Fairway Notebook: Memories of Golf in Ireland
Golf results are slow due to the wintry weather, so I thought I would share a 1986 column that followed the one I wrote about my family, my late husband, Stan, and our teenage son Owen, golfing in Scotland — and so the rest of the story, “Golfing in Ireland.”
We continued our family golfing trip upon landing in Dun Laogh-arie, Ireland. We settled into our B & B and called to see about playing the Portmarnoch Golf Course, just outside of Dublin, on Saturday, only to find out that women were not allowed to play or to practice on Saturday and Sunday. So, while Stan and Owen played this course, I had a wonderful visit with retired pro Harry Bradshaw, a former British PGA champion.
The course played very hard that day with a stiff wind off the sea and lower temperatures than we had previously encountered. The terrain once again was familiar with gorse and rough, ocean on all sides and long sandy beaches. Stan and Owen played well again, walking 18 holes, no caddies or carts. We made a tee time in anticipation of our return to Dublin, on a weekday, so that I could play.
En route to Shannon to meet our daughters, Ann and Kate, we played a lovely inland course, the Nenagh Country club, with wonderful people, mountain views and sunshine again.
My parents were born in villages next to each other in County Mayo, and we spent several golf-free days visiting with aunts and uncles and cousins. Our children then headed for Paris, Brussels and London.
And Stan and I headed for Lahinch Golf Course in County Clare. Lahinch was the only course in our travels that we did not say we wanted to play again. The course really needed more care and attention than it was getting.
However, the beauty that surrounds it is wonderful. Ever present are the awesome Cliffs of Moher that you can see across the bay from just about any spot on the course. Stan continued his good golf and I continued to find a home in the rough and bunkers.
We moved on with just a short trip across the Mouth of the Shannon, via the Tarbert Ferry, to the magnificent Ballybunion golf course in County Kerry. Tom Watson claims it as his favorite, and we’d certainly agree.
We were able to tee off just after the two finalists in the All Kerry Boys Tournament. Ballybunion is a superb test of golf. It requires the best you have to give. The surroundings take your breath away. The Atlantic Ocean is ever present, and the dramatic way the greens meet the ocean and the tees overlook the beaches never leaves your mind’s eye, once you have had the good fortune to see it.
Each hole is special on its own, but the finishing holes, 17 and 18, from tee to green are so beautiful to look at that you wonder why everyone who plays golf isn’t coming to Ireland to see this beauty and meet this challenge.
We have played many courses, but Ballybunion will always be etched in our minds as the most dramatic and testing that we have ever had the privilege to play.
Our next and last golf stop was in Killarney, where it is always gentle and soft and green. The courses of the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club, Killeen and Mahoney Point, are inland courses. They ring the Lakes of Killarney, resting just below the dark green mountains. The scenery is less dramatic than the links courses, but very picturesque with sparkling lakes and sailboats and flowering plants everywhere.
The fairways are like carpets, with rolling greens that are well-bunkered. Certainly an excellent tract for golf with finishing holes that are among the most photographed in the world. The Mahoney Point 18 hole is a par-3 that flirts with the edge of the lake and requires all of your attention to play it.
These two courses were a grand finale to our golf holidays. Their beauty alone would bring us back.
We ended our travels in Ireland with hurricane Charlie as our companion. We had such good weather for more than two weeks that we were sure what had been held back for that time was falling and blowing in one 24-hour period. Needless to say, our golf date at Portmarnock, in Dublin, was washed out.
We met up with our kids in London, where we spent a few days enjoying the sights, the history, the theaters and the shopping. Truly family fun, and golf at its best.
P.S.: The Carne Golf Links, built in 1992/1993, is just a mile or two from the villages where my parents were born. It has recently been voted seventh in the top 100 golf courses in the UK and Ireland.
We played it several times while visiting in 1997, and it was a joy and a challenge each time, once again ocean views, rolling hills and the usual greenside bunkers. It is worth the trip to this westernmost part of Ireland.
And I have a few relatives who would make you feel most welcome.
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