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Scotland/Ireland Sabbatical Help


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#1 chrisisoutrunning

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Posted 19 October 2016 - 09:25 PM

Background: I'm fortunate enough to work for a company that after five years, provides me the opportunity to travel to a country (or countries) that I've never been too. (By paying for my flight and giving me a per diem for lodging/food/whatever (golf).) Having been fascinated with Ireland and Scotland for the past 20+ years due to my love of golf and small Irish heritage, my wife and I will be spending about 2 1/2 weeks in the two countries next October (2017). My wife is not a golfer, though she has taken group lessons before, and completely understands that I will be spending time golfing on this trip. That being said, this is not just a golfing trip, but will some much needed time away from the day-in day-out of life with my wife.

Our plan is to fly into Shannon or Cork and spend approximately four days in the Killarney area before driving to Dublin and spending a few days there. From there we'll fly to Inverness and spend three or four days in the Highlands before taking a train down to St. Andrews for another four days. (We'll also spend a couple of days in Edinburgh, but at this time I don't have plans on golfing while there.)

What I'm looking for is help on deciding where I should play in western Ireland, Dublin, and the Highlands. I'm ready to go with the flow in St. Andrews, as I'll be in the singles queue to get on the Old Course, and beyond that I'll aim for the New and I'm hoping to play nine on Balgove with my wife.

Currently I'm thinking the following:
  • Ballybunion
  • Portmarnock or Royal County Down (I'll keep the rental car an extra day if I decide to do RCD)
  • Royal Dornoch or Castle Stuart (trying to decide whether to spend a day or two in Dornoch instead of the entire four days based in Inverness)
I can probably do two rounds around Killarney and Inverness without issue, and one when we're in Dublin. I realize I'm mainly looking at "checklist" type courses, but with the number of places we'll be and a non-golfer en tow, I'm not looking to cram 12 rounds into the trip.

I realize I've gone on a long winded post asking for minimal input... Is there anywhere better than Ballybunion that I should look while in Killarney? (Old Head? Lahinch is too far away in my opinion.) Should I keep the rental car an extra day an make the drive up to RCD, or stick with Portmarnock? Should I spend a night or two in Dornoch or just make a day trip out of it?

Thanks in advance


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#2 chrisisoutrunning

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Posted 19 October 2016 - 09:27 PM

Sorry, meant to put this in the UK forum...

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#3 Roadking2003

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Posted 19 October 2016 - 09:41 PM

Old Head and Royal County Down are absolutely "must play".   Do not miss them.

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#4 puttnforthe8

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Posted 19 October 2016 - 10:03 PM

View Postchrisisoutrunning, on 19 October 2016 - 09:25 PM, said:

Background: I'm fortunate enough to work for a company that after five years, provides me the opportunity to travel to a country (or countries) that I've never been too. (By paying for my flight and giving me a per diem for lodging/food/whatever (golf).) Having been fascinated with Ireland and Scotland for the past 20+ years due to my love of golf and small Irish heritage, my wife and I will be spending about 2 1/2 weeks in the two countries next October (2017). My wife is not a golfer, though she has taken group lessons before, and completely understands that I will be spending time golfing on this trip. That being said, this is not just a golfing trip, but will some much needed time away from the day-in day-out of life with my wife.

Our plan is to fly into Shannon or Cork and spend approximately four days in the Killarney area before driving to Dublin and spending a few days there. From there we'll fly to Inverness and spend three or four days in the Highlands before taking a train down to St. Andrews for another four days. (We'll also spend a couple of days in Edinburgh, but at this time I don't have plans on golfing while there.)

What I'm looking for is help on deciding where I should play in western Ireland, Dublin, and the Highlands. I'm ready to go with the flow in St. Andrews, as I'll be in the singles queue to get on the Old Course, and beyond that I'll aim for the New and I'm hoping to play nine on Balgove with my wife.

Currently I'm thinking the following:
  • Ballybunion
  • Portmarnock or Royal County Down (I'll keep the rental car an extra day if I decide to do RCD)
  • Royal Dornoch or Castle Stuart (trying to decide whether to spend a day or two in Dornoch instead of the entire four days based in Inverness)
I can probably do two rounds around Killarney and Inverness without issue, and one when we're in Dublin. I realize I'm mainly looking at "checklist" type courses, but with the number of places we'll be and a non-golfer en tow, I'm not looking to cram 12 rounds into the trip.

I realize I've gone on a long winded post asking for minimal input... Is there anywhere better than Ballybunion that I should look while in Killarney? (Old Head? Lahinch is too far away in my opinion.) Should I keep the rental car an extra day an make the drive up to RCD, or stick with Portmarnock? Should I spend a night or two in Dornoch or just make a day trip out of it?

Thanks in advance


Portmarnock is not even in the same stratosphere as RCD.  

Old Head is great views but not a great course.  When out at Ballybunion, Tralee is a must play and I would put that well above Old Head

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#5 hollabachgt

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Posted 20 October 2016 - 07:56 AM

Old Head is a wonderful piece of property with an average course. But if you're in that area, the town of Kinsale is not to be missed.

I feel that Lahinch is a better course that Ballybunion, Add to it the proximity of the Cliffs of Moher and it's only an hour's drive from Shannon, It could easily be the start of your trip.

Another two recommendations would be Dooks and Waterville, both on the Ring of Kerry.


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#6 Roadking2003

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Posted 20 October 2016 - 08:23 AM

View Posthollabachgt, on 20 October 2016 - 07:56 AM, said:

Old Head is a wonderful piece of property with an average course. But if you're in that area, the town of Kinsale is not to be missed.

I feel that Lahinch is a better course that Ballybunion, Add to it the proximity of the Cliffs of Moher and it's only an hour's drive from Shannon, It could easily be the start of your trip.

Another two recommendations would be Dooks and Waterville, both on the Ring of Kerry.

Yes, there are several courses better than Old Head.  But the Old Head experience makes is a must play.   There are no other courses that even come close to the views at Old Head.   And it's not a bad course and they have very good caddies.

If you only have one day, play RCD.  If you have two days, play RCD and Old Head.

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#7 hollabachgt

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Posted 20 October 2016 - 09:24 AM

View PostRoadking2003, on 20 October 2016 - 08:23 AM, said:

View Posthollabachgt, on 20 October 2016 - 07:56 AM, said:

Old Head is a wonderful piece of property with an average course. But if you're in that area, the town of Kinsale is not to be missed.

I feel that Lahinch is a better course that Ballybunion, Add to it the proximity of the Cliffs of Moher and it's only an hour's drive from Shannon, It could easily be the start of your trip.

Another two recommendations would be Dooks and Waterville, both on the Ring of Kerry.

Yes, there are several courses better than Old Head.  But the Old Head experience makes is a must play.   There are no other courses that even come close to the views at Old Head.   And it's not a bad course and they have very good caddies.

If you only have one day, play RCD.  If you have two days, play RCD and Old Head.

While visually stunning, it is lacking in how it engages the player, especially in the inland holes. Also for one looking for the true irish links experience, the turf and conditioning at Old Head is much more like a typical American course. Ballybunion, Lahinch, and Waterville are all must plays before Old Head.

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#8 raynorfan1

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Posted 20 October 2016 - 11:48 AM

Sounds like an epic adventure...

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#9 crcraig

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Posted 20 October 2016 - 12:50 PM

If you only play once while you are in Killarney, it should be Ballybunion.  If you have time for a second round, I'd play Waterville, as I think it's better than Tralee.  As you already know, the other really good course in the southwest that you are missing is Lahinch.  That's probably too long for a day trip, but you might consider flying into Shannon and playing Lahinch before heading down to Killarney.

Around Dublin, even though I quite enjoyed Portmarnock, RCD is really in another class.  If you don't mind the extra drive, it's the place to go.  In fact, if I were doing it, I'd try to play there twice, though your wife might not have enough to do in Newcastle.  (If it was Portrush, that's a different story, as you've got Dunluce Castle, Giant's Causeway, and Bushmills, among others.)  The other possibility around Dublin is The Island, which I thought was just about equal with Portmarnock.

In the Highlands, I think Royal Dornoch is worthy of a couple of rounds -- it's that good.  I haven't played Castle Stuart though.  There are some other under-the-radar courses in that area that many people speak highly of -- Brora, Golspie, Tain.  But really, you can't go wrong with RD.

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#10 chrisisoutrunning

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Posted 20 October 2016 - 03:20 PM

View Postraynorfan1, on 20 October 2016 - 11:48 AM, said:

Sounds like an epic adventure...
Seems like you know where I work...


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#11 mtufenk

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Posted 20 October 2016 - 10:28 PM

I have sort of a similar situation. Family trip to Ireland/Scotland in June. I'm the only one who golfs. Family has agreed to my 3 round request. In Ireland I'm only playing one course and that's Royal County Down (1/3) even though we will be spending quite a bit of time in southwest Ireland. In Scotland, I was fortunate to get an advanced reservation at the Old Course in St. Andrews (2/3). My third is Royal Dornoch since we will be in Inverness (3/3).

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#12 jjr

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Posted 22 October 2016 - 01:13 AM

I agree, please play Balybunion, Waterville and or Lahinch before you play Old Head, head out there for the views and a couple of pints instead if you must!

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#13 puttnforthe8

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Posted 22 October 2016 - 12:44 PM

Tralee...do not exclude.  May be one of the best 9s anywhere.  Great course.

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#14 sabram

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Posted 22 October 2016 - 03:13 PM

View Postchrisisoutrunning, on 19 October 2016 - 09:25 PM, said:


What I'm looking for is help on deciding where I should play in western Ireland, Dublin, and the Highlands.
Currently I'm thinking the following:
  • Ballybunion
  • Portmarnock or Royal County Down (I'll keep the rental car an extra day if I decide to do RCD)
  • Royal Dornoch or Castle Stuart (trying to decide whether to spend a day or two in Dornoch instead of the entire four days based in Inverness)
I can probably do two rounds around Killarney and Inverness without issue, and one when we're in Dublin. I realize I'm mainly looking at "checklist" type courses, but with the number of places we'll be and a non-golfer en tow, I'm not looking to cram 12 rounds into the trip.



The choices you've listed are good.

In Southwest Ireland Ballybunion is a great choice. If you are going to play a second round make it Lahinch rather than driving to Old Head.

Near Inverness, Royal Dornoch is your best choice. If you want to add a second or third round Castle Stuart and Brora are your best bets.

Dublin is the more difficult choice. If you are willing to make the drive to Northern Ireland, Royal County Down is a great choice and worth the drive to get there. It is a better round of golf than any of  the choices closer to Dublin. If you don't want to drive to County Down, Portmarnock is a good choice, but not the equal of RCD. Other good choices near Dublin that are less expensive than Portmarnock but offer equal quality golf and memorability are the Island and County Louth.

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#15 az2au

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Posted 22 October 2016 - 10:53 PM

I've played every single links course in Ireland and many of the parkland courses as well. Portmarnock is not in the top 50 of those. RCD is perhaps my favorite course on the planet. Old Head is perhaps my favorite place to play golf on a nice day. Tralee is also wonderful. I'd put Lahinch, Enniscrone and Carne ahead of it but still think it is wonderful. After hundreds of rounds (not kidding) in Ireland if I had time to play 3 with no regard to where they are it would be:
1. RCD
2. Enniscrone
3. Old Head

On a sunny day all of those places make you feel lucky to be alive.


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#16 gregflat9

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Posted 23 October 2016 - 12:59 PM

ROyal County Down. What a course....!

Agree on the comments about Old Head but you have to play it.

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#17 kevinricci

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Posted 25 October 2016 - 08:05 AM

View Postchrisisoutrunning, on 19 October 2016 - 09:25 PM, said:

Background: I'm fortunate enough to work for a company that after five years, provides me the opportunity to travel to a country (or countries) that I've never been too. (By paying for my flight and giving me a per diem for lodging/food/whatever (golf).) Having been fascinated with Ireland and Scotland for the past 20+ years due to my love of golf and small Irish heritage, my wife and I will be spending about 2 1/2 weeks in the two countries next October (2017). My wife is not a golfer, though she has taken group lessons before, and completely understands that I will be spending time golfing on this trip. That being said, this is not just a golfing trip, but will some much needed time away from the day-in day-out of life with my wife.

Our plan is to fly into Shannon or Cork and spend approximately four days in the Killarney area before driving to Dublin and spending a few days there. From there we'll fly to Inverness and spend three or four days in the Highlands before taking a train down to St. Andrews for another four days. (We'll also spend a couple of days in Edinburgh, but at this time I don't have plans on golfing while there.)

What I'm looking for is help on deciding where I should play in western Ireland, Dublin, and the Highlands. I'm ready to go with the flow in St. Andrews, as I'll be in the singles queue to get on the Old Course, and beyond that I'll aim for the New and I'm hoping to play nine on Balgove with my wife.

Currently I'm thinking the following:
  • Ballybunion
  • Portmarnock or Royal County Down (I'll keep the rental car an extra day if I decide to do RCD)
  • Royal Dornoch or Castle Stuart (trying to decide whether to spend a day or two in Dornoch instead of the entire four days based in Inverness)
I can probably do two rounds around Killarney and Inverness without issue, and one when we're in Dublin. I realize I'm mainly looking at "checklist" type courses, but with the number of places we'll be and a non-golfer en tow, I'm not looking to cram 12 rounds into the trip.

I realize I've gone on a long winded post asking for minimal input... Is there anywhere better than Ballybunion that I should look while in Killarney? (Old Head? Lahinch is too far away in my opinion.) Should I keep the rental car an extra day an make the drive up to RCD, or stick with Portmarnock? Should I spend a night or two in Dornoch or just make a day trip out of it?

Thanks in advance
Castle Stuart is well worth playing. It is very close to the Inverness airport. Maybe you could play there when you fly in, then drive a little more than an hour to Dornoch. Stay in Dornoch for two nights.

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#18 Mikolar

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Posted 25 October 2016 - 09:58 AM

Shannon is a great place to fly into and get out of easily.   We went for the first time four years ago and now go back every summer -- Ireland and Scotland are both so wonderful.  
The one thing I would add is that driving anywhere, will take a bit longer than planned.  We tend to drive in Scotland but have always hired a driver in Ireland.  

In Scotland, we've always been able to get on the Old Course thru the lottery or simply walking up and being willing to play by splitting up our group.   I also enjoyed Balcome at Crail and it is a fairly easy walk for nine ... the backside in fact has a bunch of par 3's.  
If you can, watch the Outlander series.  It's pretty well done and much of the Highlands seems to have changed little since then.  It may also spur our travel interests to some of the castles and landmarks shown in the series.

In Dublin, visit the university and national museum and spend at least one dusk/night on Grafton Street in Dublin -- enjoy the buskers.   We enjoyed the Island course near Dublin.   In SW Ireland, I too would recommend Lahinch over Ballybunion.  Old Head is cool but not quite the same experience as the other Irish courses.   Tralee was ok but as someone else said, I'd go with Waterville for golf.  Tralee does have a small museum which we found to be pretty good.  

In one vein, Old Head would be on a highlight reel for the experience, but RCD is much, much better golf.   A great course in a beautiful setting and if you stay the night, Slieve Donard is great.

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#19 ALadyGolfs

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Posted 26 October 2016 - 08:09 AM

In relation to the Trump/Doonbeg course in County Clare, To be fair to Trump people were pretty sceptical when he took over Doonbeg, it was a world class course and people locally were worried how it would turn out. As most golfers who visit the place will tell you, they left the course pretty much as it was and made some changes but only to the hotel/food & beverage side of things. The course is still a great play. The main ''go-to'' guy in Ireland and Scotland for golf tours is still that Dave Henry guy from henrygolf and he maintains Trump Doonbeg is still a premium course.Having said all of that I shot one of my worst ever rounds there....!!!

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#20 gp7xs

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Posted 26 October 2016 - 09:57 PM

View Postchrisisoutrunning, on 19 October 2016 - 09:25 PM, said:

Background: I'm fortunate enough to work for a company that after five years, provides me the opportunity to travel to a country (or countries) that I've never been too. (By paying for my flight and giving me a per diem for lodging/food/whatever (golf).) Having been fascinated with Ireland and Scotland for the past 20+ years due to my love of golf and small Irish heritage, my wife and I will be spending about 2 1/2 weeks in the two countries next October (2017). My wife is not a golfer, though she has taken group lessons before, and completely understands that I will be spending time golfing on this trip. That being said, this is not just a golfing trip, but will some much needed time away from the day-in day-out of life with my wife.

Our plan is to fly into Shannon or Cork and spend approximately four days in the Killarney area before driving to Dublin and spending a few days there. From there we'll fly to Inverness and spend three or four days in the Highlands before taking a train down to St. Andrews for another four days. (We'll also spend a couple of days in Edinburgh, but at this time I don't have plans on golfing while there.)

What I'm looking for is help on deciding where I should play in western Ireland, Dublin, and the Highlands. I'm ready to go with the flow in St. Andrews, as I'll be in the singles queue to get on the Old Course, and beyond that I'll aim for the New and I'm hoping to play nine on Balgove with my wife.

Currently I'm thinking the following:
  • Ballybunion
  • Portmarnock or Royal County Down (I'll keep the rental car an extra day if I decide to do RCD)
  • Royal Dornoch or Castle Stuart (trying to decide whether to spend a day or two in Dornoch instead of the entire four days based in Inverness)
I can probably do two rounds around Killarney and Inverness without issue, and one when we're in Dublin. I realize I'm mainly looking at "checklist" type courses, but with the number of places we'll be and a non-golfer en tow, I'm not looking to cram 12 rounds into the trip.

I realize I've gone on a long winded post asking for minimal input... Is there anywhere better than Ballybunion that I should look while in Killarney? (Old Head? Lahinch is too far away in my opinion.) Should I keep the rental car an extra day an make the drive up to RCD, or stick with Portmarnock? Should I spend a night or two in Dornoch or just make a day trip out of it?

Thanks in advance

Having played almost all of the top courses in Scotland and Ireland, here are some recommandations:
  • Ballybunion is a great choice. If you can, I'd add a game at Lahinch. Lahinch is closer to Ballybunion than Old Head is (about 30 minutes difference if you take the ferry). Old Head does have amazing views and it is a unique experience, but Lahinch is links golf at its best. If you only play 2 or 3 courses in Ireland, I would choose Lahinch over Old Head everytime. It would also be a great opportunity to take in the Cliffs of Moher then have dinner at the Vaughans Anchor Inn.
  • I you have to choose between RDC and Portmarnock, RDC is the better course no doubt. Portmarnock is great, but not on the same level. If you don't mind the drive (which you shouldn't because it is a nice one and not very long), go to RDC. You won't regret it.
  • Royal Dornoch over Castle Stuart, anytime. Castle Stuart is a great course, but Dornoch is on another level (on the same level as RCD imo). There are great distilleries in that area you can visit (Glenmorangie, Dalmore) if you are into that. Inverness is a beautiful city, but you don't need a whole four days to get the most of it. I'd advise to spend one night in Dornoch.
  • St-Andrews and the Old Course is a must. If you're able to play it twice, it makes it amazing. The first time you'll play it you will probably be a little nervous. If you play again one or two days later, you'll appreciate it even more.
  • If you can squeeze an extra while in the Edinburgh area, I'd strongly suggest North Berwick. It's the most fun one can have on a golf course. The history there is, in my mind, behind only to St-Andrews and Prestwick.
Enjoy your trip!


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#21 FairwayFred

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Posted 27 October 2016 - 06:48 AM

View Posthollabachgt, on 20 October 2016 - 07:56 AM, said:

Old Head is a wonderful piece of property with an average course. But if you're in that area, the town of Kinsale is not to be missed.

I feel that Lahinch is a better course that Ballybunion, Add to it the proximity of the Cliffs of Moher and it's only an hour's drive from Shannon, It could easily be the start of your trip.

Another two recommendations would be Dooks and Waterville, both on the Ring of Kerry.

I agree with this 100%.  Do not waste your time at Old Head.  Nice views but a below average gold course.  Lahinch is a must play and imo better than Ballybunion.  Also less expensive and less busy (I walked off Ballybunion after 4.5 hours and 12 holes last time I tried to play it).  Waterville is amazing also better than Ballybunion.  Haven't played Dooks but only heard great things.  Have fun with the trip of a lifetime!
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#22 FairwayFred

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Posted 27 October 2016 - 06:49 AM

And btw Royal County Down is the best course in the UK, maybe the world.  DO NOT MISS RCD.
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#23 chrisisoutrunning

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 09:55 AM

Plans are becoming a little more firm for the trip (though 11+ months out, that's a relative term).

Looks like I'll be hitting up Lahinch, Ballybunion, Royal County Down, Royal Dornoch, and 2-3 rounds in St. Andrews (I'll be up early at least once for the Old, then planning on the New, anything beyond that is icing on the cake).

I won't have time to get out while we're in Edinburgh (we're only going to be there for a day and a half or so), so North Berwick and the East Lothian courses will have to wait for another trip.

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#24 katbird

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Posted 30 October 2016 - 02:49 PM

....and drop by the Dornoch Cathedral....

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#25 chrisisoutrunning

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Posted 31 October 2016 - 08:25 AM

Will do katbird!

I did get some bad news this morning. Evidently Royal County Down is closed to visitor play all of October in 2017. I'm trying to get details on why, if for nothing else but curiosity. That was definitely not the way I wanted to start my week...


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#26 chrisisoutrunning

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Posted 31 October 2016 - 08:46 AM

Closed for maintenance

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#27 katbird

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Posted 31 October 2016 - 09:13 AM

It is a good idea to contact each club and ask about their maintenance schedule....as well as member tourneys that may close the course to visitors when you want to play there.
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#28 chrisisoutrunning

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Posted 31 October 2016 - 10:21 AM

View Postkatbird, on 31 October 2016 - 09:13 AM, said:

It is a good idea to contact each club and ask about their maintenance schedule....as well as member tourneys that may close the course to visitors when you want to play there.

Yeah, I've made tee times at Ballybunion and Royal Dornoch to at least theoretically avoid that issue. The Old and New Courses don't have anything major going on while I'll be there (I avoided the Dunhill Links on purpose, otherwise my trip would probably head east to west instead of the opposite). I will reach out to Lahinch, as I can't book for next year yet via their website.

So, now that Royal County Down is out of the picture. For when I'm in Dublin, should I look at Portmarnock, The Island, or somehwere else?

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#29 hdr_ric

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Posted 04 November 2016 - 10:55 PM

my two cents:

Ballybunion, Waterville - if you are only playing twice in Killarney/sw ireland.  

Can't really go wrong with Tralee/Lahinch/Old Head either.

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#30 120_Sunny

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Posted 24 November 2016 - 08:58 PM

It's surprising how much bad talk Old Head is getting. Like most of you have stated it's not a true links course but come on, not to many places like Old Head anywhere. If your looking for links courses then Ballybunion, Tralee, Lahinch and Doonbeg are great choices. I've also played Dooks and even though it doesn't get talked about like the other top clubs it's a nice course with a great feel.


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