The following is a journal of a wonderful golf and sightseeing trip to the Southwest of Ireland. We had unusually mild weather with partly cloudy or sunny skies everyday, not a drop of rain with just a mild breeze most days. There were 20 people consisting of 16 golfers and 4 non-golfers. The trip was 8 days with 7 courses available. I reported on the golf along with some of my fellow travelers comments. My wife Jana kept up with the sightseeing and will report on it in a future issue. Hope you enjoy it.
Day 1 - Beaufort Golf Club
Here I am teeing off at Beaufort. How many people have teed off in the doorway of a 12th centrury castle
After checking into the International Hotel…located right in downtown Killarney we traveled a few minutes outside of Killarney to the beautiful Beaufort Golf Club. This course has some spectacular lake and mountain views. A very nice course with wide fairways and large greens. It was a beautiful sunny and warm day with just a touch of breeze. Played a nice front nine in 37 but jet lag caught up with me on the back and I limped home in 42 for a 79. Had a beverage in the clubhouse and was entertained by the 2 pet peacocks of the club who joined us for snacks right in the grill room. Back to Killarney for some rest and then dinner in one of the many pubs located right outside our hotel. Seafood chowder and brown bread has been on my mind all day.
Today is set aside for sightseeing so no golf to report. My wife Jana will report on sightseeing in a later article.
Day 3 - Waterville Golf Links
Waterville is a world famous seaside links course that is usually a stern test. Today was sunny with very little breeze. Shot my best round here ever with a tidy 74. Could have been better except for some shaky putting. This is the favorite Irish links course of the late Payne Stewart. He was declared an honorary member and spent many good times here. A bronze statue of Payne is right in front of the clubhouse. Tiger Woods and Mark O’mera stay at the lodge and use this course to warm up before the British Open.
Day 4 - Old Head Golf Links
The big day! This course is just too spectacular to describe. Everyone has been going crazy in anticipation of this world renowned jewel. First time they saw it from the coach just about everyone gasped “Oh my God”. This is probably the most spectacular setting for a golf course in the world. A challenging links course set on a peninsula, completely surrounded by ocean and 250 foot cliffs. Usually very windy since it is not protected but today was another balmy, partly cloudy day with gentle breezes. Shot a mediocre 79 with poor putting again, but struck the ball fairly well.
A unanimous decision by everyone, including those that had played Pebble Beach that this was the best golf experience bar none of their lives. You must visit www.oldheadgolflinks.com to get some great aerial views. By the way, the caddies here are the best in Ireland. The two in my group were both named “Paddy”…only in Ireland. We all had a great lunch in the upstairs bar and enjoyed the spectacular views of the whole course. They had a bartender that does nothing but make the best Irish Coffees anywhere. It took him 15 minutes to make one and Jana certainly can vouch for his expertise as she enjoyed one.
Day 5 - Tralee Golf Club
Tralee is a spectacular links course designed by Arnold Palmer. We had a foursome playing here today and the rest of us did more sightseeing.
Since I didn’t play I had one of the golfers describe the experience.
Observation from one of the golfers:
“Tralee is a combination of the vast expanse of Normandy’s beaches mixed with the golfing grandeur of Pebble Beach: it’s all laid out in front of you. As I stepped on the 1st tee, I quoted Patton, thinking, ‘I’ve been here before”. I knew immediately that the next 5 hours would be not only pleasurable, but a gift to me from Palmer or a higher force. In fact, Tralee became my favorite course of the week, primarily because its architecture made sense, it rewarded its smarter contestants with a consistency in fairway and green. That’s not to say this course was a pushover. Hardly; rather, you ‘worked it’...it ‘worked’ you...I was happy with a DRAW! My final glee was a reward of par on the long 18th, starting with a wind-assisted drive that split the fairway, coming to rest after 340 yards. I’d go back to Ireland if my only tee time was at Tralee”.
Day 6 - Ballybunion Old Golf Club
Two courses scheduled today. 4 golfers took a private van to world famous Ballybunion Golf Club, Rated in the top 10 in the world. The rest of us played a very scenic and fun course, Ring of Kerry Golf Club. Made a hole-in-one on the 3rd last year but could do no better than par this year. I had a decent 76 with a little better putting. This course has some of the best inland views in all Ireland with the lakes of Kenmare and beautiful mountains in the background.
Observation of Ballybunion from one of the golfers:
“Ballybunion is quite simply: an icon! You stand revered and awestruck at how old this course is. Maybe I stood awestruck too long, for my outcome was obviously 'challenged'. The course plays so narrow, the greens so fast, the gorses so high, the breaks so equivocal. I felt from bogey to double, to occasional par that I was just bobbing on the surface...trying merely to survive. I'd check what time it was twice per hole, talking to the ghost behind me asking: “Is this some kind of Joke?” But if the truth be known, this course MUST be played...and next trip, played again. There's so much magic in the variety of difficulty, that you will exclaim on the 19th hole: "If this be Joyful Punishment, then Give Me More!"
Day 7 - Dooks Golf Club
Golf at the quaint little links club of Dooks. The Golf course and clubhouse have just undergone a total renovation. A great links course to play since it is not as brutal as some of the others. Sort of a short version of Ballybunion. A true “Hidden Gem”. We just had a foursome here today… the rest of us did some great sightseeing in our beautiful coach. After play today we headed north to Lahinch and the Greenbrier Inn & Guesthouse.
Day 8 - Lahinch Golf Club
We end our golf this week at the wonderful Lahinch Golf Club. A true test and one of the top links courses in Ireland. First windy day of the trip made the course a true test.
Observation of Lahinch from one of the golfers:
“Our last day was at Lahinch (I spell glutton: 7 courses in 8 days). On the 1st tee I heard this celestial voice saying: “So you thought you'd have perfect weather for 8 days? Heh, heh!” That's when the 35-40 mph winds began and created havoc for most; disaster for me. [ED. Note: 'Lahinch' I quickly learned is GAELIC for 'Lost Ball.' My thoughts were with my trip/golf advisor 'old Tom', who told me back at Sky Valley, leave your woods in the bag and play the 2-iron game down the center of the fairway. I should have listened. My 6'6" frame became the largest SAIL on every tee, making straight and even contact an equal task to 'rocket science'. This course took every ounce of patience to battle. Every shot required a unique and different strategy. Certainly my reward was 'center cut', summarizing at the 19th hole: how fantastic this trip has been!!
All good things must come to an end and today we bid farewell to our driver Tim and the mystical Emerald Isle. Back to the good old USA with memories that will last a lifetime.
A couple of notes I received:
WHEW!!!! What a fabulous trip. I just can't say enough about the courses, ambience and people who were all melded together by an experienced guide. Tom, you're truly amazing. Thank you for a great trip.
Dr. David Jacobsen
Ginger and I would like to express our deepest appreciation to both of you for the best golf trip we have ever experienced. Good golf scores were the least of our worries (golf is just a social game now). We wanted to enjoy the ambiance of beautiful Ireland and soak up the scenery, food, accommodations and fellowship. All was accomplished.
Tim, our guide and driver, was the most knowledgeable person about Ireland lore. He could answer the most obscure question in great detail.
Your itinerary was flawless. Each day was a new event with tours and golf combined that complimented each other. You could make a movie about all the "characters" that were on the tour. What fun!
I would like to comment about the golf! We played the best courses in Southern Ireland with Old Head being my favorite with breath taking views and guidance from our forecaddie. Lahinch was the hardest and most challenging course I have ever played (including Pine Valley and Pebble Beach), but it also brings one close to nature and to God.
Your party and farewell dinner were more fun and we loved dancing with the pretty Irish dancer. She will never be the same!
Bill and Ginger Johnson