From the first time I set eyes on Narin and Portnoo, I was smitten
Out of Bounds: Just outside the lovely Donegal town of Ardara you’ll find a hidden gem
Narin and Portnoo is a ‘links as it used to be, raw and beautiful’. Photograph: Google
There’s a question that always seems to find its way in my direction whenever I’m covering a tournament in the United States: it could be from a volunteer marshal, a chatty spectator walking outside the ropes, or a barman.
It usually comes after hearing my accent, and it goes along the lines of, “So, you’re from Ireland . . . can you recommend a hidden gem to me? Not one of the famous seaside courses, somewhere different.”
And, if I’m honest, the reply doesn’t take too long. From the first time I set eyes on Narin and Portnoo, I was smitten.
Just outside the lovely Donegal town of Ardara, it is a links that is wild and wonderful and captivating. In an old article in the “Irish Times” - all the way back in 2007 - I referred to it as “links as it used to be, raw and beautiful.”
Others have been similarly infatuated. The late, great Christy O’Connor Senior once remarked, “it’s no tuppence-ha’penny links . . . if a wind comes up, it’s a hell of a test and that makes it for me.”
It is a course that is formed on some of the wildest, most natural links terrain and, although not long by modern standards, presents a test that is fulfilling and always enjoyable. What’s more, the hospitality to be found there is second to none, an advertisement in itself for all that is good about the Wild Atlantic Way, except those associated with Narin and Portnoo have actively promoted such warmth long before any marketing campaign.
But no golf has been played there for the past week, and it has nothing to do with the weather.
A report in the “Donegal Daily/Donegal Sport Hub” was brought to my attention by someone who also has a grá for the old links; and it sadly provides an insight into a complicated scenario between a US-based Donegal businessman - who last year purchased the loan book from US investment firm Cerebus - and the club. and issues over a land lease from a third party landowner.
Club members have been requested to attend an Emergency General Meeting in Ardara on Saturday, at which the issues will be debated, discussed and a proposal to provide the club - which, according to the report has “run out of money” - the lifeline needed to reopen.
It is most certainly not a straightforward situation. Business is business, and the issues seem many and somewhat complicated.
My hope, however, is that common sense will prevail; that this great links - and what it brings to a beautiful part of the country - will remain as one of the true gems, and not so hidden, on this golfing island of ours. Hopefully, the members will be back playing their lovely links soon; and hopefully, those golfing tourists who find their way to The Links will get to enjoy the experience too.