Situated a short drive from Dublin on a rugged, sandy and spectacular peninsula that juts out into the Irish Sea, Jameson Links at Portmarnock Golf Resort is the product of a multi-million-euro redevelopment of what was formerly known as Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links.
While the name Jameson Golf Links might be a new addition to the Irish golfing circuit, its history and lineage date back as far as the 1800s when John Jameson of the famous Jameson whiskey dynasty built a nine-hole private course on the land to host friends and family when visiting from Scotland.
That nine-hole course has a fascinating history itself, with a large part of the land it was constructed on now making up part of the neighbouring Portmarnock Golf Club to the South.
What remained of it lay dormant for many years before Bernhard Langer was tasked with using the land to create an 18-hole championship course in 1995. That course was known as Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links until earlier this month when it was rebranded Jameson Golf Links.
The rebrand is the product of new investment and redevelopment that includes substantial changes to the course that were masterminded by Jeff Lynch, director and senior architect at (re)GOLF.
Tasked with not only making the course more fun to play but also allowing the beautiful Irish Sea to play a more prominent role in the design, he set about shifting earth to incorporate greater elevation changes to bring more spectacle and variety to the already excellent layout.
To better understand how the course had been remodelled, we packed up our clubs and jetted off to Dublin for three days of unforgettable golf and hospitality.
Let's get into it.
Setting off from the 1st tee, the history of this spectacular stretch of Irish coastline becomes apparent immediately. To the right side of the fairway, you are greeted by a small graveyard that provides the resting place to three of the Jameson family, including the land's original owner, John Jameson.
The graveyard is best observed from the middle of the fairway; however, those burdened with an aggressive fade might find themselves a little too close for comfort if the wind picks up off the Irish Sea.
A relatively gentle opener, the 1st has a generous fairway with a stream running up the right side as you get closer to the green. Longer hitters may be better off laying up, especially if the wind is behind.
The 2nd hole is another straightforward par 4 that doglegs gently from right to left. If you can get a good drive away, the opening to the green gives you your first opportunity to hit a classic links-style punch to keep your ball below the wind.
The 3rd, a short par 3 is an inviting hole that looks back towards the hotel, but don't let your guard down as eight greenside bunkers lay in wait on all sides, ready to swallow up any errant tee shots.
The bunkers vary in depth and severity, but your accuracy from the sand will undoubtedly be tested by the subtle slopes of the treacherous three-tier green.
The 4th and 5th holes both head down to the southernmost perimeter of the course and will require straight hitting to be overcome.
The 4th, a par 5, has out of bounds stretching the entire duration of its right flank, but with the 7th hole to your left, there is still room for error off the tee.
Continuing straight south, the 5th hole is all laid out straight before you, requiring another decisive strike with the driver to leave yourself with a mid-iron in.
The 6th will then see you head back towards the clubhouse. Having played this hole three times, we were convincingly beaten by the course designer on all three occasions.
From the tee, you have what appears to be only a sliver of fairway to aim for, and a tightly threaded tee shot will be required to miss the pinch point in the fairway created by a bunker on the left-hand side.
A full-blooded fairway wood will be required to climb aboard the green if you are lucky enough to find the short grass with your tee shot, and if the pin is set on the right half of the green, you will have two mischievous bunkers to carry to leave yourself with a chance of making birdie or better.
It was upon leaving the sixth green that we entered into potentially our favourite stretch of holes on the course. The first six holes are played across relatively flat land, with glimpses of the Irish Sea few and far between, but when you play the 7th, you are met with one of the first appearances of the shaggy dunes that begin to play a larger part in the layout.
Stood on the tee, don't be deceived by what you see; while it appears the fairway is relatively thin, there is actually plenty of space out right for you to utilise.
The green is set deep in a beautiful dune with a stream running 20 yards short.
Turning south once again, you are greeted with a fantastic decision. The 8th hole's fairway is dissected in two by a grassy mound that appears to want to usher you down the left side.
Only a short hole, an iron will suffice if you do choose the more travelled route; however, for those brave enough, you can take a drive over the mound to the right, shortening the hole significantly.
Potentially one of the better chances for birdie, the 8th is a fantastic hole that you could play over and over again without getting bored.
Heading into the back nine, Jameson Links really does come alive.
Thanks to the recent renovations, there are more elevation changes that present beautiful panoramic views of the course and sea, with the 9th being a perfect example of what you can expect as you move deeper into the round.
A beautiful par 3 that plays directly towards the coast, it gives you your first real look towards the Irish Sea, and it's one that should certainly be treasured.
Thanks to the variety of tees, this hole can be stretched out quite nicely, and as we discovered during our second round when the wind whips in off the sea, it can require a tee shot with some of the longest clubs in your bag.
The green is set on three tiers, with the low point nestling in the centre. If the head greenskeeper is in a good mood, he might decide to give you a central pin position, which undoubtedly makes the hole half a shot easier. Due to the funnel-like design of the green, a tee shot left or right of centre should find its way back to the hole nicely.
The 10th is another fantastic golf hole that utilises the dunes and elevation changes to challenge you at every turn.
A large dune dominates your view stood on the tee, as you are once again treated to a panoramic view of the sensational coastline.
A marker in the distance will show you the line, but as we experienced, proximity to the hole is not always ideal, thanks to a rather cunning green that lays in wait.
Your second shot will be what separates you from delight or disaster. The green is pitched above the fairway, with steep run-off zones front, left and right that must be avoided. With the wind inevitably also playing a decisive role in club selection, you will need to be pinpoint with your approach to give yourself a chance at par.
Running across the back of the 10th, you are once again greeted with a testing par 3 thats difficulty will be dictated largely by wind direction.
When we played, the wind was whipping right to left towards the sea, bringing the dunes to the left of the green very much into play.
The heart of the green is the smart play here, and depth is also key in order to avoid the false front.
The 12th hole at Jameson Golf Links is a real test of shot-making.
Measuring roughly 565 yards off the back tees, this par 5 is a real beast, and it's a hole that will live long in the memory thanks to its fascinating green complex.
The green was described by Jeff Lynch as a volcano, fortress template, and trust us, it's as intimidating as it sounds. Set high above the fairway, the green is perched atop a hill, with steep runoffs ready to usher any poorly struck approaches back down to the foot of the hill.
A collection of bunkers are also tactically positioned to the right for the wayward fader.
While certainly not the easiest hole on the course, the 12th is very memorable, and when you do finally make it to the green, you are greeted with a fantastic 360 view of the entire course.
The 13th once again plays straight down to the southernmost tip of the course, with a variety of classic links, hollows and humps greeting you throughout your walk down the fairway.
Nestled away at the foot of a collection of dunes, the green is also encircled by an assortment of mounds that have been shaped and cultivated by nature over time to provide golfers with an excellent array of obstacles to navigate.
Much like the strongest whiskies you will find behind the bar at Portmarnock Resort, the 14th is both fierce and fantastic in equal measure.
Measuring over 600 yards off the back tees, it's a bit of a brute that will require elite ball striking to be overcome. The fairway slides gently from left to right, and if you can keep your ball in the short grass, you have few hazards to avoid.
While the hole is long, Lynch did take mercy on golfers when designing the green surround, as you are given a clear path of entry, which means running a fairway wood up the fairway is a suitable option.
The 15th hole is a short par-3, which is remarkably low on the index. Despite being the stroke index 13, we think it's probably the easiest hole on the course. It does play uphill, so the wind direction could dramatically change the difficulty, but with a generous bailout short right and one of the flatter green on the course, it offers up an excellent chance to make par late in the round.
Heading into the final stretch of holes, you once more climb high for a beautiful view of the surrounding course. Stood on the 16th tee, the questions asked of your tee shot will become quickly apparent.
The dogleg right tumbles down before you, with the fairway meandering between thick rough and bunkers towards a well-protected green that features some of our favourite bunkers on the course. The shaggy dunes once more greet you upon your approach, framing the green beautifully with the clubhouse set behind.
A par here will be well earned, and it could be handy, headed into the long par 3 that follows.
The 17th, as it stands, is a long par 3 measuring over 200 yards from the back tees, but if you want to experience it, you will have to move fast, as plans are already in place to transform the hole into a short par 4.
The new green has already been constructed and should be in play by 2024. The aim of the transformation is to give golfers a more gentle finish to their round, as having spoken to a few of the members, the current layout has been known to cause irreparable damage to a few scorecards over the years.
When you've got a good round going, there is nothing worse than standing on the 18th tee and wondering how the hell you are going to make it to the clubhouse with your score intact. Thankfully, at Jameson Links, you will find yourself awash with a different feeling entirely.
A right-to-left tee shot is favourable to take advantage of the shape of the fairway, and if you can leave yourself playing from the short grass, you will have an appealing second shot into a green surrounded by towering dunes. Three bunkers are appropriately placed to protect the putting surface, but the generous size of the green should allow you to get away unscathed if you don't find the middle of the clubface.
Walking off the 18th green, you will undoubtedly be tempted to pop into the pro shop and book yourself another round, but if time or your body is against you, there's nowhere better to enjoy a pint of Guinness and reflect on your round than the newly refurbished Jameson bar.
Jameson Golf Links, much like the whiskey it's named after, is quality down to the last drop. The newly designed back nine provides drama and intrigue around every corner, and it's the kind of course we wish we could play every day.
The redevelopment has been hugely successful, and Jeff Lynch has done a fantastic job of bringing the course up to the incredibly high standard set by premier links courses in the surrounding area.
Undoubtedly challenging, the course will test golfers of all abilities, but what it also provides is a tremendous sense of fun and adventure that can often be hard to create.
We would highly recommend Jameson Golf Links to anyone planning a trip to Dublin. The service, accommodation and hospitality extended to guests of the resort is also first class, so if you do plan on playing the course, we would strongly advise you take shelter in one of the fantastic rooms on offer, too.