CO. MAYO, Ireland -- Eddie Hackett saved perhaps his best work for last: Carne Golf Links. Carne introduced its final nine holes in 1993, just a few years before the diminutive 85-year-old Irish course designer passed away in 1996.
Carne's wild-dune cover matched up perfectly with Hackett's minimalist style. He dug only a few bunkers, simply because the natural terrain is imposing enough. Carne plays as pure as any natural links in the world. It might be Ireland's most undiscovered links, too, hidden in the remote northwest where Irish Gaelic is still spoken. As a local might say, Carne is simply iontach (translation: wonderful).
The Hackett course, a par 73 of 6,132 meters (roughly 6,700 yards), starts out on flatter ground inland near the local farms. The dunes on this loop feel more like modern-day mounding seen on Pete Dye-designed courses. Be sure to pick an extra club to climb to the elevated greens at no. 7 (a cool par 3) and no. 9 (a tough par 4).
The par-5 10th hole dives into the dunes where the real fun begins. The par-5 13th hole runs along Blacksod Bay. Starting at the 14th tee, situated on the water, the homeward stretch hikes up the mountainous dunes back toward the clubhouse. The par 4s at nos. 15 and 17 play extremely difficult, although there's a breather in between -- the gorgeous, downhill, par-3 16th hole.
The nine-hole Kilmore Course at Carne, added in 2013, adjacent to the dunes of the Hackett back nine, fits right in with the original course. If Carne were closer to civilization, golfers would be wondering why it's not on a top 100 list somewhere. It's that good.