COUNTY CLARE, Ireland -- The old Doonbeg Golf Club is almost gone, forever wiped away by a wild winter storm in 2014 and on-going alterations spearheaded by architect Martin Hawtree. The new Trump International Golf Links Doonbeg, located an hour's drive from the Shannon Airport in southwest Ireland, will emerge next spring when Hawtree's finishing touches debut.
Owner Donald Trump brought in Hawtree to repair the coastal holes that sustained significant damage and to revamp the original design, a links by Greg Norman that was beautiful albeit penal. Hawtree altered 11 holes to prepare for the 2015 season, and work has already begun on the final seven holes in preparation for 2016.
Golfers familiar with Doonbeg will still recognize a few key holes -- the par-5 first hole that is among the best opening holes in Ireland, and the two memorable holes rebuilt along Doughmore Bay beach, the short, par-4 sixth hole and the par-3 ninth hole.
The signature par-3 14th hole lost in the storm has been replaced by a scenic, 141-yard par 3 overlooking the ocean and the five-star lodge. It's a good hole but by no means as dramatic as the old one.
While some changes add difficulty -- a new green added 64 yards to the par-5 fourth hole -- most of the nips and tucks are player friendly. Hawtree removed the controversial bunker in the middle of the 12th green. He shaved down dunes on the par-5 13th hole and the demanding par-4 finishing hole along the beach to open up the lines of play to the fairways. The ongoing final phase will do the same to the dunes guarding the fairway on the par-4 second hole, eliminating that blind tee shot. The third green will move left away from the stone wall and nearby home.
The first, 15th, 16th and 17th greens at Trump International Golf Links Doonbeg will all be reshaped as well.
What won't change is that magical setting, featuring views as good as any in Ireland. They are what attracted the original developers and Norman to Doonbeg in the first place.