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Ireland Trip Report/Review - May-June 2017


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#1 duffer987

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    I'm not laughing. I'm just befuddled.

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Posted 14 June 2017 - 02:41 PM

Well it's all been covered before and nowadays I don't think anyone doesn't know what they are doing when going on a golf trip; however, since I've just returned from one I thought I'd throw this thread together.

Hopefully someone gleans something useful for their upcoming trip or planned trip or maybe someone who's been before will find it a catalyst to remember their own fantastic time.
With that here's this internet user's disjointed ramblings about a golf trip to Ireland this Spring 2017 :)

Tee times:
Out of the blue we decided to go last Christmas. So we organized all our tee times the last week of December, basing everything else around when we could get on RCD, with 3 draft itineraries made around it. Once we settled on our RCD time, everything else easily fell into place, as it was the only course seriously booked up 5-6 months out. We ended up with 7 rounds booked initially and as a twosome knew we could easily play more once there. So we had:
  • - | Ballybunion Old booked the Monday before we left
  • Dooks
  • Lahinch Old
  • Ballybunion Old | Cashen ad-hoc replay
  • - | Laytown & Bettystown as we were driving past
  • Royal Portrush | Valley course ad-hoc replay
  • RCD
  • Portmarnock | Portmarnock Hotel ad-hoc around the corner
  • The European Club
So in the end we played 12 rounds over 9 days due to the fantastic weather that saw us get dumped on at RCD, but otherwise stay dry bar around 90mins worth of precip spread out over a couple other rounds.

We skipped Waterville and Tralee because we've played them a few times before and scheduling wise it didn't fit. Same with The Island; however, we would have liked to get a round in at Baltray but the East of Ireland Championship took precedence over two muppets from Canada.

Getting around:
Starting in the Southwest and ending in Dublin, we flew into Shannon and out of Dublin. The car hire was an extra 50EUR for being one way, otherwise no concerns. Although it should be noted, very few credit cards provide insurance in Ireland, so do check yours if you typically use it. A Hyundai i30 diesel estate was the perfect size for two with golf gear in tow and the gas mileage was awesome with the tractor engine under the bonnet.

Based on the car hire receipt we did around 1600kms and they really were easy. All the courses are either in towns or just off a main road, so they were simple to get to. Thankfully Ireland is finally starting to catch up with the UK in motorway services options, with Applegreens spring up all over. Costa coffee, free wifi, snacks, and toilets check all the boxes when making the longer runs down the motorway. Having good weather helped too, as driving in the rain can tire you out.

Food & Drink:
Yes. Same again please. When travelling with the missus or myself more of an effort is made to find interesting eats, but with the fellas it's pretty much pub food. That said, one night we made an effort and went to Brookwood on Baggot St. in Dublin, which was more because it was across the street from Doheny and Nesbitts, but it turned out to be quite good. Everyone has an opinion on pubs, but IMHO from living there and returning to see friends, these were are faves in the city centre and would recommend: Kehoes, Mulligans, O'Neills, Doyles, Doheny & Nesbitt, Toners, The Duke, McDaids and Nearys, amongst many others. Just best to avoid the sh1tshow that is Temple Bar.  

One thing, if you have early teetimes you might have trouble finding spots open, unless you are at a B&B or hotel which starts serving breakfast early. You can always find a coffee somewhere, but getting a roll can take a bit more work.

Accomodations:
We split the trip up into 3 base locations (Listowel, Carnlough, Dublin), as we don't like the rinse/repeat check in and out pattern. What we did worked very well, with only the one long drive North.
4 nights in Listowel at the Small House. Quite literally a small house right in town, with pubs and a shop across the street. Great for two couples or 3 fellas who don't mind looking after themselves. Listowel is a great base for reaching all the Southwest courses and I've stayed here many times. Ballybunion is 15-20 mins, Tralee 30 mins, with the others a bit further afield. But it's an easy town to get in/out of, has the required number of pubs, and has a Spar that opens at 7am for coffee and a bacon/sausage baguette.

2 nights in Carnlough at the Londonderry Arms. Could have stayed in Ballymena, Belfast, or elsewhere along the coast, but decided on here to have a few nights in a small village right along the water. Restaurant/pub and residents bar downstairs had has fully squared away.

3 nights in Dublin at The Westin. Great location for all my old regular haunts in the city centre, but not a great location to have a car, as central Dublin is one big building site, making it a pain to get around. With early enough rounds, getting out was fine, but coming back in after was not fun. I know my way around, but I could see someone not familiar with the city having quite a time getting in and out.

Golf Courses:
First and foremost, these are members clubs for members, who section off parts of their days for visitors and charge us a fair whack to have a go. This means on the big courses, you are far more likely to be surrounded by the likes of Bob from Winnipeg and Doug from Phoenix, than any locals.

It also means pull carts/trolleys are universally the awful metal stick with two wheels attached variety. And with members having their own and visitors taking caddies as often as not, that's fair enough, but it does make one long for something with 3 wheels.

Practice facilities have gotten better over the years, but it's still not like going to a US resort. We didn't hit a ball that wasn't in play (well at least started in play) the whole trip. If you do get their early enough most courses do have something, but as a twosome, as often as not when we checked in for our earlier rounds they were happy for us to get going.

Also don't expect to find many facilities once on the course. This isn't Arizona with a water jug every second hole. If you drink a fair bit, have it with you before you tee off. There are spouts here and there on course, and some nines do come back to the clubhouse, but better safe than sorry.

So now onto the courses themselves. I've divided them by region and thrown a number beside them (from 1 to 11) to indicate which I liked the most. I'm just some hack and I'm not saying which is 'better' or more of a tournament course. Simply how much I enjoy them. I could go back next year and see that order of preference change and then change again :)

Edited by duffer987, 14 June 2017 - 10:55 PM.

Taylormade M1 12*: Set to 11*
Cleveland Classic XL 15.5*
Titleist 913H 21*, 24*
Callaway Legacy Black 5-PW
Mizuno T4 54*, 58* | Odyssey MXM #7
http://tinyurl.com/CoursesPlayedList

Apparently wearing trousers makes me elitist.

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#2 duffer987

duffer987

    I'm not laughing. I'm just befuddled.

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Posted 14 June 2017 - 02:47 PM

Southwest:

Ballybunion Old (2) - Playing the course 3hrs after touching down at Shannon, just getting off the first tee and loosening up was the goal. With that accomplished after the first 3/4 holes, the round could be enjoyed and that it was. If the caravan park and Sandhill Rd are not the prettiest of views as we start the round, once we turn the corner from the 6th to the 7th, it's game on.

These are the reasons you spend that time on a plane: 7 and 11 are a great pair of 4's, 12 and 15 are an awesome pair of par 3's, and really there are a bunch of other fun and fantastic 3's and 4's mixed in throughout the round; early with 2 & 3, later with 10 & 17 among others. If the course is let down anywhere, maybe it's lacking awesome par 5's. 16 is a fun, cut-the-corner hole, but the other 3 are there to give us scoring chances and not a lot else. The back 9 really is a roller coaster ride of fun and interesting shots, one after the other.

Our initial lunch hour round was obviously enjoyable enough, but when we played the course a second time three days later, we were fortunate to be the 2nd group out and after the twosome in front of us let us through on the 5th tee, we had the course to ourselves. Apart from some maintenance staff, it was just us with open fairways and greens ahead and it made for a splendid round.

Posted Image20170529_101702 by dkb123, on Flickr

Lahinch Old (3) - Like the other courses making up my top 5, Lahinch is just so much fun to play. The front nine blind shots may give way to more serious golf on the back nine, but it remains hugely enjoyable stuff throughout. The famous Klondyke or Dell holes are neat, but the number of strong par 4s on the front side really help keep it interesting, especially those with greens perched above the beach.

In fairness the quality par 4s continue on the back, whether they required a 3W or a PW to reach them in regulation. Having a pitch and putt birdie on the short 13th was cool, but 'earning' a par on the long 15th was an even bigger highlight. It's only with the last couple holes when you leave the larger dunes that the course is anything other than top drawer.

Posted Image20170528_155207 by dkb123, on Flickr

Dooks (9) - If you've not been over there before, this makes for an excellent introduction to links golf in Ireland, before moving on to more esteemed neighbours. The views are - at almost every turn - fantastic, and the course itself has all the elements you would expect to find in links golf: firm turf, sand dunes, steep-faced sand pits, a couple blind shots, and some well routed holes to take advantage of it.

The routing is a bit odd, in that 18 finishes the whole length of the hole away and across the first from the clubhouse, otherwise the pattern was largely of side-by-side parallel pairs giving you one hole down wind and one hole with. The course was in good shape and had the firmest greens we encountered on our trip, with runout greater than the rest. The course has too many indifferent holes to be on par with the neighbours, but is still a fun, worthwhile, 2nd-tier play.

Posted Image20170527_171207 by dkb123, on Flickr

Ballybunion Cashen (11) - I don't know why we persist in playing this thing. Target golf and links golf don't go together, and if there was any doubt just venture onto the back 9 of the Cashen course, where green sites were chosen with seemingly no regard for how to get the golfer to them. They might look cool in the photos, but hitting a bunch of hybrids and irons off the tee to one target area isn't a lot of fun. The replay round is cheap, but we should have done what the members did, which is just play the front 9 or loop it twice. While still inflicted with RTJ's ideas, the terrain is less drastic and the holes less silly because of it.

Posted Image20170529_162505 by dkb123, on Flickr

Edited by duffer987, 14 June 2017 - 03:03 PM.

Taylormade M1 12*: Set to 11*
Cleveland Classic XL 15.5*
Titleist 913H 21*, 24*
Callaway Legacy Black 5-PW
Mizuno T4 54*, 58* | Odyssey MXM #7
http://tinyurl.com/CoursesPlayedList

Apparently wearing trousers makes me elitist.

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#3 duffer987

duffer987

    I'm not laughing. I'm just befuddled.

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Posted 14 June 2017 - 02:51 PM

Northern Ireland

Royal Portrush Dunluce (1) - A superb test of driving the golf ball, in a glorious setting. I wouldn't quarrel with anyone who puts this course at or near the top of their "best" or favorite list. With bunkers encroaching on the line of play more than elsewhere, thick rough not that far from the fairways, and cambered doglegs begging to shunt your ball in a direction you did not intend, putting a peg in the ground and starting the next hole is no given. Not that the approaches are a given, but this is definitely one of my favorite 1st shot golf courses.

4 and 5 show in spades those challenges, with a boundary and bunkers to navigate off the tee before a long approach shot to a green tucked between two dunes, followed by a falling tee shot where you can be as aggressive with your line as you want, but still have a tricky second to a green sitting right against the cliff edge.

Calamity, the long par 3, makes sure it's not just the fairways that are a challenge and also provides views of the Valley course, which was our afternoon round.

Posted Image20170531_122132 by dkb123, on Flickr

Royal County Down (3) - What's there to say about a course as lauded as this? Nothing really. It deserves all the praise lavished on it.The bad news is we got dumped on for pretty much the entire round. The good news is it was the only wet round we played on the trip and their locker room showers are excellent.

The dunes here are massive in spots, you might need to head over to Carne to find larger ones used for a golf course. This of course provides the opportunity - as at St. Andrews - to pick a line, sometimes a white stone, sometimes your caddy's cap, and let fly knowing a good swing will leave you sitting pretty on the other side. While that is fun in and of itself, once you crest the dune and the rest of holes such as 2, 5, 9 present themselves, you cannot help but feel a bit giddy. Even with all the blind fun, it might be the par 4 13th that is my favorite, perfectly placed in a valley between the dunes. And like many other links, the par 3s here are superb.

Posted Image20170601IMG_2543 by dkb123, on Flickr

Royal Portrush Valley (8) - A fine second 18 and second round of the day. This is a perfectly good golf course, but pales in comparison through no fault of its own, to one of the true greats next door. It's readily apparent why it's called the Valley course and it does lack the movement of the Dunluce course. That said, there are a bunch of quality holes here, with some well positioned bunkers and just enough turn in some of the doglegs to keep the interest up. Course was pretty much empty when we played it, so makes for an easy ad-hoc second round.

Posted Image20170531_173046 by dkb123, on Flickr

Edited by duffer987, 14 June 2017 - 02:58 PM.

Taylormade M1 12*: Set to 11*
Cleveland Classic XL 15.5*
Titleist 913H 21*, 24*
Callaway Legacy Black 5-PW
Mizuno T4 54*, 58* | Odyssey MXM #7
http://tinyurl.com/CoursesPlayedList

Apparently wearing trousers makes me elitist.

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#4 duffer987

duffer987

    I'm not laughing. I'm just befuddled.

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Posted 14 June 2017 - 02:52 PM

Greater Dublinish

The European Club (5) - The passage of time may be marked by a hairline that starts higher up for me and with the use of a buggy on Mr. Ruddy's part, but 20 years after I played the course for the first time, Mr. Ruddy is still there to see you off the first tee. If that doesn't put you in a positive mood to start your round, it only takes a couple holes before the sights will force you into one. At the par 5 3rd is one of my favorite views in Irish golf, as the serpentine fairway leads you down towards the green and off beyond the Irish Sea and down the coastline. It helps it's a proper golf hole too. One of many on a course that plunges, climbs, and turns around some massive dunes. Some of the playing corridors here are amongst my favorite anywyere, creating that sense that you have the course to yourself, as you are shielded from other holes and players.

Then, when it isn't moving through those dunes, it's smack dab beside the beach, with a par 4 and par 5 that must be as close to the beach (in as much as it's in play) as any course that I have played.

As a side note, apparently it had been raining a fair bit the week before we arrived and the greens on the more landward half of the course were actually soft enough to stick and roll back approach shots. We were joking (sadly as it was our last round of the trip) that we were getting ready for our return to North American golf.

Posted Image20170603_120800 by dkb123, on Flickr

Portmarnock (6) - Maybe the best conditioned course we played on this trip? The greens looked and rolled lovely. There was a nice definition to the cut of the fairways and the tee boxes were neatly clipped. Of course you can always go to a garden centre if that's your first concern and fortunately the golf matched up well.

Of course this really does feel like a traditional flattish, laid out right in front of you Open Rota course (Carnoustie, Muirfield, Hoylake, etc...). It lacks the terrain of RCD or The European Club, and the fun and drama that comes with the huge dunes. Because of that, while I could swap around the "Top 5", this is definitely cemented in 6th. Still the golf is excellent, with many bunkers both in the fairway and around the green to navigate, and with two looping nines, you get to tackle the wind from all manner of directions. 3-7 is a particularly fun stretch and the 15th sitting hard against the beach is a fantastic one shotter.

Posted Image20170602_110804 by dkb123, on Flickr

Laytown & Bettystown (7) - Of the non-top whatever courses we played this was my favorite. I wouldn't pretend this is a world beater, but I would also say I don't think you need anything more in a golf course than what is on offer here. It starts out with a couple short 4s, but then increases the interest starting at the 3rd. There's a poor man's version of the 15th at Portmarnock playing along the beach, a driveable 4 or two, along with some requiring a 3 wood in that bend around a dune or two. Some of the holes near the road are flat and featureless, but there is lots of good golf here. If you are looking for something to play between Dublin and the North, it's a worthwhile stop. And with some ambitious plans to significantly change the routing, best play it now, before they 'modernize' it for better or worse.

Posted Image20170530_141001 by dkb123, on Flickr

Portmarnock Links Hotel (10) - This is a solid, functional golf course. There is a variety to the holes and some interesting greens and tee shots, but at the end of the day there is something missing. It lacks the fun of The Island, Laytown & Bettystown, or even Corballis, while also not matching it's grown up neighbour in the seriousness stakes. It's worth a look once, but after multiple plays I'm not super keen to return. That said its location does make it a good links option when in Dublin, but I really would choose the others mentioned ahead of it now.

Posted Image20170602_160956 by dkb123, on Flickr

Edited by duffer987, 14 June 2017 - 03:01 PM.

Taylormade M1 12*: Set to 11*
Cleveland Classic XL 15.5*
Titleist 913H 21*, 24*
Callaway Legacy Black 5-PW
Mizuno T4 54*, 58* | Odyssey MXM #7
http://tinyurl.com/CoursesPlayedList

Apparently wearing trousers makes me elitist.

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#5 Ping Zings

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Posted 15 June 2017 - 11:00 AM

Great job on the write up!  Looks like you had a blast.

Posted Image

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#6 duffer987

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    I'm not laughing. I'm just befuddled.

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Posted 15 June 2017 - 12:28 PM

View PostPing Zings, on 15 June 2017 - 11:00 AM, said:

Great job on the write up!  Looks like you had a blast.

Thanks!
Ya the weather can really make/break a week+ long trip and we were very fortunate. Also helped keep us on the course and out of the pubs :)
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Titleist 913H 21*, 24*
Callaway Legacy Black 5-PW
Mizuno T4 54*, 58* | Odyssey MXM #7
http://tinyurl.com/CoursesPlayedList

Apparently wearing trousers makes me elitist.

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#7 Edaw68

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 01:57 AM

Awesome report, thanks.

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#8 az2au

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 08:01 AM

Enjoyed reading this just now as I sit in a pub in Kinsale grabbing lunch. Great write up.

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#9 DoubleorQuits

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 08:52 AM

As to weather was it ever really cold at any point?

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#10 duffer987

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    I'm not laughing. I'm just befuddled.

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 09:14 AM

View Postaz2au, on 16 June 2017 - 08:01 AM, said:

Enjoyed reading this just now as I sit in a pub in Kinsale grabbing lunch. Great write up.

Ha! Too funny :) Quick look at the weather says it's a good day to be down there. Great time of the year to be down there, before the schools let out.

View PostDoubleorQuits, on 16 June 2017 - 08:52 AM, said:

As to weather was it ever really cold at any point?

A couple mornings when we teed of at 8am I started with an Under Armour base layer because I am a wimp, but had shedded it by the 6th hole both rounds.
Otherwise only the RCD round was cold and that was simply a result of it pissing rain, being in the 50s, and as a twosome that are half decent, having to wait on all our shots. Standing on those elevated tees for 5 mins getting wet isn't a lot of fun.

May through end of Sept - except for a very rare 'heat wave' - I've always found the temps comparable throughout that stretch of being 50F to low 70s F.
Wind direction can mean it's a chilly wind, but with a good quality pullover it's no prob.

Taylormade M1 12*: Set to 11*
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Titleist 913H 21*, 24*
Callaway Legacy Black 5-PW
Mizuno T4 54*, 58* | Odyssey MXM #7
http://tinyurl.com/CoursesPlayedList

Apparently wearing trousers makes me elitist.

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#11 lhahn

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 10:54 AM

Thanks for the write up Duff. Always love reading these and seeing the pics!
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#12 outofboundz

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 11:04 AM

Awesome trip, you are a great writer.

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#13 alfriday

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 11:36 AM

I think you are being generous with the Cashen course.  My comments would be much more derogatory.

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#14 az2au

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 12:00 PM

View Postalfriday, on 16 June 2017 - 11:36 AM, said:

I think you are being generous with the Cashen course.  My comments would be much more derogatory.
On a scale of 1-10 I might give it a 3. It seems like the absolute worst course that could be built on the land that it sits on. My group will no longer play there after hitting it 4 or 5 times over the years.

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#15 duffer987

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 04:14 PM

View Postalfriday, on 16 June 2017 - 11:36 AM, said:

I think you are being generous with the Cashen course.  My comments would be much more derogatory.

Ha. I'm pessimistic enough normally, so I like to try and be positive when it comes to things like playing golf courses, see bands live, any kind of out and about thing really.
Everyone should give it a go once, maybe twice, but it is quite an accomplishment what a one-trick pony it is.
I'm not much of an RTJ fan to begin with, but every approach shot feels the same on the back (at the flag in the air over broken ground or deep hollow), just with a different club. Touch less so on the front.

View Postaz2au, on 16 June 2017 - 12:00 PM, said:

On a scale of 1-10 I might give it a 3. It seems like the absolute worst course that could be built on the land that it sits on. My group will no longer play there after hitting it 4 or 5 times over the years.

Good description. Loads of other courses handle crazy dunes way better. Think he was out of his depth there, should have had a deputy reign him in some. Ya next time we're either taking the afternoon off, trying to get on the Old again, or driving down to Tralee. Maybe it'd work as a 5 club challenge, treat it like The Preserve at Bandon or something.

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Callaway Legacy Black 5-PW
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http://tinyurl.com/CoursesPlayedList

Apparently wearing trousers makes me elitist.

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