3 Men and Their Clubs Part 1 A Golf Odyssey of Ireland and Scotland

Chapter 1 –Ireland

As told to Henry Petty

If you’re a golfer or plan to be, reading these blogs about 3 blokes and their “Bucket List” golf tour, playing 26 courses in 42 days may provide insight into catching the oft-spoken-about – “golf bug.”

Their adventure began with a road trip through Ireland, playing 10 courses in 19 days. 

Tour Leader and golf aficionado – Geoff writes;

Departing Auckland to Dubai on Emirates was a fantastic start to our dream golf tour.   Flying through the night in the comfort of Premium Economy made it easy to snooze with the luxury of extra space and the excellent service provided.

The come down was the economy flight to Dublin from Dubai. No Premium Economy option was available for this leg of our journey, and we wondered why.   Never mind, that’s travel, and three lads arriving in Dublin for a 6-week golf sojourn around Ireland and Scotland provided the “wow” moment we needed.

In Dublin, we planned a 2-day rest period.  Rest, meaning no golf and recovery from jet lag. But in a city like Dublin, fun and visiting local watering holes was a definite part of the boys’ RnR plan.  With its cobbled streets and period buildings, ol’ Dublin City was beckoning us. 

Our accommodation, Staycity Aparthotels was comfortable and convenient and was an ideal spot to enjoy the attractions of this interesting city.  With our accommodation sorted, we explored Dublin’s nightlife and found plenty of places to choose from just around the corner. 

 Watering holes such as the action-packed Temple Bar Pub, in the lively riverside Temple Bar district on the Liffey River. The bar was vibrant and hip. With live music playing, it was a great place to hang out while we got a feel for Ireland and its people. 

And then there was The Boars Head, a pub where Shane Lowry called in with The Open Trophy, which he won at Port Rush a couple of years ago.

Our 2nd and last day in Dublin was spent sightseeing.  Visiting the original Guinness Factory housed in old brick buildings now disused, it was fascinating to see the source of this Irish stout that has been around since 1816 and is now imbibed worldwide.

The next must-see before we headed off into the country to play some golf was the Irish Immigration Museum.  The museum provided an interesting insight into Irish history, the trials and tribulations the people have suffered throughout the years, and why so many Irish have left for better opportunities.

Rested and relaxed after 2 days of “hanging out” in Dublin, we picked up our rental van and headed south.  The beginning of our golf roadie.

Our direction took us along great state highways, beautifully maintained roads, and country lanes, ambling towards coastal Wexford just in time to play 12 holes on the Rosslare course. A beautifully groomed course adjacent to the Wexford Harbour to the west and the Irish Sea to the East.

We received a warm welcome and asked in jest if we were lost, as Rosslare is not part of the well-known golf circuit.  Despite this, we enjoyed a tough game and decided it was a course we rated highly. 

We passed a local hurling game on our way to our next destination – Mt Juliet Golf Estate.  Not a game that is a common sight in NZ, we gladly took some time to watch the fast, skillful, rough-and-tumble game supported by some very high-octane fans with a penchant for hysterically funny and colourful language. 

Mt Juliet is an expansive Nicklaus-designed course set on a huge historic estate.  It has hosted, among other events, the Irish Open and other European tours.  It is a magnificent old ex-racehorse estate adorned with beautiful buildings, gardens, and woodlands, providing accommodation, a high-end restaurant, and golf packages.    Our day was one to remember.

The next day found us travelling onto the west coast towards Lahinch Golf Course, This spectacular course will host the 2026 Walker Cup. Just north of Lahinch, we stopped to take photos of the impressive Cliffs of Mohar before heading to Galway for the night.

Galway surprised us.  The busy, bustling Latin Quarter entertained us well into the night with a great mix of eateries, bars, and cute whisky stop-offs for nightcaps.

Heading north again early the next morning, we stopped in at Quarterard Golf Club for a round.  The previous Latin Quarter evening reflected how we handled our day’s play.  Badly!  Nonetheless, Quarterard is a pleasant parkland course with plenty of good holes.

Continuing north, we arrived at Ballyshannon, the birthplace of the late great legendary guitarist Rory Gallagher, to Bundoran Golf Course, designed by Harry Vardon in the 1890s.   The 30-euro green fees made it one of the cheapest rounds we had.  The course is well worth a visit with very good holes, especially those closer to the coast.  And let’s not forget the spectacular sea views from 11th green.

The next day, we had booked a game at Castlerock Golf Club.

 A 4-hour round trip to Northern Ireland found us arriving at the course being prepared for a DP world tour.  Being in good order and with strong winds on the day, the course was a tough play.  We were happy that the next one was a scheduled rest day after this huge day.

Our next scheduled stop was Ballyliffen. A small village located at the north-western tip of County Donegal.  On the way, we played Northwest Golf Course, another good, inexpensive, and enjoyable links course.   

I had been looking forward to visiting Ballyliffen, having heard stories of both the old course and the new Glashedy links as well.   

As the story goes, Nick Faldo had tried to purchase the Ballyliffen Golf Club at the height of his career in the 1990s. I can understand why he would want to, but also why the local parish that owns it turned him down. “It’s a course for the community,” they said.   It is a fantastic facility, just far enough off the mainstream tour roster to be off the radar for most. 

 We spent a comfortable night at Elnan Cottage, in Ballyliffen, (Another example of the superb accommodation we had experienced thus far), before catching a ferry and then driving 25 minutes to our much-anticipated day at Royal Portrush the next morning.

Royal Portrush was a treat.  My birdie 3 on the first was a highlight, especially knowing Rory McIlroy had scored an 8 on the same hole at the 2019 Open.   Royal Portrush was everything I imagined and hoped for. Welcoming, friendly, and in great condition with classic links style holes.  It was worth every penny of the £295 green fee. The Open Championship is scheduled to return there in 2025.

 With three minutes to spare, we caught the ferry back to Ballyliffen and back to our fantastic accommodation, with wide views out to the Ballyliffen golf course. This was starting to feel like the trip of a lifetime. 

On the morning of our second day in Ballyliffen, we left the golf behind and visited the northern most point of Ireland, Malin Head. The story goes, the ill fated ship Titanic had carried out sea trials off the coast and tested radio signals with the Malin Head signal station. Families of the crew had lit bonfires on the headland to say their final goodbyes, prior to the vessel sailing to Southampton to pick up passengers destined for New York City.

The hair on the back of my neck stood up, and my heart went out to those unfortunate passengers , crew and their families back home.

Returning to Ballyliffen that afternoon we played the old links in the evening, teeing off at 5 p.m. and finishing with a beautiful sunset over the Atlantic Ocean at 9 p.m. All was well when we made it safely to the 19th in near darkness. 

The following morning, we played our last game of golf in Ireland. Ballyliffen’s jewel, Glashedy Links. What a golf course.  It is a true championship test. Big, fast greens, deep, well-positioned bunkers, and unforgiving rough. It asks a lot.  So, either bring your “A” game or simply enjoy the experience and wonderful surroundings.  

To make the most of our last couple of days in Ireland,  not playing golf, we organized a 2-night stopover in Portstewart.  A small coastal town in County Londonderry, Northern Ireland. 

Our last day was spent taking a visit to the Giants Causeway. A wondrous pre-historic rock formation.  It looks manmade but was formed 60 million years ago from successive lava flows inching from the coast and cooling when reaching the sea. Wonderful!

We spent a quiet, reflective final night in Ireland, talking about what a wonderful never-to-be-forgotten time we had had in The Emerald Isles.

Next stop Edinburgh.

Story & images contributed by William Winchester

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