Golf in Ireland has been at the forefront of the game in recent years. It all started with the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club which was followed by the significant success of Messrs Harrington, McDowell, Clarke and McIlroy in the major championships, and, more recently, the call for Royal Portrush to be reintroduced to the Open Championship rota. While the spotlight has shone more brightly on the Emerald Isle over the last few years, the golf courses here have long been among the very best in the world, particularly the fine collection of links courses that sit perched on Ireland and Northern Ireland’s shores. If you are looking to have a crack at some Irish Links and a whole load of Craic away from the course then Ireland’s South West coast is the place to be on your next golf holiday.
There are a number of very good reasons to make the South West coast the destination of your next golf break and they come on the form of marquee golf courses including the likes of Ballybunion, home to the famous Old Course, Lahinch, Tralee Golf Club, the Waterville Golf Links and Doonbeg, the newest addition to the gang.
The approach into the 1st green at Doonbeg gives you a taste of things to come as far as the enormity dunes go!
Ballybunion and Lahinch have long been flying the flag for Irish Links Golf, each of which boasts over a century of history, and in more recent years the likes of the Arnold Palmer designed Tralee and the classy Waterville Links, often chosen by Tiger Woods as a practice ground before heading to contest the Open Championship, have supplemented them. Greg Norman was so struck by the region’s rugged beauty that his first true links creation, Doonbeg, simply had to be built here.
Vast wildernesses of breathtaking dune land play host to these courses, each of which has its own unique character, and stunning landmarks such as the Cliffs of Moher and golden stretches of beach only add to their allure. The Old course at Ballybunion is perhaps the most sought after with golfing heavyweights such as 5 time Open Champion and links golf master, Tom Watson, rightly singing its praises. “I am now of the opinion this is one of the best and most beautiful tests of links anywhere in the world”, Watson said of Ballybunion.
Ballybunion is everything a links should be; unpredictable, quirky, dramatic, difficult and totally exposed to the elements, this is the very essence of traditional links golf.
Waterville and Lahinch are situated furthest apart with roughly a 3 hour drive between the two which, along with the sheer quality of the aforementioned golf courses, makes the South West coast simply perfect for either a weekend golf break or an extended tour of the region. Simply pick your selection of courses, fly into Shannon, rent a car and away you go!
If the championship courses listed above are a little outside of your budget fear not as the South West is also home to a number of more affordable links courses. Don’t let the price fool you though, as they are also of supreme quality, boasting all of the attributes you would expect of a top class links course. Superb natural terrain where man has simply ‘intervened’ with the addition of the odd pot bunker or two has been used to great effect down the years so for every Ballybunion and Lahinch there is a lesser known but equally enjoyable test of links golf awaiting your arrival.
For starters try Dingle Golf Club which is situated on Dingle Peninsula and is Europe’s westernmost golfing venue. Dingle’s remoteness however, is more than compensated by its rugged charm. From this outcrop you can see the whole of the peninsula, with its enchanting whitewashed fishing villages and imposing mountains…you may even catch a glimpse of Fungi the Dolphin who is a resident of Dingle Bay and a popular tourist attraction.
Dooks enjoys a enviable location on the Dingle Peninsula and sits in the shadows of the nearby mountains. A truly spectacular place to play golf.
Alternatively head to Dooks, which has been welcoming golfers since 1889. Set across three huge sand dunes at the head of the idyllic Dingle Bay, Dooks is a charming links course whose rugged character is off-set by the stunning scenery that surrounds; across the bay are the towering Slieve Mish and Dingle mountains which provide a dramatic backdrop to this charming course. Quite how Dooks had remained a relatively well kept secret for all these years we can’t really fathom!
While we have merely scratched the surface of the golf on offer in this part of Ireland, by now you should have got the picture…this area of the country is heaven sent for golfers! But what to do away from the course?
Well, as you can probably imagine, the South West boasts some of the most picturesque countryside in the world and as such visitors can partake in a vast array if country pursuits such as fly fishing, shooting, riding and more. Of course being so close to the coast also makes activities like sailing and surfing easy to access and as you would expect in Ireland, quality horse riding is never too far away. Should getting down and dirty in the country not appeal then there are also a number of popular tourist attractions in the within driving distance of the links of the South West coast. Visit ancient castles and forts to take a sneak peek into rural Irish history or wander the streets of local towns and villages to get a taste for an unhurried way of life and of course the local food and drink!
Head to a local pub for a few pints of the black stuff and some almighty craic!
In the evening travelling golfers can gear up for a night of drinking, eating, dancing and singing in the famous local Irish pubs. The Irish pub holds a special place the country’s heart and for good reason. With roaring log fires, amazing home cooked food and, of course, free flowing Guinness, the pub scene in this part of the country is as good as anywhere and as with most places in Ireland, you will be greeted with genuine warmth by the locals who just want you to have a good time.
If you have yet to visit Ireland for a golf holiday then it should shoot straight to the tip of your list and you could do worse than to head for the South West should you have a soft spot for top quality links golf.
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