollercoaster of a golf course where you’re moving too fast to get off. It really does feel like you are being thrown into a void of dunes.

“It really has been a year of highs and lows,” says Fiona, “and yet we have just received some fantastic news from the Irish PGA. They have confirmed that the Irish PGA Championship 2021 will be played on the new Wild Atlantic Dunes course, from 4th to 7th August 2021.

It’s a fabulous coup for the club – and an exclusive piece of breaking news for IrishGolfer.ie readers – and, by August next year, one can only hope that things will have returned to some semblance of normality and the days on either side of the PGA Championship will be packed with visiting golfers from around the world… and Ireland.

* Wild Wild West was a 1999 hit for Will Smith, from the similarly named and appallingly bad movie.

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7 responses to “Wild Wild West*”

  1. Ted avatar

    My wife and I had the pleasure of playing Carne links just a few months after it opened some 20 plus years ago(?). We finished our “interesting” round in about 4 1/2 hrs, and even though it was well past 6 o’clock, and there were no other golfers around, we were served a delicious meal. You don’t get that service in many clubs these days. Sad to say that we are nio longer able to play such great courses. If we could we would be back.

  2. Finbarr Dolan avatar
    Finbarr Dolan

    Carne, one of the best golf courses in Ireland and a must play for every golfer. The course is a magnificent challenge and the welcome from the club is top class. Gerry Maguire and his team are doing an incredible job at Carne and deserve every support and media attention .
    The town of Bellmullet has a huge appreciation of visitors to the golfers who travel to play Carne.
    As we know Links golf is massive to the American golf travellers but if they dont play Carne they are missing out on an experience not to be forgotten.
    Spread the word across the World Carne is as good as any Links in the 32 counties and better than most.
    Finbarr Dolan

  3. Paddy McManamon avatar
    Paddy McManamon

    Always been a bit too challenging for my skills( or lack of!). However, one of my greatest moments in golf was scoring an Eagle on the eleventh hole of this magnificent course. Probably a total fluke!.. but will be forever, and fondly remembered as a golden moment in my otherwise uneventful, but truly enjoyable attempt at trying to master this art.

  4. ENDA CREGG avatar

    Congrats to Gerry, Fiona and all the team in Carne. Its a great achievement to get to host the PGA Championship and a just reward for all the hard work that has gone into Carne. Well done to all and the course or welcome in Belmullet town will not disappoint for any visitors who have not pleasure thus far.

  5. Paddy Colleran avatar
    Paddy Colleran

    We have played Carne numerous times& I enjoyed it every time. A wonderful course with many challenging holes & some breathing views out into the Atlantic.
    Food always first class !,,!!
    One of the best links courses in the country .
    So happy Carne has been chosen for 2021 Championships .

  6. Tony Carroll avatar
    Tony Carroll

    As the trade from America has ceased it is still very expensive to play links golf especially in Clare and Kerry did they miss the opportunity to let us mere Irish mortals play at a reasonable rate.

  7. Liam avatar

    Played carne and what an experience we had. Beautiful course and scenery that only moyo can produce. Will be back real soon to play the new nine

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