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Golf is a triumph of hope over expectation – but where better to enjoy the frustrations and exhilaration of a good round than in Galway.
The county has 16 fine golf courses, with five clustered around the city of Galway itself, while the rest are spread throughout the area in some of its most scenic spots. You can enjoy the incredible views from the first tee to the last or in the clubhouse, even if your game is not quite as good as you’d like it to be.
Golf evokes all sorts of passions, not least from club members who are all certain that their club is vastly superior. So, in no particular order, here are some of the finest places to stroke or hack your way around Galway.
Portumna is inland, on the border with Tipperary and the golf course is set in a sprawling estate. Large swathes of forest shelter the course from winds and prying eyes – no need to worry about onlookers critiquing your backswing. Watch out for deer wandering on the fairway.
The expertly manicured fairways and greens of Galway Bay Golf Resort are matched only by the dramatic stretches of the Atlantic that border the course and punish a poor shot. This 300 acre links course was designed by Irish star Christy O’Connor Jr and takes players through a testing 7,308 yards from tee to hole.
Bearna Golf Club has a course punctuated by bogland that really brings the golfer back to nature. The course changes with the weather, and the dark turf and breadth of colour is almost enough to distract you from your drive. On a clear day, there are delightful views around the gently undulating course over Bearna towards the Aran Islands and across the Burren. A short distance from Galway city, Athenry Golf Club challenges players with its mixture of parkland and heathland. The large forest of Toberroe provides a looming scenic backdrop to the course, which hosts championships and has an impressive clubhouse, perfect for relaxing after 18 holes.
Ballinasloe is more than 100 years old and is said by local experts to be one of the most fun courses to play, with a variety of dog legs and obstacles to overcome. Later parts of the course pass through a bogland area which offers a new challenge for players. For beginners, or for those staying in Galway city who prefer to stay close by, the Glenlo Abbey Hotel Golf Club is a good choice. This nine-hole course beside Lough Corrib has some great variety, and one hole lies on an island in the lake. There’s also a 21-bay driving range for players who want to let off steam or iron out their swing.
Several of the courses are close to major attractions where there is no shortage of hotels and some courses even offer accommodation options.