The southwest of Ireland is a place I could never get enough of. Having played these courses the week prior, it is nice to be back through the area with some familiar faces. We arrived to the Dingle Golf Club and were greeted by heavy rain and stiff winds. Dingle played like a tiger that day as the long holes all seemed to play in the wind and the rough gobbled up many of our balls. We must of take our rain gear on and off 4 times as the rain would appear and then just as quick as it appeared it would blow through. The 18th hole is a par 5 up the hill that played directly into the wind. We had a bet to see if anyone could make a par and the best score that was managed on the hole was a 6. It was a round of golf that took a lot out of us but it didn’t damper our spirits later in the day as we put up a fine effort in trying to visit as many pubs as we could in Dingle. Dingle is a town that is buzzing every night during the high season and one that I am sure to visit on every trip.
After a short drive the next morning we arrived at Tralee Golf Club. The rain had moved out but the wind was still a big factor. I had originally visited Tralee in 2001 and our group had 2 of the best caddies I have ever had. As luck would have it, we got paired that morning with one of the caddies from my original visit named Morris. Morris is a slight man, with a weather faced, which reflected the many rounds he has played and caddied at Tralee. Morris had us all laughing before we even teed off as he told us the to put the yardage book in our “***” pocket as it won’t do us a bit of good in this wind. As we walked up the first fairway Morris told me “he had has been dead and reborn.” He then explained he had a heart attack a year ago so now I wondered if I should be the one carrying the bag. With Morris’ company we have a fantastic day on the links and as many laughs as we do strokes, (which is a lot). Tralee was a hit within the group and we top it off with a pint in the bar and then hit the road for our early round in Kinsale the next morning.
As we pulled into Old Head, it was clear we had gotten pretty lucky. The sun is shining without a cloud in the sky and the wind was relatively calm, especially for Old Head. The boys were blown away at the views we were afforded that day. One of the guys in our group had played Pebble Beach before and said the views there don’t even compare to what you get at Old Head. The caddies take an interest in the little match we have set up and decide to set up a bit of a wager between them on whose twosome will take the match. I am not proud to say that being 1 up with 2 to play, my partner and I spit the bit and lost the last 2 holes. I must say, my one shining moment was when I made a birdie on a par 3 and my caddie informed me I had beaten Phil Mickelson on this same hole by 9 shots as he carded an 11 on the hole. I am sure he got me on the other 17 holes but this is the one I can hang my hat on. Following the round, we ate lunch and enjoyed a cigar on the deck outside the clubhouse. It is here you will find one of the best places in the world for a post game drink as you look out over the lighthouse and the Atlantic Ocean.
Ballybunion awaited us the next morning and this was the one day we were to play 36 holes. I would not recommend 36 holes a day while visiting Ireland as there is just too much to see and do after your rounds. However, with both courses on site we decided to give it a go. I had not played the Cashen Course at Ballybunion so I was curious to see what it held as I had heard varying reports. Our morning round on the Old Course was a blast as we had 2 good caddies who provided proper guidance and found almost all of the golf balls we tried to lose by hitting into the knee deep rough. I find the 17th and 18th holes at Ballybunion to be a great way to finish a round as they are two solid par 4’s that if played correctly, give you a chance to make a birdie. However, if you make a mistake off the tee, you are in for a big number.
We enjoy a long lunch and a pint or two between rounds and head out to the Cashen course for our afternoon round. I had heard that the Cashen Course, while shorter than the Old, was much more difficult. Well, we found that to be true as well. I must say, we did not enjoy the round as much as our round on the Old Course. I had heard that they had a number of proposals in to redesign the course which I think may be a good idea as it did not measure up to the Old Course experience. Of course, there are not many courses that would so you have to keep that in mind.
Well, only a couple of rounds left and I this great adventure is over. We are heading up to County Clare and I will check back in a couple of days.