If you’re a golf enthusiast, you had to enjoy the recent British Open. Played at Royal Portrush, a stunning links course right on the North Atlantic, it had a very popular winner in Irishman Shane Lowry. As a visitor to Westport, you’ll have plenty of quality golf to play within an hour’s drive. The local course, Westport Golf Club, is a high-quality parkland course right on Clew Bay, with the iconic spiritual mountain Croagh Patrick a dominant visual presence on almost every hole. Drive an hour northwest and you’ll be at Carne Golf Links in Belmullet, an hour northeast and you’ll be at Enniscrone Golf Club just into Co. Sligo, and a bit over an hour south and you’ll be at the Connemara Golf Club in Co. Galway. Each course is a breathtaking golf experience, each is right on the ocean, each has massive topological changes as you work your way around. And each will set you back well over 100 Euro.
If you want a taste of links golf, closer than an hour away and for well less than 100, and you want a quirky and memorable experience, we have just the ticket – Mulranny Golf Club.
Mulranny Golf Club is a nine/eighteen hole track about a half hour's drive north and west of Westport. The club is right on the north shore of Clew Bay and was founded in 1896, with 122 years of continuous operation. MGC is on "commonage" land - shares of the land are owned by ten entities - nine families, who use the land for grazing their livestock, and the entity that operates the golf course. The concept of commonage originated after the Irish were able to get back fair use of their land - after land reformation and the return of Irish land to Irish people. Of course, land in Ireland was confiscated by the British government and given to an ascendant group of quasi-noble Englishmen - mostly soldiers as reward for their service during the conquest of Ireland. Commonage is generally land that had been used by several families for their livestock, but actually owned by the English gentry who gave their permission to the tenant families for such a use. So, one shares the course with whatever animals happen to be about at the time. Today, when we played, we saw cows, horses, sheep, and sheepdogs. They graze and then they....well you get the idea. Below, see a special local rule in effect at MGC.
Now, in fairness, this was the only substantial ..... errrrr..... "hazard" in any fairway. And, if one ended up in the light rough, there were indeed what could be characterized as nothing more than "droppings." Luckily, I had no need for any "lifted, cleaned, and dropped" shots during my round.
One very unique thing about the course was the way the greens were sheltered from the animals - each green was surrounded by a fence of barbed wire, with a gate to give golfers access to the putting surface. I am told that the fences are there to protect the greens from damage from the animals' hooves as much as from their "leave behinds.” Although it seemed as though the barbed wire would deflect shots, in nine holes my ball passed through or above the wire fences without incident.
So, although you might be forgiven for snickering a little bit about MGC, it really was a quality track. Long fairways, well-groomed and extremely undulating greens, stunning scenery along the bay and across from the Reek, elevated teeboxes that gave great views - and, if you wanted to play 18 holes, you simply moved to the alternate tees after playing the outward bound nine.
Payment was a bit quirky as well - the "honor system." No one around, so you went in the clubhouse, signed the book, and put your 20 Euro in an envelope and deposited it in the dropbox. Then, off to play.
It was a bit of an odd day. If you looked south across the bay toward Croagh Patrick, you were greeted by vivid blue skies with dramatic windwhipped clouds; if you gazed northward, you watched heavy mist and fog rolling over the mountains and heading directly for the course and the bay. Luckily, any inclement weather held off and we struck out for a lovely local pub, Nevins Newfield Inn, for a well-deserved cappuccino and a biscuit.