The Portmarnock Links has been renovated, reimagined and renamed.
By Matt Ginella
Although golf was played on property as far back as the 1850s, Portmarnock Links—the resort and course—has always been in the long shadow of its neighbor, the Portmarnock Golf Club.
Portmarnock Links was a vision of IMG’s Mark McCormack and a few of his friends. It opened in 1995, with a design by European Golf and input from Stan Ebby and Bernhard Langer. The Links and resort can be seen from the 15th tee of the Portmarnock Golf Club (below).
There are countless examples of people showing up at Portmarnock Golf Club with a tee time at Portmarnock Links, and vice versa. They share the same dunesland, but they are two very different experiences. One is a private club which hosted the 1991 Walker Cup and is rumored to be sliding into the DMs of the Open Championship rota. The other is Dublin’s only coastal resort that’s 20 minutes from the Dublin Airport, with 131 rooms, a small spa, three dining options, several banquet and meeting rooms and an 18-hole golf course. And now, as it dusts off its origins, Portmarnock Links has new owners, new leadership and a fresh identity.
As the story goes, the Gaglardi brothers, Mitch and Tom, were on a buddies trip to Ireland in 2019. They played Portmarnock Golf Club and loved it.
Several months later, an option to buy Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links became available and Mitch sent Tom an email:
“Did you see Portmarnock Links is up for sale?” Mitch asked. “Is that the one we played?”
“No,” said, Tom. “But it’s right next door. We should check it out.”
They checked it out, they bought it and, after enduring Covid, now they’re completing phase one of enhancing it.
The Canadian brothers are in the hotel and hospitality business, including Northland Properties and Sandman Hotels, and they own the NHL’s Dallas Stars. They love sports, golf, Ireland and the Dublin area. Now they are the stewards of a rich history, an incredible story, the bones of a bona fide links golf course and a resort with a big upside.
The first phase of the upgrades includes a renovation of the old Jameson Bar, a new Jameson terrace area with a fire pit, a new kitchen and celebrated chef in Tommy Butler. The thrilling changes to the golf course includes six new golf holes, with elevated tees and greens, which exposes views of the Velvet Strand, the Dublin skyline and the small uninhabited island known as Ireland’s Eye. And they’ve added a halfway house behind the ninth tee (below), which will feature Jameson Whiskey. And there’s a lot of reasons why.
As of Oct. 3, Portmarnock Links has been rechristened as the Jameson Golf Links at the Portmarnock Resort.
In hindsight, it probably should’ve been called that from the start. The Jamesons of the Scottish whiskey dynasty came to the area in the mid-1800s and built the home that is still the centerpiece of the resort. When the Jamesons weren’t sailing or riding horses, they laid out a private nine-hole golf course. They also helped develop Portmarnock Golf Club and The Island Golf Club in the late-1800s. John and Willy Jameson are buried in a small cemetery off the right side of the first fairway of the course that now carries their name.
“It’s like a lot of the links courses in St. Andrews where you’re literally walking and playing in history,” says Moira Cassidy, a local historian and the manager of resort experiences.
“Renaming it the Jameson Golf Links, that’s really exciting, because everyone knows about Jameson whiskey, but not everyone knows about the family and their influence on golf in Ireland,” says Cassidy.
The Gaglardi’s influence on the golf was the hiring of Jeff Lynch of (re)GOLF to work closely with William Kirby, the new general manager; Paul McCanny, the new director of golf; and Fintan Brennan, the links superintendent, to renovate six holes.
“The fact that Jameson had his own golf course here back in the 1800s, to finally get the Jameson name on the golf course,” says Brennan, “that’s pretty neat.”
Brennan’s first job on property was to secure the fencing that surrounded the construction site as the original course was being built in 1993. Not long after, he got hired to be a part of the construction crew. Brennan, a 2-handicap, went on to get a degree in agronomy and he has been the superintendent since 1999. His son, Michael, is his assistant. So, not unlike the Jamesons, the Brennans are also deeply rooted in those dunes.
“The most recent changes have given people a view of the Irish Sea,” says Brennan, (above, far-left). “That’s the fun of it. Almost every other course on the East Coast of Ireland plays under the dunes.”
What they’ve done is created several reveals throughout the walk and routing. And they’re not stopping there. Brennan, McCanny (second from left), Kirby and Lynch (far-right) have plans to continue making improvements to the original golf course and enhancements to the resort.
The Fire Pit has been hired to help tell their story. On a visit in July, and as you can see in the short video above, we met with several members of leadership and the staff to better understand the past, present and future of Jameson Golf Links at Portmarnock Resort.