Doak’s St. Patrick’s Links Shines in Ireland

St. Patrick's Links in Donegal, Ireland

St. Patrick’s Links sweeps through dunes alongside Sheephaven Bay. (Image: Air Swing Media)

Just in time to help golf tourism in Ireland bounce back from the pandemic, Tom Doak’s eagerly anticipated St. Patrick’s Links launched to rave reviews in County Donegal.

(Last updated July 2021.)

Already home to approximately 35 percent of the world’s true links, Ireland unveiled another world-class beauty, St. Patrick’s Links, on June 26, 2021.

St. Patrick’s Links is “…a true game-changer for Irish golf,” wrote Brian Keogh in the Irish Independent newspaper. “It’s a modern masterpiece that tests every club in the bag and the six inches between your ears, all while charming you and encouraging you to come back again for another golfing feast.”

“St. Patrick’s is absolutely sensational,” raved Today’s Golfer magazine.

Carved by Tom Doak through seaside dunes at Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort in County Donegal, the links incorporates parts of old St. Patrick’s Golf Links, a 36-hole course that had sat unused for several years.

“We are using the old fairways for our first, second, seventh and eighth holes, but otherwise the new St. Patrick’s is a brand new routing, using the best land of the two original courses for a single great one,” Doak says.

The roughly 300-acre site alongside Sheephaven Bay, near the town of Downings, features sweeping views of both the Atlantic Ocean and protected pastures.

St. Patrick's Golf Links architect Tom Doak

Tom Doak is one of golf’s most acclaimed—and controversial—course architects. (Image: Renaissance Golf Design)

“When you play the early holes, you’re looking at [the pastures],” Doak told “And when you play some of the finishing holes, you’re also looking at that in the distance. You’ve got the bay on one side and you’ve got those dunes on the other.”

St. Patrick’s Links joins two other strong 18-hole courses at four-star Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort: Old Tom Morris Links, which includes nine holes originally laid out by Old Tom in 1893; and Sandy Hills Links, a Pat Ruddy design opened in 2003. The resort is owned by the family of Frank and Hilary Casey, who bought the property for £500,000 in 1981.

Local tourism officials are hoping that the launch of Doak’s first design in Ireland will spur golfers to visit this relatively remote north-west corner of the island, a four-hour drive from Dublin.

Doak is one of golf’s most acclaimed—and controversial—architects. High-profile Doak designs such as Pacific Dunes in Oregon, Ballyneal in Colorado, Barnbougle Dunes in Tasmania, and Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand belong on any ranking of the world’s outstanding courses.

The outspoken American architect’s seminal book on golf design, The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, has earned him both praise and censure. One equally famous architect, Rees Jones, said Doak’s critique of his work at Talamore Golf Club in Pinehurst, North Carolina, made him “want to spit.”

Doak’s involvement with St. Patrick’s Links will continue beyond its opening. “The project is…a new venture for me,” he says. “I’ve raised the capital to build it, and guaranteed the investors a certain return, after which I will be part owner of the course alongside the Casey family, who operate Rosapenna next door.”