So I’ve been back from the north-west of Ireland for a week now and have still only played one round in Ontario this year — can’t imagine the last time that happened. Maybe 20 years ago? I remember playing many times in mid-March, but not this year.
Anyway, here are 10 lessons I learned while driving from Waterville in the south to Co. Sligo in the north and Carne in the west:
1) Tim Hortons do exist in Ireland, but the coffee comes out of a machine and taste generally like sludge. No 18% cream either.
2) Flowers, clover and other non-grasses in the fairways and roughs make no difference to how we play the game. We spend a fortune trying to keep our courses pristine and waste a ton of dough in the process. We could learn a great deal from how they maintain courses in Ireland and the U.K.
3) Because of point two, they also pay a great deal less than we do for golf. Carne, for example, cost less than $1,000 per year with no initiation.
4) There is no such thing as a hidden gem when it comes to Irish links. Strandhill, which is off the radar, looked neat, but I doubt it was great. But with every course having a website with lots of photos, nothing is unknown when it comes to Irish golf.
5) There are an incredible number of rainbows in Ireland, probably helped by the fact it rains for at least one hole a round. If every one had a pot of gold at the end, I’d have abandoned a lot of golf.
6) Enniscrone was shockingly good. It deserves a place in the World Top 100.
7) Golf is meant to be played at less than 4 hours — and every one of our rounds beat that by a significant margain, with the exception of one. In this regard, Canadians can be embarrassing, especially when they play slowly. We played Lahinch in 3.5 hours one night and were past 4 hours heading to the 14th hole the following day when playing behind a few groups of mind-numbingly slow Canucks the next. There was a former member of the Canadian National Men’s amateur team among them, though I don’t know who was to blame. We walked in from the 14th green or the round would have taken five hours. It is the only time I’ve felt embarrassed about being a Canadian while playing abroad.
8 – Nae wind, nae golf. Okay, maybe that Scots and not Irish, but I’ve never in six trips over to the U.K. or Ireland played in so much wind. It was remarkable. I watched my bag, on a pull cart, blow off the tee and down a hill while standing on a par 3 by the ocean at Lahinch. At Enniscrone a wind came in on the third hole that was incredible in its fd
9) Waterville is very much a modern links, which is why people probably really fancy it, in the same way they like Birkdale in the U.K. Lahinch and Ballybunion are the opposite, which is why people probably like those equally.
10) Irish golf is a lot cheaper than it was four years ago. Places like Lahinch have dropped their price by nearly half. That, coupled with the strong Canadian dollar, make it a great time to travel there.
Bonus point: Guinness is better — and fresher — in Ireland.