I was able to get back over to Ireland for a number of rounds. In November, I went with a group of 12 golfers to Myrtle Beach for a week. And in December, I spent 5 nights at the Gran Bahia Principe resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico and played the golf course there. This post will recap my trip to Ireland, which is my favorite golfing destination.
My cousin Kevin and I traveled from Newark Airport to Shannon, Ireland, picked up our rental car and headed to County Kerry, the home of our ancestors and many relatives. We played our first round the following day at Ballyheigue Castle Golf Club. Ballyheigue is the town where our grandparents and my father were born, so it holds a special place for us. This 9 hole parkland course sits on the grounds of the former castle that was built in 1810 and destroyed in 1921. The course opened in 1996 and is situated on mature woodland overlooking the white sands of Ballyheigue beach, Ballyheigue Bay and the Brandon Mountains in the background.
Strictly a walking course, Ballyheigue Castle Golf Club offers a nice challenge, especially when the wind is blowing in off the bay, which it frequently does. It is also a nice value at 25 euros for 18 holes. Though not a “go out of your way to play there” type of course, Ballyheigue Castle is worth playing if you are in the area. Don’t forget to have a pint or two in the bar after your round!
The following day, we were invited by our cousin to play at his club, Muskerry Golf Club in County Cork. The club is unique in that it has 23 holes that can be played in a variety of different course layouts. The first few holes are pretty flat, until you get to hole 7. The next few holes wind their way up to the top of the hill and feature beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. The last few holes are challenging and are considered among the finest finishing holes in the region. This well conditioned course is challenging and the use of a golf cart might not be a bad idea here.
Next day, we were back at Ballyheigue to play in a fundraiser for the club. The day was damp and windy, making for some difficult circumstances. The rough at Ballyheigue Castle is inconsequential when conditions are dry. But throw in a fine mist and the rough becomes very difficult to extricates one ball from! The moral here…..keep it in the fairway. Again, the frustrations of a tough round of golf were soon forgotten once we hit the clubhouse. Please note that Ballyheigue is a cash only golf course.
The next day, Sunday, we had hoped to play Dooks Golf Club. However, a club competition was booked for the day, so we played Kilorglin Golf Club for the first time. This parkland course features some elevation changes but was easily walkable. The course offers views of the Macgillicuddy Reeks Mountain Range, Dingle Bay and the Slieve Mish Range beyond. The day we played was absolutely gorgeous (some of the locals were playing in shorts, but I didn’t think it was THAT nice!) Another great value, Kilorglin was in excellent shape and cost just 25 euros for 18 holes. There is a nice clubhouse with a beautiful view to relax in after your round.
Monday found us visiting with relatives in Killarney, but we were back on the course on Tuesday, playing Killarney’s Killeen Course with a cousin and his friend. The Killeen Course has been the site of the last two Irish Opens and is a challenging parkland layout. The first hole, a dogleg right that hugs Loch Leane, sets the pace for this gem. Accuracy and patience are important here and the greens are fast. It is the flagship of the Killarney complex and is definitely a must play. Killeen is ranked as the 25Th best course in Ireland. The greens fee varies, but the top fee is 90 euros. Golf carts are available to rent (they are known as buggies in Ireland) but this course is very walkable.
Wednesday, we were fortunate to play at Tralee with a cousin and another member (local knowledge is always good to have, so always try and see if you can get hooked up with a member when playing in Ireland). Tralee is a favorite course of mine (and ranked 7Th in Ireland). Situated right on land overlooking the Atlantic, this traditional seaside links was designed by Arnold Palmer. The links features towering dunes, undulating fairways, punishing rough and cliff top tees and greens. The course offers views of white sandy beaches, the ocean waves breaking
across the rocks, the Slieve Mish mountain range, some castle ruins and the Dingle peninsula. You can get a clear view of the Atlantic Ocean from every hole. Beautiful scenery and a challenging golf course make for a spectacular round.
A couple of favorite holes include the par 3 third, which runs along the ocean and the green overlooks castle ruins. I also like the par 3 13th hole. The hole is a “dinky” par three across a large and deep hollow that plays to a large green. Short is bad, but long can be worse as a huge dune is a backstop that runs along the back of the green. Trust me…if you hit it there, it is REALLY hard to get your second shot anywhere close to the hole.
It is a true treat to play Tralee, which is definitely a must-play. But you will pay 170 euros for the experience and it is worth every penny. Buggies are available to rent, but you must have a valid medical reason for taking a cart. Otherwise, you must walk. The course also offers caddies and the clubhouse is very nice.
Our last round in Ireland was our best. We were treated to the grand experience that is the Old Course in Ballybunion, the top-ranked course in Ireland and number 17 in the world according to Golf Magazine in 2011. The Old Course is a true seaside links course, with very few trees and high dunes and contoured fairways. You will find yourself with many uphill and downhill and sidehill shots. Accuracy is at a premium with most shots taken at small targets with not a lot of room to miss right or left. The greens offer even more contours to contend with.
I love the 18th hole, with a tee shot that usually is helped by the wind off the ocean. Your second shot is uphill between two large dunes to a large green. Placement of your tee shot is important, because if you hit it in the wrong spot, you will have a blind shot up to the green. Ballybunion is the most challenging course I have played and if the wind is blowing strong off the ocean, it can be very difficult. But the setting is so spectacular, that you aren’t worried about your score.
The Old Course is strictly a walking course, but you can arrange for a caddie, which I have done before. Again, the local knowledge is very helpful here. For a top ranked course, expect to pay top dollar. Ballybunion is currently offering two rounds for the price of one. The Old Course costs 180 euros and the Cashen Course costs 65 euros. However, the club is running a deal now where you can play both courses for a total of 180 euros. The clubhouse here is also nice, with a lively bar area.
I can’t say enough about golfing in Ireland. I love the courses, love the people and love the country. If you have ever thought about golfing in Ireland, here is your chance. I have put together a highly inclusive golf package for a trip that departs September 2016. For informations please contact us email us