Golf and travel on the Emerald Isle Irish eyes shining in 2011

By Brandon TuckerDecember 22, 2010, 11:37 pm
ballybunion golf ireland
        President Bill Clinton dubbed Ballybunion his favorite course in the world. (Tourism Ireland)

Thanks in part to 2010 U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell, golf in Ireland is shining bright as ever.

McDowell took the U.S. Open away from Dustin Johnson at Pebble Beach, then clinched the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor by defeating Hunter Mahan.

McDowell's encore was equally impressive, rallying from four shots down to snatch the Chevron World Challenge from Tiger Woods.

Padraig Harrington drew all Irish eyes with his three major victories in 2007 and 2008. Now, after major triumphs by McDowell and Harrington, plus the emergence of Rory McIlroy, the Emerald Isle has never seen better days on golf's world stage.
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One of the reasons this 'Holy Trinity' of stars is so adored all over the world is that they carry their Irish pride with them everywhere. Their jovial personalities are indicative of Ireland's welcoming clubs, humorous weather and spectacular scenery, making it tough for any vacationing golfer to get too serious – even facing a stiff wind to a blind green with cash on the line.

While McDowell, Harrington and McIlroy take on the PGA and European Tour circuits, their home sod is poised for a big 2011 as well. Five years after hosting the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup comes to Ireland for the first time. The event will be staged at Killeen Castle, one of the country's newest luxury golf resort properties centered around the restored 12th century castle.  

Ireland's spectacular dunes have been here for millennia, but the golf product has improved greatly with new additions. Killeen Castle, The K Club and Doonbeg Golf Resort are just three of the most luxurious resorts in Ireland that complement the traditional 19th-century golf clubs.

Long after the railroad expansion of the late 19th-century led to golf clubs sprouting up around the isle, now every corner of Ireland has a golf tour worthy of your footsteps.

'I always look forward to returning home and experiencing the unique pleasure of golf in Ireland,' Harrington said.  

guiness ireland golf
No golf vacation in Ireland would be complete without a tour of the Guinness brewery in Dublin. (Tourism Ireland)
Golf in Southwest Ireland

Many American golfers make their first stop Ireland's southwest, anchored by Shannon (SNN) Airport, a less-than-six-hour flight from Boston.

Americans, including Tiger Woods and Tom Watson, have been coming to Ballybunion for years. But it's President Bill Clinton -- who proclaimed the Old Course at Ballybunion his favorite course in the world -- that has a statue in the town center.

Across the Shannon Estuary, historic Lahinch Golf Club is a history lesson in quirky Irish design, highlighted by the par-3 'Dell,' housing a green encircled by dunes and almost entirely blind. It was the perfect crime scene for the club's caddies, who once had a reputation of sneakily putting balls in the hole at the chance of a bigger tip from their player.

Once you've taken on blind shots of Ballybunion and Lahinch, head south, where Old Head Golf Links puts everything in front of you, including 360-degree ocean scenery on a 220-acre diamond of land 300 feet above crashing waves.

At Old Head, every view is a sea view.

Golf in Dublin and the east

Ireland's largest city, historic Dublin, is loaded with activity. After a tour of the city, castle or Guinness brewery, kick back in a small, charming pub that's likely to be older than the United States. Here, a long day on the pavement is capped by enjoying the craic with a pint brewed minutes away.

Ireland's east coast boasts a mix of traditional links golf courses and modern additions – both parkland and links – that attracts a set ranging from Europe's corporate business leaders to splurging couples looking for romance. The K Club, which hosted the 2006 Ryder Cup, boasts some of Europe's most luxurious golf resort amenities, including five-star dining and spa accommodations, highlighted by an Arnold Palmer parkland gem.

For links golf, you don't have to stray far from Dublin's city center. Royal Dublin Golf Club sits on a small strip of links land on Bull Island, while just up the road is one of the country's most renowned links, Portmarnock Golf Club, where Palmer played his first links golf in the 1960 Canada Cup. Outside the city is one of Ireland's most acclaimed modern links, the European Club, which has dunes so good they built 20 holes among them.

Golf in Northwest Ireland

To golfers, the rural northwest usually draws eyes initially as Ireland's 'value' destination. But members at friendly local clubs like Enniscrone Golf Club will gladly tell you their home links is as good as anywhere over a 19th hole pint. (In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a golf course anywhere in Ireland without an engaging 19th hole.)

Traversing the winding, two-lane roads through the countryside and towns like Sligo and Galway takes a little more savvy compared to the country's more developed regions. The first ever non-stop trans-Atlantic flight conducted by Alcock & Brown crash-landed in a swamp near Connemara – try not to repeat history with your rental car.

The mostly newer links of the northwest aren't household names quite yet like in other parts, but that's changing as visitors spread word of courses such as Rosapenna, Carne Golf Links and County Sligo Golf Club. Eire's northernmost club is Ballyliffin Golf Club, showcasing 36 holes of raw, remote links in the shadow of an Ailsa Craig-like Glashedy Rock.

Golf in Northern Ireland

Few coastlines in the world are as spectacular as County Antrim's, and the A2 Causeway Coastal Route is one of the can't-miss roads of golf travel. The route runs from Belfast Lough north along the coast through Lough Foyle and is home to such marvels as Giant's Causeway and the cliff-dangling, 16th-century Dunluce Castle ruins.

The two headlining links of Northern Ireland, Royal Portrush and Royal County Down, jostle for the top spot in the North, and often all of Great Britain and Ireland. McDowell's recent successes have brought the eyes of the golf world back to his boyhood home club of Portrush, Ireland's only British Open venue. County Down staged the 2007 Walker Cup and has earned lore as one of the world's most demanding links.
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Kim cruises to first win, final Open invite at Deere

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 9:38 pm

Following the best week of his professional career, Michael Kim is both a winner on the PGA Tour and the 156th and final player to earn a tee time next week at The Open.

Kim entered the final round of the John Deere Classic with a five-shot lead, and the former Cal standout removed any lingering doubt about the tournament's outcome with birdies on each of his first three holes. He cruised from there, shooting a bogey-free 66 to finish the week at 27 under and win by eight shots over Francesco Molinari, Joel Dahmen, Sam Ryder and Bronson Burgoon.

It equals the tournament scoring record and ties for the largest margin of victory on Tour this season, matching Dustin Johnson's eight-shot romp at Kapalua in January and Molinari's margin two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National.

"Just super thankful," Kim said. "It's been a tough first half of the year. But to be able to finish it out in style like this means a lot."

Kim, 25, received the Haskins Award as the nation's top collegiate player back in 2013, but his ascent to the professional ranks has been slow. He had only one top-10 finish in 83 starts on Tour entering the week, tying for third at the Safeway Open in October 2016, and had missed the cut each of the last three weeks.

But the pieces all came together at TPC Deere Run, where Kim opened with 63 and held a three-shot lead after 36 holes. His advantage was trimmed to a single shot during a rain-delayed third round, but Kim returned to the course late Saturday and closed with four straight birdies on Nos. 15-18 to build a five-shot cushion and inch closer to his maiden victory.

As the top finisher among the top five not otherwise exempt, Kim earned the final spot at Carnoustie as part of the Open Qualifying Series. It will be his first major championship appearance since earning low amateur honors with a T-17 finish at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, and he is also now exempt for the PGA Championship and next year's Masters.

The last player to earn the final Open spot at the Deere and make the cut the following week was Brian Harman, who captured his first career win at TPC Deere Run in 2014 and went on to tie for 26th at Royal Liverpool.

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.