Discovering golf in southwest Ireland never gets old
Just returned from my fourth trip to Ireland and I’m still riding the high of the experience. Those good vibes have helped me fight off the jetlag of a 14-hour travel day home.
You can go 100 times to the Emerald Isle and still discover something new every time.
Ireland is roughly the size of Indiana, not big by any means. It might as well be the size of California when it comes to trying to traverse its diverse terrain by car. Irish roads are narrow and twisting, lined with centuries-old stone walls. They give the landscape its old-world charm, but driving even short distances can take extra time and a supreme effort, especially for those of us not used to driving on the wrong side of the road (and car). I pulled off my portion of the driving without incident, giving me confidence for my return.
Best to plan your Ireland golf trip in a manageable area. We camped out in the famous southwest section of the country, the home of five-star courses, legendary links like Ballybunion and Lahinch, and five-star accommodations, like Dromoland Castle and the Lodge at Doonbeg. When I visited roughly five years ago, the Lodge at Doonbeg was just a skeleton taking shape. Now it’s a magnificent home base to play Lahinch, just 30 minutes north, and Doonbeg, a Greg Norman wonder that improves with each passing year. Save some time after a round at Lahinch to explore the nearby Cliffs of Moher.
Dromoland Castle, just 10 minutes from Shannon Airport, the ideal entry point for the southwest, anchors a massive country estate filled with walking paths and gardens. It’s arguably the most impressive combination of dining, spa, golf and castle accommodations in Ireland. At dinner, we were serenaded by a woman playing the harp. Staying in a castle like Dromoland is a dream all American couples should make a reality. Our group even had time for a round of falconry, the oldest form of hunting known to man. It’s best to stay here on your way in or out of Ireland.
Ireland has grown up so much in recent years that even the smaller hotels, like the cozy Vaughan Lodge in Lahinch village and the golf-themed Killeen House Hotel in Killarney, have amenities like free wireless and fabulous restaurants. Killarney, a great lively traditional Irish town, was a great base to play the ballyhooed Ballybunion, and Tralee, an eye-popping march along cliffs, and Dooks, an underrated gem just as scenic as its more expensive neighbors. For a break from links golf, try the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club, home to three parkland courses, including the Killeen course, a past host of the Irish Open.
The two complaints I’ve heard most about traveling in the southwest are: 1, You’ll end up interacting more with Americans at pubs and courses than the friendly locals. 2, You’ll get wet at some point along the way. I can report that, yes, the Yanks are everywhere, so live with it. That comes with the territory of visiting one of the world’s best golf destinations.
As for the weather, I brought my umbrella and didn’t need it on the course once. It rained all morning at Tralee before the sun reigned supreme in the afternoon, just in time for our round. We did rain out at Dromoland, but it was perfect timing. Already 6 rounds into the trip, a visit to the spa for a back and shoulder rub was probably the wiser choice anyway.
|« Overindulge during spa week at these fab golf spas||Packing for a golf trip to Ireland no easy task »|
I love to visit Ireland. Shrule, Fethard, Buncrana, Youghall, Mulranny, Shannonbridge, ...its all fun.
had opportunity to stay and play at dromoland castle on my 2002 visit; also played doonbeg on that trip, the lodge was just a sketch on a drawing board then as well. enjoyed your chronicle.