Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on golf in Ireland by guest contributor Barry Ward.
By Barry Ward
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF
Copyright © Barry Ward. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
IF YOU HAVE THE HAND-EYE coordination to hit a barn door with a bucket of water, then I know how you can find the perfect golfing holiday destination with all the extras a chap needs: good food, friendly natives, oodles of après golf distractions and courses to make your eyes stick out like chapel hat pegs.
Here’s how. Pin a map of Ireland to the wall and throw a dart at it, then make tracks for where ever it sticks. You’re almost guaranteed to find a cluster of first-class courses with agreeable accommodation nearby, plus all the other things required to soothe the inner man.
Scotland may be the historical home of golf but Ireland is the spiritual home. The Emerald Isle has more first-rate courses, pro rata, than just about anywhere on the planet, most of them oozing history. For many years the number was static at around 230: now the figure is 440-plus and rising.
Land of McDowell, McIlroy and Clarke
Thanks to the exploits of the Irish contingent in the Ryder Cup of late, plus the success of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell in the US Open and Darren Clarke’s epic victory in the recent Open Championship, the grand old game has long since overtaken horse racing, football and that other pastime enjoyed by two members of the opposite sex as the main topic of conversation in bars and clubs up and down the land. It’s become the in-game. Everyone wants to play. The architects are beside themselves.
Much of the nation’s coastline is now protected so few links are being built these days, but parkland courses continue to spring up in all corners of this green and pleasant land, much to the delight of the tourist boards, regional and national, whose work in keeping them busy with overseas visitors has become a central plank of the economy.
You’ll doubtless know of the golfing attractions of Dublin. Suffice to say that the there are 50 or so courses within easy reach of the city centre, and another 30 only half an hour further away. This may be the world’s dominant golfing city.
Numerically, only Myrtle Beach and Sydney are superior but neither has courses of comparable quality to Dublin’s. Just think of Portmarnock (Old and New), Baltray, The Island, Malahide, Royal Dublin, The Hermitage, Powerscourt, City West, Palmerston, Druids Glen, and Druids Heath, its new neighbour, another gem designed by the ubiquitous Pat Ruddy, whose links at the European Club is winning rave reviews world-wide. But that’s another story…
If your dart hits the south east corner of the country a quite different treat awaits. Bed down in the charming city of Waterford on the banks of the River Suir (you’ll be pampered to distraction at the Tower Hotel and the nearby après golf attractions would exhaust a hedonist in full fig) where a lustrous collection of parkland courses awaits your pleasure.
The region boasts of 30 courses and not for nothing is it known as the Sunshine Coast. I was there with the usual suspects in mid-October and on a couple of days we might well have been in Spain, although the club’s house wine at Waterford Castle was superior.
The Tower Hotel is convenient for Waterford Castle, Faithlegg, Tramore and Mount Juliet, and if you know of a finer collection of parkland courses you should drop me a line, post haste. There’s a good value green fee passport available, too. (see: www.irishgolftours.com)
The south west is your target?
Then your golfing holiday will become a pilgrimage as you drool over a collection of historic links in what’s known as the Ring of Kerry. Ballybunion, Tralee, Dooks and Waterville are the main attractions but there are scads of others, not least the two glorious parkland courses of the Killarney. Golf and Fishing Club, which gives a clue what awaits out there.
It’s a bit of a hike but you could fly into Shannon and the Great Southern Hotel at Killarney takes some topping, particularly since it was up-graded. And there are 20 or so cracking pubs within strolling distance on the main street. A word of caution: identifying the best pint of Guinness on offer is a local challenge not to be taken lightly.
TO BE CONCLUDED TOMORROW.
Barry Ward is a veteran golf writer and the publisher/editor of www.posh-golf-travel.com, a guide to luxurious, family friendly golf resorts and destinations. He lives in golf-gorgeous Rutland, England.
(Photo: Courtesy of ctoverdrive, Flickr, Creative Commons license)