Better pens than mine have waxed lyrical about the glorious links of Carne that stand poised on the edge to the world. Some of my favourite golfing locations are on the Western rims of Britain. Our own Traigh is the most westerly course on the British mainland, and I have written before about the wonders of Cruit Island and those of Narin & Portnoo. Now Carne must be added to the list.
The drive west to the Belmullet peninsula feels as remote a road as any in Ireland. Right there with the Atlantic lapping its shores, the Carne links winds through a maze of towering dunes. Dipping and soaring through these wild mounds, the round becomes ever more demanding. There is never a flat lie after the fourth hole. In some places greens beckon far below a high tee; in others flags glimmer high above a deep-lying fairway. The rough is garlanded with wild flowers, that soothe the frantic search for errant balls, while views soar out to the setting sun over the Atlantic and South to the spectacular hills of Achill Island.
Yet Carne has a further joyous surprise for the golfer. Nine wonderful new holes have been created in the dunes, and what fun we had taking them on. The original Eddie Hackett links is a great delight, but there are a few holes on the front nine in the flatter country on the North side of the course that are less exciting than the epic dramas of the back nine. Now a further nine holes have been threaded into the dunes and offer another splendid challenge. There are still rough edges, but this is golf at its most spectacular, and it does not need to be manicured for perfection. A piercing 3 wood over the ravine on the par 3 seventh of the new Kilmore nine was a moment of huge satisfaction, and a drive at the last through the narrowest of gaps in the dunes to the only possible landing area was another pure moment of joy to be alive. Carne is an extraordinary creation, its remoteness inevitably means that the course has faced several financial battles in its history, but let us wish the owners every success in keeping this paradise afloat for the rest of us.