Ten Things You Should Know About Golf in Ireland
The par-3 14th hole at Doonbeg Golf Club in County Clare (Courtesy Doonbeg)
Planning a golf trip to Ireland? Here are ten things you should know before you go.
1. Northwest and southwest Ireland have different appeals
Ireland's west side is home to some of the world's most towering seaside dunes, and scores of golf courses have been plotted out through them.
But the difference between golf in the southwest and northwest counties is still vast.
The southwest is an established collection of links that are some of the most well-known and popular in the world. World class accommodations – coupled with destinations such as the Ring of Kerry and city of Cork – attract millions of visitors, golfers and non-golfers alike.
The northwest counties of Sligo and Donegal, on the other hand, make up Ireland's most rural region. The towns are smaller, and getting between points isn't always straightforward with one-lane bridges and other occasional obstacles. But to those who come here, the appeal is discovering an adventurous part of the country that is sparsely populated with a slower, remote vibe.
2. Shannon airport is the golfer's airport in Ireland
While Dublin is the largest city in Ireland and the economic center with the most international flights, golfers coming to Ireland shouldn't look further than Shannon Airport on the west side near the city of Limerick.
From here, it's a slightly shorter flight from North America, the airport is smaller and easier to get around, and flights are often less expensive.
And the west side has more world-class links than the east side, anyways. In fact, it's just an hour's drive to Doonbeg, where a hot breakfast and driving range await before you take to the links.
3. Ireland's links are a mix of new and old
Ireland's links courses date back to the 19th century, but Ireland has made great strides since the days of Old Tom Morris. Some of the new courses are set on the most spectacular of Irish turf yet and demand a place at the table. They include the Arnold Palmer-designed Tralee Golf Club and the Greg Norman-designed Doonbeg Golf Club. Old Head Golf Links is undeniably one of golf's most spectacular settings, on a 220-acre diamond of land surrounded on four sides by the sea.
4. The game's greats prepare for the Open Championship in Ireland
For years, many of golf's greats – such as Tiger Woods, Mark O'Meara and Payne Stewart – have prepared for the British Open by spending the previous week in Ireland.
O'Meara won the 1998 Open after preparing in Ireland. In 2009, Stewart Cink stayed at the Lodge at Doonbeg and played the links of the southwest before taking home the Clarett Jug at Turnberry.
5. Irish love can be blind
The links of Ireland don't shy from blind shots. In fact, they're famous for them. At times, the only line you have to the pin or fairway is a small pole, aiming stone or the wise advice of your caddie.
Lahinch is home to two of the most famous blind shots in golf, laid out at the hands of Old Tom Morris more than 100 years ago, and they come back-to-back at the infamous 'Klondyke' and 'Dell.'
6. Golf at Ballybunion is Presidential
Tom Watson is one of many famous legends who helped put Ballybunion Golf Club on the radar for touring links golfers. But all it takes is a trip to the center of the village to find out the locals' favorite guest.
President Bill Clinton, now immortalized with a statue in the center of the town, arrived for a game in 1998. In front of 10,000 onlookers, he sliced his opening drive into the cemetery right of the first fairway – just like so many of his constituents have done before and after him.
7. It's easy to play 36 holes of golf in Ireland
With long summer daylight hours, it's quite easy to play 18 in the morning, relax over a long lunch and a stiff whiskey, then head out for 18 more.
Many golf clubs in Ireland have built secondary courses to complement their medal courses, including Lahinch's Castle Course, Ballybunion's Cashen Course and the Glashedy Course at Ballyliffin.
At most clubs, discounted afternoon replays are often available if there is availability on the tee sheet.
8. Green fees in the southwest have come down in recent years
Northwest Ireland is perhaps the finest value in links golf anywhere in the world with green fees between 50-70 Euro, but the gap between the southwest has slimmed recently.
If it's been a few years since you checked green fees and golf package deals in the southwest, take another look. The best links have reduced green fees in recent years, up to 20-40 percent in some cases.
Many Irish golf courses, both north and south, offer packages with discounted afternoon replays or invite you to return at a discount later in your trip.
9. Some fine parkland golf courses can be played off the links
Links courses are why you're coming to Ireland. But don't be afraid to head into Ireland's scenic countryside, where you can also groove your swing after a few days out in the wind.
For some of the finest parkland courses in west Ireland, visit five-star Adare Golf Club, the Killeen Course at Killarney Golf & Fish Club, Dromoland Castle or Lough Erne.
10. Skip stroke play for a friendlier game
Between the blind shots, tall fescue rough and the ever-changing weather, first-timers to Ireland will need the luck of the Irish and an eraser on their pencil to best their handicap.
Team best ball and match-play competitions are the way to go. So if you lose a ball in the gorse or get stuck in a pot bunker, there is no need to shred your scorecard.
And if the time is right, you may very well be able to talk some local members into a match of their choosing. They won't go easy on you at their home club but will certainly make it up to you over a few pints or whiskeys at the 19th hole.
Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys
After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.
There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.
It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.
It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.
“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.
In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.
Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”
Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.
“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”
Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.
Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.
If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.
For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.
Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.
Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.
While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.
When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?
Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.
After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.
The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.
That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.
The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.
While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.
Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.
Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.
“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”
The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?
Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'
John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.
That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.
Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.
Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid
Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.
Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.
Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.
World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.
Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.
Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain
The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.
Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.
"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."
Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.
Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.
Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.