Ten Things You Should Know About Golf in Ireland

By Brandon TuckerMay 16, 2011, 5:41 pm
doonbeg golf 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.
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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

“If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

“It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

“It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

“I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

“If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”