BALLYLIFFIN, Ireland – The Glashedy Links at Ballyliffin Golf Club opens with three stiff par 4s before players arrive at the par-5 fourth. At 477 yards, it’s a reasonable birdie opportunity.
Ballyliffin, however, has been adding some starch to the Glashedy Links. If you walk past the back tee on No. 4 and wander down a path for 115 yards, you’ll arrive at a new back tee that stretches the hole to 585 yards. That would challenge even the best players.
And that’s just what Ballyliffin hopes to do. The club has made some changes in a bid to land the 2018 Irish Open. A decision by the European Tour could be announced as early as this week, when the Irish Open is played at Portstewart Golf Club.
The club leased the extra land for the new tee to stiffen what’s already a stern 7,210-yard layout. It also forestalls the likelihood that the fourth hole would be converted to a par 4 should the club get the Irish Open. That would have created an ungainly 34-37 layout – not ideal for tournament play, particularly a national championship.
John Farren, Ballyliffin’s general manager, is determined to check every box to land the Irish Open, which has added appeal because of its affiliation with Rory McIlroy’s foundation.
“If we get this, it will be massive for the region,” Farren said. “There isn’t a lot going on here other than tourism. If we get it, we want to give it our best shot, and hopefully have a chance to get it back sometime.
“It would be the first time the Irish Open has been on the western seaboard, north of Ballybunion. That’s a major statement if it does come to Ballyliffin, to Donegal.”
Pat Ruddy, who designed Glashedy, has helped the club tweak the layout for tournament play. All told, some 200 yards has been added to the front nine on Glashedy.
A new back tee was added on No. 2, offset to the right to create more of a dogleg and bring an out-of-bounds fence into play. A bunker was added on the left side of the landing area on No. 3. And 75 yards were added to No. 9 for a back tee that brings fairway bunkers into play. Farren reasons those changes strike a good balance between tournament and member play.
“Where it’s feasible, we’ve put in new tees as opposed to adding more bunkers for a club that has so much member play,” Farren said.
It doesn’t hurt that Ballyliffin has 200 acres that could be used for parking.
That would ease any infrastructure concerns that accompany a big tournament.
While Ballyliffin hasn’t yet secured the blessings of the European Tour, Ireland’s northernmost club hasn’t had any trouble convincing international travelers to visit. The 36-hole club, which includes The Old Links, is a staple for tour guides plotting paths across the northwest part of the island.
But as club captain Bryan Northey said during a quick nine on The Old Links, convincing the European Tour to bring the Irish Open to Ballyliffin would elevate the club to a different level.
“To (the European Tour), it’s another week,” Northey said. “To us, it’s the whole world.”
(Note: This story appears in the July 3, 2017 issue of Golfweek.)