Ireland Golf Trip: 17 Courses in 11 Days
27 May 2010
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by Stephen Friend
I am sending this from Donegal Town in County Donegal, Ireland. Since last Thursday, May 20th, my friend Bob Forster and I have played 14 of Ireland's finest links courses, specifically Ballybunion, Tralee, Waterville, The European Club, Portmarnock, The Island (in Dublin), County Louth, then on to Northern Ireland to Royal County Down, Portstewart and Royal Portrush, then back into the Republic of Ireland for Ballyliffin, Rosapenna, Donegal and County Sligo (aka Rosses Point). Tomorrow we drive 3 1/2 hours southwest to play Carne in Bellmullet, the next day another 4 1/2 hour drive to Lahinch and the final day we play Doonbeg. Since we started our trip just south of Doonbeg, we will have driven counter clockwise around the perimeter of the entire country of Ireland.
The weather our first 4 days had all of Ireland talking. We played in short sleeve polo shirts and I regretted I had not packed any shorts, since we were perspiring from temperatures of up to 73 degrees. The subsequent days slowly built back to more typical Irish weather, at first a little cooler so long sleeve golf shirts were needed, then 2 days later it continued to cool off and the wind came up, so that sweaters and sometimes wind breakers were necessary and then yesterday we got rain showers periodically during our morning round and then got poured on in the afternoon, to the point that we had to quit playing Rosapenna after 6 holes and walk two miles back to the clubhouse in a driving rain storm with winds of 35 mph. Today was better, with periodic showers, but not enough to stop play. The wind did blow, however about 25 mph sustained with gusts of 35 mph or more, in short, Irish golf weather. It forces you to hit punch shots into the wind and it makes you feel like you have Tiger Woods's length if the wind is behind you. I have hit 5 irons to flags 140 yards away and 9 irons to flags 160 yards out. Golf is different here...
We have stayed in some beautiful B&B's in Ballybunion, Waterville, Newcastle and Bushmills, prior to arriving here in Donegal Town where we are staying 2 days
in a reconstructed castle overlooking Donegal Bay. The view out the bedroom window is of a landscaped yard, and the bay, which looks like a large lake surrounded by vibrant green hills, some forested, some with just rolling fields dotted with sheep. The gorse is in bloom and so everywhere there are patches of bright yellow foliage. Ireland has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. I thought so when I visited in 1989 and I still think so.
The golf courses all wind through sand dunes covered with fescue and other wild grasses and you need to be fit to pull your cart up some pretty steep climbs, but it's worth it because the views from these elevated tees are breathtaking. Everywhere you look the waves are pounding on the beaches, grass covered dunes plunge below you and tower over you, and row after row of mountains dotted with homes, farmhouses, horses and sheep march off in the distance. They say there are a hundred shades of green in Ireland and I'm not sure that's not true. What I can say is that the people here love Americans, the food is great and the word "spectacular" does not do the golf courses justice. They must be seen to be believed.
Would love to stay another week, but we're flying back to L.A. on Memorial Day.
(I would be remiss if I didn't mention that after seeing all of these links courses and those we played in Scotland in 2008, Doak and Kidd really did get it right at Bandon Dunes.)