These last few days have been a lot of fun. I first made a return visit to one of Ireland’s most well known courses, Ballybunion. When most people think Irish golf, the Old Course here is one of the first courses out of their mouths. This was my 4th time playing the course and it is a pleasure to play each time. It is not an overly long course by any means but when the wind is blowing it can be a humbling experience which was the case for me. The 15th hole is a par 3 measuring just less than 200 yards and when we got to the tee my caddy handed me my driver and said. “This should get you to about 20 yards short of the green.” I took his word for it and hit a drive square to about 15 yards short of the green. This hole plays into the wind almost all the time and the ladies play it as a par 4 which is a little unfair since they really don’t have anywhere to land the ball short of the green other than the rough. I beat the ball around for most of the day like a 20 handicap but my game comes together on the last 2 holes and I finish par-par. The 18th is a slight dogleg left to an elevated green next to the clubhouse allowing those on the deck to supervise your finish. Although my game was not up to muster, I enjoyed the round and the feeling of history you get when walking the links at Ballybunion.
The next morning I had an 830AM tee time at Lahinch so I headed up there after my round at Ballybunion so I could be close to the course in the morning. That night I made the acquaintance of a few members of Lahinch and what started as “I’ll just have one more, ended with 5 or 6 and usual statements about having to sleep on the couch once they got home.” It reminded of a song from the Irish band Gaelic Storm, “Don’t go for the one.” If you have never heard the song, give it a listen and you will get a good laugh.
I grab a nightcap at Frawley’s Pub. This is a landmark in Lahinch and is run by Mr. Frawley who is said to be the oldest publican in Ireland. It is a tiny pub with one beer on tap, (Guinness of course) and one bartender, Mr. Frawley. He is a man in his 80’s and the bar closes a few times a day so he can have his tea, dinner, and so on. Getting a pint here is like taking a step back in time and an experience not to be missed if every in Lahinch.
The next morning at Lahinch I headed off into a windswept rainstorm for my last round in Ireland with unfamiliar faces. The next morning, 3 friends from the States were to arrive and join me for my last week. Lahinch is a golf course rich in history and tradition. Alister McKenzie designed much of the course as you see it today back in 1927 but there have been some recent upgrades designed by well known architect Martin Hawtree. Both men’s work is superb and the course is a golf experience not to be missed. Lahinch is most well known for its 4th and 5th holes, “Klondye” and “The Dell” respectively. The 4th is a short par 5 downwind that you must play your second shot blind over a towering dune to the green. The 5th is a completely blind par 3 to a green located in the hollow between 3 dunes. There is a white rock placed on the top of the mound to give you a direction to hit. I must say, while these holes are the ones most people associate with Lahinch, I find them to be the 2 weakest on the course. I am partial to the last 5 holes. 14 and 15 are to very long par 4’s that provide a challenge for the longest hitters and 16, 17, and 18 are a par 3, 4 and 5 respectively all heading towards to the clubhouse. It is one of the best finishes in all of Ireland. I toasted my last round with a few pints and called it an early night as my friends were due to arrive at 630AM.
My friends arrived into Shannon in good order and we made our way down to the Ring of Kerry to kick off our week together with a round at the Dooks. I had figured it would be a nice introduction to links for the boys but the day greeted us with strong winds and rain. Instead of a nice, leisurely first round we grind our way around the course trying to keep all of our balls in play with little success. It is a rude introduction to Irish golf but a good time none the less. We overnighted in Killarney and visited as many pubs as we could with the boys having not slept in close to 24 hours.
The next day greeted us with a blanket of sunshine and warm (relatively speaking) temperatures. The boys all played well at Waterville and we were blessed with a caddie who seemed to know every inch of the course. Waterville is a course that grows on you every time you play and I would say that it would fall into the top 5 of all the courses I played this summer.
We are off to explore the rest of Kerry and Clare before we head home. I’ll check back in a few days.