Okay, I admit it – I’m a golf nut. I recently returned from a fantastic golf journey with 14 other golf-crazed Americans, the core of which were University of Maryland buddies, with others from various parts of the US. The journey? A well-planned 9-day trip (kudos to Rick Phillips and George Mavrikes) in which 18 holes of golf were played each day at one of southern Ireland’s most incredible courses. We stayed one night at Donald Trump’s place, Doonbeg, and the other nights in a several-hundred-year-old manor in Killarney called Beaufort House.
We employed a driver (a must) with a very comfortable bus that seated 30+, with lots of room to stretch out, play cards, etc. All of the golf courses we played were in County Kerry, which is on the southwest corner of Ireland. A fantastic itinerary was laid out so each day we knew where we were playing and had secure tee-times. Restaurants were lined up ahead of time, with some catered “full Irish” breakfasts along the way, and a few catered dinners in our manor house that were fantastic. The Guinness flowed daily, of course.
Ireland is an amazingly rustic and beautiful country with fantastic people who are down to earth and serious, but at the same time friendly and nice. The food was better than most people think – and yes, you better like potatoes, as they were served with every meal. The “chips” – or French fries, as we call them – are something in which the Irish take great pride. It sounds funny, but this little tidbit was essential because after playing golf in very challenging conditions – wet, windy, tough courses – a cold Guinness and good meal was something we looked forward to every day. Literally every mid-day meal came with chips that were always (and I mean always) so hot you could not eat them – freshly cooked and fantastic! Our group included a core of good friends, but also people that did not know one another. By trip’s end, a camaraderie was built on a week filled with great memories of a fantastic journey.
The week began with an arrival on the west coast of Ireland, at Shannon airport at 8:30 in the morning – yes, a red-eye. Our bus brought us to Doonbeg where we checked in and immediately went to the golf course. No sleep or rest for these golf maniacs. We hit the links in 30mph wind and rain. It was as scenic a golf course as there can be, with virtually every hole having an open view of the Atlantic Ocean. It was a classic “links” designed course – 9 holes out and 9 holes in, three and a half miles each way. That’s 7 miles if you walked a straight line – which we did not, as our balls often are hit crooked. Thank God for caddies, as the rough or gorse was so severe that if we didn’t have caddies, we may have run out of balls.
Virtually every course we played was equally spectacular in its own way. All were incredibly challenging – much more difficult than American golf – and each came with a fantastic history that we enjoyed hearing about from the caddies and locals along each stop.
I am often asked about my favorite course, but I struggle with an answer. I would consider naming Ballybunion – I had my best round there so my opinion may not be objective – which was the best conditioned course we played and, being on the Atlantic, had amazing views throughout – but I will say Dooks Golf Links was the best for me. There were water and mountain views from every hole on this course, which is the second oldest golf course in Ireland.
An Irish golf adventure would not be complete without playing Old Head Golf Links (click this link and watch the video…amazing). Though new, this course is set on a 250-acre peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, with 250+-foot sheer cliffs bordering a majority of holes. I do not have the vocabulary to describe the intensity of feelings I experienced during this round of golf. Photos are also an insufficient way of describing Old Head – a bucket list golf course. Go there and play Old Head – trust me.
There are so many things I would love to share that made this trip so special – the people, countryside, courses, stories, laughs, bonding, meals, and partying – but with an eye on brevity, I wanted to at least provide a taste of what was a very meaningful week in my life. Thanks to all the gents with whom this was shared. Anyone interested in more details (and there are many), please ask, as I’d be happy to provide. For now, enjoy just a few of the many pictures taken from the trip below, courtesy of our photographer extraordinaire, Rick Nelson (that’s him in the center of the selfie below). Slán agus beannacht