To Ireland I Will Go

The 17th hole at Carne, in Ireland's remote North-West.

Starting Monday, G4G is going overseas — to the western coast of Ireland for a lot of golf and a fair bit of driving. In the company of two golf architects, I’ll be traveling to see 9 courses in a week’s time.

Our trip starts Tuesday after landing at Dooks, a course that has been overhauled by Martin Hawtree in recent years. Got to love a course where the logo contains a toad. A hat with that logo is surely coming home with me.

From there we head to Waterville and then on to Ballybunion, where we overnight, playing the Old and New Courses. The trip then turns north and takes in three lesser-known tracks — Carne, Enniscrone and Co. Sligo — before heading south to finish at Lahinch (hopefully twice) and Doonbeg. Then a flight home, by which time I’m sure I’ll be worn out.

I’ll be writing about our travels each day, as I did last year when I was in Wales.

I must admit this is a trip that gets my pulse racing. Heading to Ireland or the U.K. has become almost an annual ritual in recent years — this is my sixth trip across since 2003. The lure is links golf. I’ve had people ask what it is about links golf that is so interesting to me. It is sometimes hard to explain, but I know it as soon as I see the lumpy dunes and smell the sea air. God I long to see a caravan park — the U.K. equivalent of a trailer park mixed with a cottage — as they are almost always found alongside seaside links. The ability to play on firm turf, tackle blind holes, find wild green sites and sometimes be treated damned unfairly by the course — that’s all part of playing on the links.

For this trip I really wanted to go away from the usual suspects a bit — which is why Enniscrone, Carne and Sligo are part of the week. Sure it is a few hours out of the way — but it isn’t a place everyone travels to. I wouldn’t call them hidden gems — they are in every golf book — but they aren’t Top 100 courses that all travelers head to. Kind of like playing Crail when in Scotland, I suppose.

Anyway, I’ll report back Tuesday through the following Tuesday. Of course, being the busy season, I’m taking a bunch of work with me, including the final pages of the Canadian PGA’s Centennial magazine that I’m editing. Nothing wrong with some work on the road — that’s why there are three drivers.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Look forward to your reviews! Ireland is still fresh in my mind, can’t wait to go back.

  • Enjoy your trip and I hope the weather treats you well. In 2006 I played Carne, Enniscrone and Rosses Point (Co. Sligo) and they are all great tests of golf with some great quirky holes as well as some great views of the ocean. We also played Strandhill (just on the western outskirts of Sligo Town) and it’s well worth a play if you have the time (and it’s only 30 euro). The lumpiest fariway I’ve ever seen is on the par 5 fifth hole where you tee off the largest dune I’ve ever seen.
    Have fun!!

  • RT:

    My favourite story of County Sligo is the wind. Played the 3rd hole (par 3 – 150 yards) directly into the “fan”. I flushed a 2 iron, low into the wind, normally a 210 yard strike for me. On this day, the ball landed 15 yards short of the pin. That would be a 7 club wind…

    Irish golf is a treat, as you know. Looking forward to your reviews.

    • The 3rd at Co. Sligo is a downhill par 5, the 4th is the par 3.

      The wind can be brutal over there. A buddy of mine hit the green with his driver on back to back holes at Castlerock. A downwind 370 yarder and an into the wind 175 yard par 3. Also at Carne, driver wasn’t enough to get to the par 3 7th green which we played at 170 yards. It really makes you think about club selection in those conditions. Anybody that hasn’t experienced a good links in a really strong wind is missing out.

  • When the wind is up in Scotland or Ireland, throw away the yardage book. Best to play by feel.

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