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My first encounter with the Jameson family, of Irish whiskey fame, was not an auspicious one.  

Some 20 years ago, playing the then Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links, I sliced my drive on the opening hole. Directly in front of me for my next shot was the cemetery in which several of the dynasty lay to rest. Attempting to hit my second shot over the burial ground and back into play, I thinned it straight into the graveyard wall, which sent my ball whistling past my right ear and back toward the tee. 

John Jameson
The graveyard where John Jameson III is buried sits alongside the first hole.


Fast forward to this year and I am back at the now renamed Portmarnock Resort to play the Jameson Golf Links, as the course has been rebranded, in recognition of its historic connection, following a multi-million-Euro renovation by its new owners, the Sandman Hotel Group. 

To my relief, the first tee has now been moved to the left and elevated onto a dune, allowing me to hit my drive up the left of the fairway and keep well away from the cemetery for my approach shot to the green. As I walk past the graves, I tip my hat to the Jamesons in their resting place, their peace no longer disturbed by golfing duffers like me. 

The ninth hole offers spectacular views over the Irish Sea.


It was back in 1847 that the family moved to St Marnock’s, around ten miles north of Dublin, where a new railway line allowed John Jameson III to oversee the management of the famous distillery, established by his grandfather, also John, in Dublin’s Bow Street in 1780, from his new coastal home. 

The wild location also allowed him to indulge in his other passion. He built his own private course among the low dunes in the 1850s, making it one of the first places the sport was played in Ireland. Keen to develop golf in the area, Jameson arranged for the southern part of the peninsula to be used for the development of a local golf club. Portmarnock Golf Club, initially a nine-hole layout, was formed in 1894 and has since gone on to host, among other prestigious events, 19 Irish Opens. 

Portmarnock Resort
The view out to Ireland’s Eye from the 12th green.


The Jameson’s family home now forms part of Portmarnock Resort, with holes one, eight and 14 of the Jameson Golf Links following the routing of the original private course. 

While much of the front nine remains largely unchanged from Bernhard Langer’s 1995 design, the final ten holes have undergone significant work with several holes rerouted. The 12th and 14th have both been extended from a par-four to par-five, the former now having a tiered green on a high plateau that presents golfers with a testing challenge as well as offering glorious views over the curved Velvet Strand beach that fronts the resort and the Dublin skyline. 

The 17th will also be extended from a par-three to a par-four in 2024, while the par-5 13th and par-four 15th have been reduced to a four and a three respectively.

Jameson whiskey
The 15th has been shortened to a par-3.


In all, the revamp by ReGolf Design’s Jeff Lynch has produced six new green complexes and improvements to the teeing areas on five holes. 

My recollection of the original course is hazy but the revamped layout, particularly the closing stretch from the par-three ninth, that plays out to the sea, to the 18th green, cupped by grassy dunes, is nothing short of sensational and will live long in the memory. (The experience, of course, helped by a double tot of Jameson Black Barrel from the new JJ’s Halfway House tucked behind the ninth tee!) 

Jameson Golf Links renovation
The wonderful 18th among the dunes.


Portmarnock is Dublin’s only coastal resort and the hotel, a haven of luxury that sits alongside the course, has also undergone renovation. My room looks out over the beach to the Irish Sea and the rugged Ireland’s Eye through a large bay window. 

The three dining outlets include the homely Jameson Bar, where I enjoy Guinness and oysters after my round, and the rustic An Sibin Pub, hidden away in the resort’s grounds, which can be hired out for events and by golfing groups, a perfect setting for pre-dinner drinks by its roaring fire. 

The resort also boasts a spa with several treatment rooms, including one that features two roll-top copper baths where couples are submerged in warm water with organic, hand-harvested Atlantic seaweed in a 90-minute treatment that also includes relaxing, guided meditation. To help ease the knotted muscles from the previous day’s round, I opted for a rejuvenating deep-tissue massage instead. 

Portmarnock Resort hotel
The Portmarnock Resort’s hotel has also been renovated.


An elaborate stone crest adorning a wall in the garden of the original Jameson home in the resort bears the Latin motto “Lux, Amor, Pax”. It was unveiled by King Edward VII in 1907 to commemorate the marriage of two great whiskey dynasties – when founder John Jameson wed Margaret Haig in 1768 

Meaning “Light, Love, Peace”, the crest forms the tee markers of every hole on the course and it perfectly sums up the feeling of a stay at Portmarnock Resort with a round or two on its revamped links. Just mind you don’t spray it too far right on the first hole… 

• Stay and Play at Portmarnock Resort and the Jameson Golf Links this winter with their special €399 Winter Package which includes bed and breakfast, dinner for two and golf for two. To find out more, click here.

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