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Lough Erne a true parkland treasure

Co Fermanagh resort is a tranquil oasis and a great test of golf, writes Ger Keville

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Lough erne

Lough erne

Lough erne

Lough erne

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Lough erne

When you turn into the sprawling surrounds of the stunning Lough Erne Resort, it doesn’t take long to realise why Rory McIlroy was a former touring pro to this wonderful Fermanagh venue.

This course is well good enough to host a tournament,” said McIlroy back in 2009. “You couldn’t ask for more, for the conditioning or the style of the course. It doesn’t just have a great course, it has fantastic facilities with the hotel. It’s ideal.”

McIlroy was speaking after a skins charity match against Padraig Harrington, a round that saw the latter push his drive off the first into the depths of lower Lough Erne.

Welcome to Lough Erne, where water is a prominent feature on one of the finest parklands courses you will play.

On arrival, the dense, mature forestry flanks the pristine fairways to the right hand side of the road and to the left is the Golf Academy. The Castle Hume Course is the first you pass through and it oozes that conventional feel of a real parkland course.

As you continue up the winding entrance road you soon realise that the marquee Faldo Course is further ahead when the mighty Lough Erne comes into view. We stayed in the main hotel at the foot of a small hill that leads up to the clubhouse, parallel to the 18th hole. The Collop Walk is a mere flick of a wedge from the hotel and offers the perfect opportunity to mindfully take in panoramic views of the resort while studying the stunning Faldo course before the following day’s endeavours.

There are raised tee boxes with enticing drives towards winding fairways with subtle hills and mounds and water almost everywhere you look. The natural lake and woodland terrain is a unique and endearing feature of this remarkable course. Play it from the back tees to maximise the experience.

In Brian Keogh’s excellent Top 50 Holes in Irish Golf in the Irish Independent in 2020, the 10th – Emerald Isle – from the Faldo Course made the list. It’s not the longest par four. Indeed those with a bit extra off the tee may try smash one onto the putting surface. But its astounding beauty makes it a hole for your bucket list.

From the tee you can take two options, flick an iron down onto a plateau sandwiched between a slope on the left and forestry on the right or go for the Hail Mary and hit the driver. The latter is a dangerous option and leaves you missing out on one of the finest approach shots in Irish golf. A lay-up will leave you with no more than a wedge down the hill and into a green that is carved into Lough Erne. There is no room for error. Miss the putting surface and your ball is wet.

It’s a hole that couples scenic beauty with tactical nous and while, for many, it’s the signature hole that entices you to tee it up in Lough Erne, there are many others worthy of the name.

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You can open the shoulders on a couple of early par fives – the fourth and sixth – with the latter played from an elevated tee box to a fairway that swerves around to the left into a valley and then up the hill towards the green.

The par-four seventh, Devinish Drop, measures 396 yards from the back sticks and it really does kickstart the majestic views that make Lough Erne such a memorable golfing experience. It’s downhill to a fairway that hugs the lake to the right with its lovely green well protected by bunkers. The plaque on the tee tells you that Rory McIlroy was the first person to drive the green so, as you may imagine, it’s hard not to give it all you have with the driver.

The spectacular lake views are a major part of the course from here. The 10th takes it in in all its glory and the closing three holes are as good as you will play.

The 16th – Faldo’s Turn – is a glorious par-five framed once again by the lake on the right and tree on both sides of the fairway. From the back tees, the drive is both daunting and memorable. You are pitched on the perfect launch pad, well above the inviting fairway with an inlet edging in from the lake covered in reeds and rushes. It’s a decent hit to clear the rough and water hazards and if you do, you still have to negotiate the trees. You could spend hours here with a bucket of balls.

The 17th and 18th play back up along the lake and towards the clubhouse — a par four with the water in play throughout and a testing, lengthy par-three to finish.

Lough Erne’s other course – Castle Hume – is famed for its large greens, rolling fairways and its challenging water hazards and boasts some 7,000 trees and over 30 bunkers. Manicured to the highest standards, it measures just over 6,200 yards and plays to a testing par of 70. It is recognised as being one of the most scenic championship golf courses in Northern Ireland and, as such, it’s a great way to experience the beautiful natural Fermanagh countryside with spectacular views over Castle Hume Lough.

The hotel offers the complete fine-dining experience. The Catalina – Northern Ireland’s Restaurant of the Year – combines a choice of classic and contemporary dishes with a strong allegiance to local produce. The delectable, mouth-watering food is matched by a classy interior with glass chandeliers and vaulted ceilings.

Next door, the Blarney Bar offers a more casual experience with lunch and dinner menus and a terraced area outside where you can relax and soak in the beauty of Lough Erne.

There are traditional rooms with lake views in the main hotel and two and three-bed lodges stretched along the lake. The ‘turreted’ lodges are extremely spacious and comfortable and boast all the usual mod cons, including a jacuzzi bath.

With a golf course endorsed by McIlroy and a winner of Hotel of the Year, Lough Erne – nestled on a 600 acre peninsula with spectacular views of the Fermanagh Lakelands – is the perfect getaway for golf and relaxation.

Factfile
Green fees: Midweek (Mon-Thur) £59 (approx €70); Weekend (Fri-Sun) £69 (approx €82)
Society rates: Tea or coffee with a bacon roll, 18 holes Faldo Course with complimentary buggy and meal from the Golfer’s Menu. £75pp Nov. 2022 – Mar. 2023 | £99pp Valid Apr. 2023 – Oct. 2023. Must be booked by 31 Oct. 2022 and bookings must be for society groups of 12+.
Society Stay & Play: Luxury lodge room with breakfast; 18 holes Faldo Course with complimentary buggy; 18 holes on Castle Hume Course with a meal from the Golfer’s Menu from £185pps* Valid Nov. 2022 – Mar. 2023 | From £225pps Valid Apr. 2023 – Oct. 2023. *Supplement applies to weekend dates and high season. Offers based on per person sharing.
Buggy hire: Yes £40
Club hire: Yes £30
Electric trolleys: Yes £15
Range Balls: £3 for 25, £5/50, £7/100
Signature hole: 10th, Par 4, Emerald Isle, 347 yards (Black Tee); 287 yards (White); 207 yards (Red)
Stunning backdrop of Lower Lough Erne where golfers play this ‘risk reward’ hole to an island green
Professional’s tip: Damian Mooney, Resort PGA Professional: “This is a risk and reward hole, but caution will pay off. Treat this hole with respect.”
Membership rates: Waiting list for The Faldo Course
Nearby clubs: Gateway to the north west and Co Sligo, Murvagh, Rosapenna, Ballyliffin


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