Almost all golf enthusiasts and fanatics have the same dream, to at some point make their way over to Ireland and Scotland and play the game in the purest way, on the sea-side links courses. I had always imagined the day when I would make my way overseas to play links golf and knew it would happen some day, I just didn’t know when. Since starting to work for Golf Away Tours, sending people on their dream golf trips around the world, my fantasy of one day going to Scotland and Ireland has only grown. Finally, a few weeks ago, those dreams became a reality and I made my first trip overseas where I would get to experience links golf and see what I had only seen through my computer or TV screen.
First things first, the flight. One piece of advice we try to give all of our clients, is get some sleep on the flight. A lot of the flights to Ireland and Scotland are overnight, you’ll leave here around dinner time and land over there early morning, so a good sleep on the plane can be essential to acclimate yourself to the new time zone right away. This can be a tougher task than may seem and needless to say, I didn’t heed our own advice. I tried, but the excitement was just way to overbearing and there was no chance I was even getting a minute to sleep on that flight.
Landing in Dublin at 5am, I was met by TJ, my boss and the Owner of Golf Away Tours, who had been in Ireland already with a group of ours. We headed back to our downtown flat that would be home for the next few nights and I took a quick nap to give me the energy to get through the day. That first day, TJ guided me through Dublin, showing me some of the tourist spots, Temple Bar and then heading to the Guinness Storehouse for a tour of the historic brewery. The tour ends in a rooftop bar where you are given a complimentary Guinness, and this is where I had my first pint on the trip, can’t really beat that can you? Following a quick stop for a pint at the oldest pub in Ireland, The Brazen Head, we made our way to back Temple Bar for a fun night out with live music and a few more Guinness, something everyone should do while in Dublin.
We woke up that next morning to brilliant sunshine, very little wind and a temperature around 10°C, pretty much all you can ask for from Ireland in October. We were playing The Island Golf Club that day, about 30 minutes North East of Dublin. Standing over my ball looking down the 1st hole, I was nervous but that was overpowered by the pure excitement of it all, and just like that I had hit my first tee shot in Ireland. The Island truly is a great links test, it’s rugged and raw, the dramatic dunes and the layout force you to think your way around the course. TJ has always told me he loves playing links golf because you play so many shots that we just don’t hit here in North America and that day I learned that first hand. I hit some great shots and some not so great shots, tried to ease my way around the course and get a feel for the links. The highlight of the round was the Par-4 14th, appropriately named “Old Clubhouse”, as it was the original 1st at The Island. The hole is best known for what is said the be the “Narrowest Fairway in Ireland.” With a fairway only about 15 paces wide, it’s a pretty intimidating tee shot and I was able to find the fairway with my first. Something I’ll never forget from my first ever round of links golf.
The next day was another perfect day, the wind had picked up a bit more but perfect weather for golf. Before leaving for the trip, this was the one round I was looking forward to the most in Ireland. We were playing Portmarnock Golf Club and right away it was very evident to why it is a Top 50 course in the World. It is less dramatic than The Island in terms of its smaller dunes but it’s so clean, so well manicured and everything about it just world-class. I loved this round of golf and the course has to be one of my favourite I have ever played, such a tough test, but fair. Maybe even more so than my first round the day before, I was forced to play a wide variety of shots and shot shapes that added to not just the fun of it, but what makes this course so great. Portmarnock Golf Club is definitely a must play for anyone heading over to Ireland to play some golf and I can’t wait to make my way back to play it again some day.
Our last day in Dublin we played the course that neighbours Portmarnock Golf Club, Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links. This day I got my first true Irish links golf experience when it comes to the weather. It was not pretty, waiting to tee off on the 1st hole, it was pouring rain and the wind was howling but I couldn’t even be too upset, this is what I wanted, well at least for a little bit! The fun of watching any golf tournament on television from over in Ireland or Scotland is watching the pros try and battle the weather, and that’s exactly what we were doing, battling. The rain would settle down after the first few holes but the wind did not and that’s when I found myself really learning to play those tough shots and realizing that the game over there is meant to be played on the ground, not in the air. Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links is a great links course and I found it to be a bit of a mix in style between the two courses I had played the days prior. A bit rugged with large dunes and quite tough terrain off the fairways, but very well kept and polished as well.
What I learned more than anything from my time in Dublin is that there is some great golf in the area. It’s really a great place for a golf group because this city is incredible, the golf is amazing and not too far from the city centre. If you’re looking to head to Ireland for your next golf excursion, a few days Dublin would be the perfect start or finish to any trip.