Ten reasons to plan your dream golf vacation to the links of northwest Ireland

By Travel ArticlesNovember 16, 2012, 5:00 am

COUNTY DONEGAL, Ireland -- The award was probably a bit overdue.

The International Association of Golf Tour Operators named northwest Ireland the European Golf Destination of the Year in 2011. No longer was this once undiscovered golf destination feeling overlooked and unappreciated compared to the great links courses of southwest Ireland or its neighbor, Northern Ireland.

The likes of Ballyliffin Golf Club, Carne Golf Links (also called Belmullet), Enniscrone Golf Club, Donegal Golf Club and County Sligo Golf Club were finally the toast of Ireland's delicious golf scene.

'The northwest has risen to prominence in golf and accommodations,' said John Farren, the general manager at Ballyliffin. 'The tradition of links is stronger here. We have nothing to fear from our peers. We are as good as the best in the world. You don't get such a caliber of links in such close proximity.'

Here are 10 reasons why a golf trip to northwest Ireland should be your next overseas escape:

10. Hidden links: The shoreline from Galway in the west to Greencastle in the north is dotted with charming links courses you've probably never heard of like Connemara Golf Club, Portsalon Golf Club and Narin & Portnoo Golf Club, to name a few. These clubs offer strangers a hardy Irish welcome and a solid test of your game.

9. Poetry in motion: Driving through 'Yeats Country' in County Sligo is so beautifully rural and so distinctly Irish. The roads are narrow and winding. The rolling hills look a deeper shade of green. It's the countryside and views of Benbulben Mountain that inspired the works of Irish poet W.B. Yeats. The scenic village of Rosses Point is filled with tourist traps dedicated to Yeats, including his grave just a short ride away.

8. A musical medley: McGrorys of Culdaff, a 17-room hotel in a tiny village near Blue Flag Beach in County Donegal, serves fine meals in the Front Bar. The authentic Irish experience happens afterward inside Mac's Backroom Bar. This intimate venue rocks with traditional Irish music and even hosts world-class acts.

7. Old meets new: The four-star Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort in County Donegal -- one of the oldest golf resorts in the world circa 1893 -- boasts plenty of modern creature comforts. The Vardon Restaurant overlooks Sheephaven Bay. The 15-meter pool, hot tub, steam room and sauna are rare spoils. The back nine of Rosapenna's Old Tom Morris Course and the awe-inspiring dunes of the Sandy Hills Course team up for 27 holes of superb links golf.

6. Discover the Irish Donald Ross: Eddie Hackett designed many of the finest links golf courses in Ireland. His last effort might be his best. Carne in County Mayo has earned a reputation as a links as wild as any in the world.

5. Surf's up: It seems hard to believe (but then again, it doesn't) that the wind and water off the northwest coast create some of the best waves in the world for surfers. For an experience vastly different from most Irish getaways, stay in the Sandhouse Hotel & Marine Spa on Rossnowlagh Beach, where you'll see more long-haired dudes than regular tourists.

4. Fun on the ferries: Traveling the fingers and peninsulas of this region requires some patience and creative planning. It doesn't have to be a hassle to ride a ferry. Consider it part of an unforgettable journey. Those who play Portsalon or Rosapenna should ferry over the Lough Swilly to reach Ballyliffin on the Inishowen Peninsula. From there, golfers can ferry over the Lough Foyle to the links of Northern Ireland.

3. No more troubles: There's no real border to speak of when you cross into Northern Ireland, just a whole different world that seems to have put its troubled past of secular violence to rest. The treasures of Portstewart Golf Club, Castlerock Golf Club and Royal Portrush Golf Club, home of the 1951 British Open and 2012 Irish Open, are certainly worth the effort.

2. Believe in Ballyliffin: Only a handful of 36-hole clubs in all the British Isles compare to the two great tracks at Ballyliffin. Irishman Pat Ruddy routed the Glashedy Links through majestic dunes to the top of the property, while Nick Faldo's redesigned Old Links at Ballyliffin bumps and bounces its way near the shore.

1. Bang for your buck: The best part are the bargains. Everything is more affordable here -- the greens fees, the hotel rooms and even the Guinness. All that money saved will probably end up being spent at the bar anyway, a small price to pay for such a good time.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.