The Takeaway: County Louth, aka Baltray, is devoid of weak holes and shows great variety in the directions the holes run. Though the terrain isn't as engaging and the holes less memorable compared to other Irish links, the holes in the dunes near the ocean are indeed splendid. Located less than an hour from Dublin, Baltray should make your priority list of courses to play when visiting the Emerald Isle's capital. Grade A-
Designer: Tom Simpson in 1938
Cost: €60 - €140 (€50 plus gratuity for a caddie) Click for current rates
Phone Number: +353 41 988 1530
Course Website: Official Website - Visit County Louth Golf Club aka Baltray's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - Baltray, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ireland
Accolades: Ranked 12th on Golf Digest Ireland's 2016 Top 100 list.
What to Expect: County Louth is located 30 miles north of Dublin on the sea near the Northern Ireland border. Though the ocean only comes into view for a couple of holes on the back nine, Baltray enjoys some of the best variety you'll ever come across as the holes run a compass of different directions while also employing diversity of yardages. The terrain isn't near as dramatic as what you'll find on the west side of Ireland, but County Louth does enjoy some nice dunes as you get away from the clubhouse and work towards the ocean. There isn't anything sexy about Baltray, other than the views from the 14th tee, it is just one solid hole after another with much fewer quirks than other Irish links. As such, the course is an excellent site for tournament golf where players skill, rather than luck, is thoroughly examined. Though County Louth lacks the memorability that other Irish courses offer, it does enjoy a very strong back nine with holes 11-16 providing a delightful stretch to play through the course's most interesting topography. There are courses that are a lot of fun to play on occasion but may possess features that would tire on a daily basis, and then there are less dramatic courses that you can play on a daily basis and never grow weary of the way they play; County Louth is the latter. As a final note, carts/buggies are available at Baltray for those electing to ride during their round rather than walking.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 14th Hole – 332 Yard Par 4 – In addition to being the course's signature hole, the 14th at Baltray is a great chance to pick up a birdie. This attractive short par four plays southwesterly away from the ocean to a small and bunkerless green. The hole bends slightly to the right around some small fescue covered dunes that stand as the green only defense from being attacked directly. It is Baltray's most eye appealing hole and perhaps its most fun to play.
Best Par 3: 7th Hole – 163 Yards – I'm a fan of having an uphill par three as part of a course's routing and County Louth delivers with one here. At 163 yards from the tips it isn't bruising in length and instead relies on a pair of strategically placed bunkers and sloping fringe to put some teeth into the design. Anything that doesn't fly the fringe will be repelled down to a chipping area so error on the side of going long since the green is twice as deep as it is wide.
Best Par 4: 12th Hole – 410 Yards – A trio of bunkers up the right side of the fairway grab the golfer's complete focus on this hole that doglegs left around some dunes and out of view. At 225, 240, and 260 yards from the back tee, this trinity of bunkers force players to consider hitting their tee shot over the dunes on the left to a blind landing area. The third bunker marks the 150 yard point into the green where the fairway then takes a gentle serpentine path over the crest of a five foot hill that travels back to the greensite. The undulating terrain and visual challenges of this hole can mess with a golfer's psyche early into the back nine.
Best Par 5: 3rd Hole – 544 Yards – Named "Punchbowl" for the greensite that sits below the surrounding hillocks, the bowl effect isn't nearly as distinct or generous as you would find on a Macdonald or Raynor course. The bunkerless hole is mostly straight before deflecting slightly left during the 10 foot ascension to the mostly blind green. The nearly 40 yard deep green features a large chipping area left of the putting surface where many wayward approach shots will tumble to. Approach shots coming up a bit short of the green with benefit from the punchbowl effect by getting a generous kick onto the putting surface.
Birdie Time: 4th Hole – 379 Yard Par 4 – There is little to fear at the shortish 4th and thus a great opportunity to card a birdie. This straightaway hole features no bunkers so pull out the driver and cut loose and if you end up in the rough you'll still be in good shape to get up and down for a bird. The circular green has some raised lips that will help feed ball back towards the hole, so take advantage.
Bogey Beware: 11th Hole – 470 Yard Par 4 – Only 50 bunkers exist on County Louth's links and seven of them are found on the 11th; more than double the average hole. On top of that the 11th measures out as the longest par four on the course making it easily the toughest par of the day. A trio of bunkers protect the right side of the tee shot landing zone thus causing golfers to play away from them and lengthening the hole as the fairway bends back slightly to the right. The greensite is set back at the entrance to the dunes and is protected by some of the deepest bunkers at Baltray. Getting into one of these sod stacked abysses will cost you a stroke and a chance at par almost assuredly.