Hailed as the Augusta of Europe when it first opened its gates in 1995, Druids Glen Hotel and Golf Resort remains true to those lofty standards of excellence more than two decades after it brought Irish golf to new heights.
There's something inescapably magical about this 36-hole resort, set in glorious natural beauty in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains at Newtownmountkennedy.
Perhaps it's the echoes of those cheers for the mesmeric Seve Ballesteros as he fought the gremlins in his game like a modern day Don Quixote and saw parts of the pristine Druids Glen course last visited by the mysterious druids themselves yet still put Colin Montgomerie to the sword in that unforgettable Seve Trophy duel in 2002.
Those who were at Druids Glen in 1999 will remember another swashbuckling Spaniard, a 19-year-old Sergio Garcia, flamboyantly introducing himself to the world with a three-stroke win in the Murphy's Irish Open.
Much has happened at Druids Glen in the intervening years with the opening of the Pat Ruddy designed Druids Heath course in September 2003 — its front nine offering wonderful views of the the Irish Sea and the back nine nestling in the Wicklow Mountains — a fitting addition.
Rolling fairways, natural rock quarries, lakes, trees, streams, gorse, pot bunkers and gently undulating greens are just some of the characteristics of this links style, heathland course, which is the perfect foil to the sylvan beauty of "the Glen", which was created by Ruddy and the brilliant amateur Tom Craddock.
The entire resort was the brainchild of the late Hugo Flinn — a businessman, historian and philanthropist once described by his friend, the journalist Declan Kiberd, as "a man on a large scale.”
"Build me the finest parkland course in Ireland, whatever the cost," was his design brief for Ruddy and Craddock and they more than met expectations at Druids Glen.
Today, it is even more beautifully manicured than ever and enjoying a boom in business, thanks mainly to a major investment in its conditioning as well as a sumptuous renovation of the clubhouse, the 17th century Woodstock House, not to mention the arrival of a fleet of 40 brand new golf buggies.
"We have done a lot of work on Druids Glen regarding its presentation and a lot on Druids Heath, which was always the bête noire for amateurs, who felt it was quite difficult," explained the resort's Chief Executive Officer, Edward Stephenson. "That has attracted a lot of new members. We have also refurbished Woodstock House entirely, including the bars, the restaurants and the locker rooms."
Following the arrival of Acting Golf Manager, Marcus Doyle and a partnership with golf booking engine GolfNow, the resort doubled its online bookings last year with many more North American visitors complementing the large numbers of German and Nordic regulars as well as the burgeoning membership and a loyal Irish clientele.
Doyle, a handy two-handicap golfer, who worked on tournament scoreboards at Druids Glen in his younger years, has been instrumental in driving green fee income and so far, the stunning 400-acre resort is reporting an unprecedented start to the 2017 golfing season.
Steeped in history and situated just 30 minutes from Dublin, the resort is Ireland’s only venue with two courses ranked in the Golf Digest's Top 100.
With continued investment in recent years in both the Glen and Heath courses as well as the magnificent 17th century Woodstock House, the Glen clubhouse, the resort’s performance is thriving.
Druids Heath Golf Club has recently welcomed over 250 new members, having attracted the lion’s share of the former Glen of the Downs membership, who are enjoying a new golfing challenge.
A busy year lies ahead on Druids Heath with a full competition schedule, including AIG Senior Cup qualifying, from June 24-25.
Additionally, the Irish Open Matchplay Finals take place from September 22-23, as golfers from the 32 counties who have battled through the summer qualifiers, play in the finals on Druids Heath this year in an event to be televised on Eir Sport.
Following the adoption of the Get Into Golf programme, championed by the Confederation of Golf in Ireland and nurtured by Druids Heath’s Katie Nicholson, the club has attracted over 100 new lady members.
Naturally, given the beauty of the resort and the quality of the golfing, membership remains highly prized and costs €2,800 per year at Druids Glen following a joining fee of €5,000 and €1,350 at Druids Heath.
The resort remains highly popular with the business community with five-star corporate hospitality and corporate membership two of its biggest attractions.
In short, Druids Glen remains one of the great jewels of Irish golf offering two high-quality courses and the kind of attention to detail that has helped attract a loyal clientele over 21 successful years.
Druids Glen Factfile
- Club: Druids Glen Hotel and Golf Resort
- Address: Newtownmountkennedy, Co. Wicklow.
- Tel: +353 1 287 0812
- Web: www.druidsglenresort.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Green fees:
- Druids Glen from €60 - €120
- Druids Heath from €35 - €50
- Society rates:
- Minimum 8 people
- Druids Glen from €55 per person
- Druids Heath from €30 per person
- Buggy hire: Yes, €40
- Club hire: Yes, €40
- Electric trolleys: Yes, €20
- Range Balls: Yes, €5
- Membership rates for 2017:
- Druids Glen €2800 plus €5000 joining fee; Druids Heath from €1350
Druids Glen — 12th, Par 3, 174 yards
While the spectacular 13th is just as breathtakingly beautiful, the par-three 12th, St Patrick, is mesmerising. Set in the glen which gives the course its name, it is played from an elevated tee to a green protected by a meandering stream and overlooked by the Druids Altar, which is a preserved, stone altar of pre-Christian worship
Choosing the correct club is the key here — too little and you will find the stream, too much and you may face a frighteningly fast putt down a green that slopes back towards the tee.
Druids Heath — 13th, Par 4, 420 yards
A short but charming, par four where a sloping fairway and a pond short of the green add considerably to the difficulty. Big hitters may be tempted to have a whirl from the forward tee but it's a shot fraught with danger.
Precision is the name of the game here. Find the fairway at all costs to give yourself a clear shot with a short iron to a green protected by water and a sentinel tree.
- Ballinastoe Golf Club
- Blainroe Golf Club
- Bray Golf Club
- Charlesland Golf Club
- Delgany Golf Club
- Djouce Golf Club
- Dun Laoghaire Golf Club
- Glen Mill Golf Club
- Greystones Golf Club
- Old Conna Golf Club
- Powerscourt Golf Club
- Roundwood Golf Club
- Wicklow Golf Club
- Woodbrook Golf Club
This feature first appeared in the Irish Independent's weekly Tee to Green golf supplement on 6 April 2017