St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 14
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 14
The 14th hole on the St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna is called "Sheephaven Bay", named after its glorious view. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - clubhouse
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - clubhouse
A temporary clubhouse greets golfers on the St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - The Casey brothers
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - The Casey brothers
The Casey brothers - Frank Jr., left, and John - run the family's golf business at Rosapenna. Here, they pose on the first tee of the St. Patrick's Links. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 1
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 1
The first green is tucked left behind dunes on the St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
St Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 2
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St Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 2
The second hole at St Patrick's Links at Rosapenna really introduces the large dunes. Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Links
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 3
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 3
The par-3 third on the St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna is surrounded by dunes. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 4
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 4
The elevated fourth tee on the St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna reveals the beauty of northwest Ireland. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 5
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 5
A huge bunker hole guards the par-3 5th green on the St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna. Courtesy photo
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 5 bunker
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 5 bunker
This bunker crater could capture any miss short of the 5th green on the St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 6
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 6
Golfers putt up onto the 6th green of the St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 7
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 7
Seen from the back, the 7th green on the St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna is hidden from view while golfers approach from the fairway. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 8
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 8
A golfer tees off on no. 8 of the St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna in northwest Ireland. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
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These cavernous bunkers guard the left side of the 9th fairway of St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 10
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 10
The 10th fairway is massive on the St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 11
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 11
The 11th green might be the cruelest green on the St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 12
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 12
The par-5 12th plays slightly uphill on the St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 13
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 13
Avoid this bunker right of the 13th green on the St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna at all costs. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 14 views
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 14 views
A look back at the signature 14th hole of the St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - views
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - views
It seems everywhere golfers look there are dunes and blown-out bunkers on the St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 15
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 15
The par-3 15th hole of St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna plays uphill, but this is the scenery looking back. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 16
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 16
The 16th hole of St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna play dramatically downhill. Courtesy of Clyde Johnson
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 17
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 17
The par-3 17th hole of St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna can be tricky. Courtesy of Clyde Johnson
St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 18
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St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna - hole 18
The final hole of the St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna is a short par 4 that offers some risk and reward. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
23 Images

Tour The World's Newest Top 100 Course: St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna

The Irish links by Tom Doak has rocketed into a world ranking since its 2021 debut.

COUNTY DONEGAL, Ireland - John Casey and his brother, Frank Jr., stand smiling for the cameras on the first tee of the St. Patrick's Links on a perfect July day. This magic moment has been a decade in the making.

The Casey family, which runs the adjacent Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort, first purchased the dunes that held the skeletons of two former links courses in 2012. The brothers and their father waited patiently for six years to start redeveloping the land and made sure to pick the right architect to handle such a sensitive project. It could be, after all, the last links ever built in Ireland.

Now that Tom Doak's St. Patrick's Links has achieved its first World Top 100 rating (No. 55 by one publication), they can feel confident about the success of that 10-year journey. Golfers are flocking to experience the links that debuted in June 2021.

"It's amazing that it's given us that (world-class) stature. That is what the southwest of Ireland had in spades," John Casey says. "They had Lahinch, Ballybunion and Waterville. But (County) Donegal and the northwest, aside from (Royal) Portrush, which is close but not that close, we never really had that trophy course. It is disappointing that Glashedy (at Ballyliffin) and Sandy Hills (at Rosapenna) weren't viewed like that, but we needed that big splash. ... St. Patrick's has definitely elevated Rosapenna and the entire northwest of Ireland."

But was that greatness bestowed too early? There are always critics in today's social media age. Online quibbling about fescue that's too penal and firm greens - both issues that will soften over time - misses the whole point of St. Patrick's Links. The site's grand scale and the depth and height of the towering dunes make it seem like a Yankee Stadium of Irish golf. It just feels bigger and bolder than anything else.

Its dynamic routing, a 6,930-yard par 71, and its wild greens are Doak's calling-card. It is his seventh World Top 100 course, which is more than any other modern architect. His mix of blind shots and epic reveals take the player on a great links adventure. One minute, a golfer might not see a path to safety because of one of the many blind shots through the dunescape. The next, they've emerged from that grassy prison to stand on a glorious elevated tee that overlooks all of northwest Ireland, including Sheephaven Bay.

Despite the incredible width of many fairways, the angle of every shot must be calculated correctly or there's a price to pay. Hidden on the 214-yard fifth is perhaps the largest blown-out bunker in Ireland. Golfers can hardly see it from the tee. The seventh green is completely unseen behind a pronounced fairway ridge. A miss short and right of the ninth green will roll to the bottom of what I'm calling the "pit of despair" well below the putting surface. Although I haven't played every Doak course, the shelf on the 11th green is perhaps the most severe I've seen.

The 16th plays ferociously downhill, but as a 534-yard par 4 (487 yards from the blues), it plays more like a reachable par 5 for most of us. The finishing hole is a typical short par 4 by Doak with car wrecks waiting to happen anywhere, with a fairway that tilts and rolls balls into tricky lies. Bring your best short-game imagination to fully enjoy the day. St. Patrick's Links is open April through October with green fees set at €200 in 2023. Enjoy our photo tour of the world's latest lovable links.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Tour The World's Newest Top 100 Course: St. Patrick's Links at Rosapenna