The Faldo Championship Course (7,167 yards,Par 72) is a truly tough golf course in beautiful surroundings, atop a peninsula that provides views over the Fermanagh Lakelands. It is a parkland course with water in play on all but four of the holes, but its design is inspired by links, and the characteristics of the course come off as ‘linksy’, with hard, large greens, tough bunkers and contoured fairways.
«It’s a long walk!» warned the pro ahead of time, when our group said we wouldn’t be needing buggies. Although few visitors will be playing from the back tees, if you are a serious (male) golfer you will be advised to play from the blue tees (6701 yards) or perhaps the kinder white tees (6241 yards). Lower-handicap women usually play from the yellows (5686 yards), since the reds make the course very short (5015 yards).
After a longish hike to the first tee (down the hill, towards the lake, over a bridge), the friendly starter arrived by buggy to take pictures of our group with our various mobile phones and then send us off on a beautiful first hole. Castle Hume Lough is thirsty on the right and woodlands loom on the left. From the start, it’s obvious that the course was designed to a high standard, with green shapers having meticulously sculpted each putting surface according to Faldo’s vision. Although we played the course very early in the season (mid-April) the conditions were good, with putts rolling true.
The first holes meander through the forest (stay left and don’t go too far on the blind uphill tee shot on number two). On the 5th you come back to the lake. The par three is played toward a green fronted by a stone wall and lots of water. (This is when I wished dearly that I had played from the red tees, as a furious headwind made me decide that I would not be able to reach the green from the yellows. It turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.) A steep incline brings you to the 6th, a par five that is pleasing to the eye. Not only do you have panoramic views from the top of the course, you also have the full 6th hole laid out right in front of you, all going up toward the green in the distance. It is reminiscent of top American courses, with a few curvy bunkers guarding the corner of the landing area, and four more bunkers toughening up the approaches.
My favorite view, though, is from the tee of the 7th, a short par four. At the back tee there is a plaque honoring Rory McIlroy, who was the first person to drive the green on the 396-yard downhill hole in a competition. The 9th is beautiful par five with yet more water, with a halfway house behind the green. The iconic 10th, ‘Emerald Isle’, has a green that juts out into Lower Lough Erne.
The back nine include some holes that played a bit like heathland. The walk was indeed very long, and due to time constraints we had to skip a loop that included the 14th, 15th and 16th holes. The 17th is especially beautiful, with another green protected by water and the clubhouse perching above on the left side. The final hole is an untraditional par three, which feels a bit odd, although there’s nothing wrong with it. The climax should really come on that 17th, the 18th feels like an afterthought, especially since the tee is right below the clubhouse, so you have to walk out to the green and then walk back to where you just came from.
With the strong winds, the extensive walks between greens and tees, and all of the elevation changes, it would have taken us more than five hours to complete the full 18 holes. This is really a course that was designed to give golfers a big challenge, and also most likely intended as a buggy-course. If you’re aware of these factors, you can enjoy the high quality of the resort, the pretty views and the excellent restaurant in the clubhouse!