Scotland will always be golf’s spiritual home but when you travel around Ireland, golf clubs on your back, it’s hard to shake the feeling that somehow you’ve come home.
Full disclosure: I’m a proud Scot, one who has travelled the world in search enriching experiences in golf. I have been fortunate to explore many of the great Ireland golf adventures, from the spectacular Wild Atlantic Way, to the stunning Ancient East. I’ve felt the buzz of Dublin and played its many wonderful links courses, explored the hidden heartlands and each trip has been better than the last; the memories, the company, the courses.
The chance to get back to the Emerald Isle was a call to adventure we simply had to accept. The morning mist blanketed fields like a duvet as we swept into land in Dublin early one late spring morning. The next few days would be a blur of one fantastic experience after another – great golf, fabulous food, wonderful company, rich experiences – the whole shebang.
The stereotypes are always rich and familiar here: the warmth of the welcome, the openness of the people, the craic, the Guinness, the great times. They may be stereotypes but they’re truly stereotypes with substance. In Ireland golf is part of the fabric of life and as you travel around this country it feels wonderfully unavoidable – everyone seems to have a connection to it, a story to share.
The sun has always seemed to shine on us our trips to Ireland, or perhaps my memory has filtered out the days when it didn’t, but on the week we were back in Ireland the weather was so good we got sunburned. Twice. The stunning weather may not be a stereotype you would immediately associate with Ireland but it has rarely lets us down.
Of course, when you heard the words Ireland golf, the mind immediately conjures images of the great links courses which capture the imagination and hearts of both those who watch from afar and those who come back year after year. Ballybunion, Lahinch, Doonbeg and Portmarnock are just some of the stunning links we’ve been fortunate to play on our way around the coastline here.
On this occasion, though, our first stop would be The European Club in beautiful Brittas Bay. The journey from Dublin Airport took no more than an hour and waiting for us on our arrival was Pat Ruddy himself, the enigmatic owner and designer of European Club. Our links experiences in Ireland conjure images of towering sand dunes, avenues of verdant green between them and all framed by the deep blue of the ocean. The taste of the salty air on your lips and in your nostrils, the challenge of the elements – the rugged beauty of it all. It doesn’t get much better. The European Club was no different and we loved it for all sorts of reasons, which you can read in our write up.
Its reputation and place on world top 100 lists meant expectations had been high long before we arrived and yet even they were surpassed. There was no great build up to our next stop but perhaps the most memorable moments on the road come we have ventured off the beaten track – this was to be another.
Rosslare Golf Links may not have a global reputation but as we arrived in this charming seaside, holiday town it soon became clear this would not be our last trip Ireland’s sunny south east. After a night at the legendary Kelly’s in Rosslare, it was time to take to the links which stretches spectacularly out along a promontory.
Perhaps when you go somewhere without expectations, you are more open to falling for a course and that certainly happened at Rosslare, which was a truly wonderful round of golf, as you can read here. If you have the courage to take the road less travelled in Ireland and seek the courses off the beaten path, you are so often rewarded for your spirit of adventure.
Ireland is, however, much more than just links golf. We have enjoyed incredible experiences inland too, not least at Irish Open venues such as Killarney, where the natural beauty of the places is matched only by the serenity. And that was certainly the case once again as we drove onto the Mount Juliet Estate. We only stayed for a night at the spectacular Hunter’s Yard, but it was the kind of place you didn’t want to leave, a real golfer’s paradise where everything is within yards of each other and your dreams of spending hours on the many practice areas never quite pan out thanks to the call of the wonderful golf course followed by the fabulous restaurants and bars!
There have been so many stories and moments from our trips to Ireland which remain vivid years on. At times you are struck by the remoteness of Ireland golf courses, but you can just as easily find yourself playing just alongside the coast from one of the world’s most energetic and exciting cities. You’ll find landscapes peppered with sea-salted shorelines of rugged and unspoilt wonder. And elsewhere you can escape into lush, verdant green pastures with thick rough and greens like lightening. The variety of Ireland golf is extraordinary.
It is hard to sum it all up with words alone, but you will create so many moments on your golfing adventures in Ireland that will stay with you as long as you live. And isn’t that ultimately, why we do this, why we travel, why we bring our clubs? Remember every moment, soak up every story, drink in your time with every wonderful character you meet on your way around. I don’t believe anyone will ever regret a single day they spend on Ireland golf courses.
Scotland is truly wonderful and will always be home but my greatest memories of golf have come in Ireland. I’m not sure it can be beaten as a golf destination.