Ireland is without doubt a Mecca for golfers thanks to the countless world class golf courses, charming and luxurious hotels and intriguing local and historical attractions a plenty; not to mention the craic found in local pubs and lively cities such as Dublin.
While the Emerald Isle may be more famous in golfing terms for its stunning West coast, home to an endless array of world beating links courses both old and new; there is a lot to be said for the parkland beauties that lie just inland from the sea.
Take the area surrounding Dublin for instance. Just inland from Ireland’s Capital lays an ocean of picture perfect parkland which seems heaven sent for golf and while the options are numerous, it pays to know where the best layouts lie if you are considering paying Ireland a visit on your next golf holiday.
One of our favourite venues, Druids Glen, is home to two parkland gems, one of which is ranked among the best inland courses in the country, and a top class hotel that serves as the perfect base for a Dublin Golf Tour or simply a weekend break in the picturesque surrounds just outside Dublin.
The main attraction at Druids Glen is undoubtedly the Glen Course which, judging on my experience and courses I have played in Ireland, is the most picturesque in the country. The Glen Course isn’t just a pretty face though as it also presents an excellent test of golf; a fact that is highlighted by the course being rewarded the Irish Open by the European Tour within a year of its opening.
At certain times of the year explosions of colour are present from start to finish thanks to the course’s magnificent flora, which has led many to regard Druids Glen as the Augusta of Ireland. Designed by Pat Ruddy – also responsible for the likes of Donegal Golf Club, The European Club and the amazing Glashedy Links at Ballyliffin Golf Club – Druids Glen plays similarly to some of the great American courses. The conditioning is of such a standard – fairways are perfectly manicured and greens roll fast and true all year long – that keeping your ball in play and hitting greens should present many scoring opportunities.
The Glen Course is by no means a pushover though as water, among other obstacles, seems to be ever present while the aforementioned flora, while pretty, can really wreck a card if your radar is off. In short; you get what you deserve from this course. Play well and the course will reward you. Play badly and it will make you look a bit foolish!
The course’s very own Amen Corner comes just after the turn between holes 12 and 14 and this is the best stretch of the course, although that is not to say the rest of the course isn’t spectacular. The 17th for example is a par 3 measuring over 200 yards from the back tees and to make things a little more interesting it features and island green walk off this hole with a par and you can give yourself a big pat on the back. The highlight for many of course comes at the par 3 12th which is played to a green below the level of the tee and over a giant bank of flowers in the shape of a Celtic Cross.
The Druids Heath Course was also designed by Pat Ruddy and it transformed Druids Glen, which also boasts an excellent 5* hotel, into a venue good enough to rank among the best in Europe. The Druids Heath Course is an interesting beast in the sense that it offers golfers an elective mix of heathland and parkland golf with a few links accents thrown in for good measure. Every par 4 on the course stretches to over 400 yards so don’t think this is some second course pushover; it is every bit as challenging, if not more so, as the Glen Course. Although water hazards are present, they are much less frequent and invasive as those on the Glen Course but players will have to keep their ball away from other obstacles such as pretty yellow gorse, choppy rough and countless devilishly placed bunkers. The Heath Course turns a decade old this year and while the course is still maturing, many believe it to be better than the better known Glen Course.
Whichever course is better than the other matters not for visiting golfers as they will be guaranteed 36 majestic holes slap bang in the middle of Wicklow which is surely one of the most picturesque parts of Ireland. Throw in the hotel which offers excellent dining and top class leisure facilities, including the luxurious Elemis Spa, and you have the perfect recipe for a weekend golf break on the Emerald Isle. Best of all however is the value for money on offer at this amazing resort. I challenge you to find a better value golf break in Ireland in 2013!