Tour Report- The Best of Irish Links 2019

Group pic EPICGroup pic EPIC

The group gathered at the Dublin airport hotel after the long trips from Australia 

It was here we met our driver for the next 20 days- Ciaran- and checked out our chariot..

 

Our ChariotOur Chariot

 

The group was very favourably disposed to both.

As with most TTG tours the group needed to learn to count off in the local lingo. Fortunately Ciaron was on hand to tutor us as we struggled to wrap our tongues around the Irish dialect…

 

The bus was a beauty and VERY comfortable…

 

From Dublin we travelled 3 hours west to Ballina and our accommodation for 2 nights at the Icehouse.

En route we stopped at the Foxford woollen mills where we had lunch and made some purchases. 

In the afternoon we had time to wander 2 km into check out Ballina. The weather was very ordinary with drizzly rain and a bitterly cold wind.

 

The welcome dinner at Icehouse was a great intro to the group with 6 TTG virgins fitting in beautifully with the seasoned veterans

 

The Ice House, BallinaThe Ice House, Ballina

A Calm Day at BallinaA Calm Day at Ballina

 

 

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Day 2- Enniscrone GC

- see course report

 

Enniscrone GC- hole 12 Enniscrone GC- hole 12

 

We woke to sunshine and gorgeous views of the Moy river.

It was only a 20 minute drive to Enniscrone  and with the sun shining and the lightest of breezes, the group was introduced to some outstanding Irish links golf

 

I love Enniscrone!

 

 

 Despite the weather, the course won!

Individual winners on the day were Wayne and Jacqui

 

Dinner was Dillons in Ballina, completing a delightful day

 

Enniscrone GC- hole 2Enniscrone GC- hole 2

 

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Day 3- Donegal GC

-see Course Report

 

Donegal GC- hole 12Donegal GC- hole 12 

 We left the Icehouse in brilliant sunshine for the drive to Donegal where we had free time exploring the town, visiting the castle, and the Tweed shops

Then it was on to Donegal GC, located out on the Murvagh Peninsula surrounded by water. Donegal is a testing course with elements of penal architecture- there are a number of holes where your options are hit straight or pay the penalty! The bunkering is the dominant architectural feature, and demands your attention. With a mid strength wind to add to the degree of difficulty, scoring well was a challenge

 

Donegal GC- hole 5Donegal GC- hole 5

Donegal GC- hole 8Donegal GC- hole 8

 

 

 

Best in were Geoff with 31 pts, and Rita with 32. Coincidentally they also won the couples four ball for the day…

After golf we jumped in the bus for 45 minutes drive to Ardara- our home for 2 nights. After dinner we all enjoyed visiting the local pubs and loved the music- singing, fiddles, and lots of fun!

 

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Day 4- Narin & Portnoo GC

-see Course Report

 

 Narin Portnoo- hole 7Narin Portnoo- hole 7

 It was only a short drive from Ardara to Narin & Portnoo GC, and we rocked up before 10am.

Narin & Portnoo is located in a pristine setting of large sand dunes surrounded by ocean. It is a magic setting for golf!

It was a favourite course based on our 2017 trip. However things had changed since our last visit. Renowned golf architect Gil Hanse has begun a comprehensive remodelling of the course, and while he has more to do it is safe to say that The Travelling Golfers all thought the course was absolutely world class- a Travelling Golfer “must play”!

Surrounded by sea and sand the course delivers surprises at every turn, and was great fun to play

 

Narin Portnoo- hole 8 greenNarin Portnoo- hole 8 green

Narin Portnoo- hole 9Narin & Portnoo- hole 9

Narin & Portnoo- hole 11Narin & Portnoo- hole 11

 

 

Winners were Barbara & Frank in the individual event, with the team event going to Barb, Donna, Geoff & Hank

Back in Ardara we headed out for a pub dinner at Nancy’s Sea Food, before again visiting the Beehive for drinks and music

 

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Day 5- Cruit Island

-see Course Report

 

Cruit Island- hole 6 Cruit Island- hole 6

 

Today we woke to drizzly rain and wind, but by the time we reached Cruit Island the sky had cleared. The bus driver enjoyed the challenge of negotiating the tiny back roads to the course- so we arrived with a sense of adventure to face the course in fairly strong winds

Cruit Island is rated by some as the best 9 hole course in the world - whilst I don’t rate it quite at that level, I still regard as great golfing fun in a spectacular setting

 

The Travelling Golfers took to the course with glee, and will go home with stories about how good this unknown course really is..

 

 

 

We loved it!

 

Cruit Island- hole 5 Cruit Island- hole 5

 

After golf we travelled to Bushmills Inn near Portrush for a 2 night stay

 

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Day 6- Castlerock GC: Bann Course

- see Course Report

- Portstewart GC: Strand Course

- see Course Report

 

Portstewart GC- Strand course: hole 2Portstewart GC- Strand course: hole 2

 First up we headed to Castlerock GC where we played the 9 hole Bann course

While the championship standard 18 hole Mussenden course next door looked enticing, we opted for the huge dunes and short quirky holes that comprise the Bann course. The competition of the day was team matchplay.

Nearest to the pin on the blind par 3 ninth was Craig with a near hole in one…

 

 

 

Back in the bus we headed to the next stop: Portstewart GC- a club that boasts 54 holes of golf.

We played the Strand course which recently hosted the Irish Open.

The front nine of the Strand winds it’s way through enormous dunes- and this is where we completed our nine hole competition.

 

Castlerock GC- Bann course: hole 6Castlerock GC- Bann course: hole 6

Portstewart GC- Strand course: hole 6Portstewart GC- Strand course: hole 6

 

 

Everyone loved the course!

Then it was back to Bushmills Inn for presentations.

The Craic team were declared winners of the nine hole comp: Frank, Annette, Geoff & Helen take a bow!

 

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Day 7- Sightseeing Day

 

Group pic- Royal Portrush OpenGroup pic- Royal Portrush Open

Today was a sightseeing day- no golf!

First stop was the Carrick-a-rede bridge- a lovely walk along the clifftops to the old rope bridge swinging in the wind. The bridge was formally used by fisherman to access the small rocky island where they fished- but these days it is a major tourist attraction.

 

Carrick- a- rede bridgeCarrick- a- rede bridge

 

 

Next we dashed back to Royal Portrush GC where we were given permission to poke around inside the gates, take some pics and visit the pro shop. With an historic Open Championship a month away, the place was a major construction site- so we were lucky to get in. And who should we meet, but golfing legend Tom Watson who remembered playing with our Tim in The Open at Turnberry

 

Five Open Championships between us!Five Open Championships between us!

 

Next we headed to The Giant’s Causeway- an epic landform where giant Finn McCool made his name defending Ireland

 

The Giant's CausewayThe Giant's Causeway

 

On our way south we stopped for a few moments at The Dark Hedges made famous in Game of Thrones

 

Steer clear of The Dark HedgesSteer clear of The Dark Hedges

It's Titanic!It's Titanic! 

 

 

In Belfast we viewed the Titanic exhibition- all agreed it was a fascinating production

We arrived late in the day at the mighty Slieve Donard hotel- one of the most iconic golfing hotels in the world- where we were to spend 2 nights

 

 

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Day 8- Royal County Down

- see Course Report

 

Royal County Down GC- hole 9Royal County Down GC- hole 9

 RCD has been regarded by many as the best course in the world- outside of the USA (Golf Digest USA), and today The Travelling Golfers found out why.

The course was magnificent but extremely challenging. Heavy rain a few weeks prior had left the rough long and wet- and many errant balls came to grief.

 

Wayno & Donna at Royal County DownWayno & Donna at Royal County Down

Group pic at Slieve DonardGroup pic at Slieve Donard

 

 

Geoff carded 32 points to win the mens comp, while Annette won the ladies event with 26 points. The course was extremely long & difficult for the ladies and a course rating of 148  was reflected in the scores.

Despite the difficulty it was a memorable day on one of the world’s great courses..

Donna took NTP with a cracker shot on hole 7

  

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Day 9- The Island GC

- see Course Report

 

The Island GC- hole 14The Island GC- hole 14 

Located on the outskirts of Dublin, The Island is a prestigious private club with a magnificent links golf course.

Originally the site was an island, and although it is now connected to the mainland, the course touches the sea a number of times around it’s perimeter, and offers a terrific variety of linksland holes. Most famous are the looong par three 13th hole with water in play right, and then the amazing short par four 14th hole- the narrowest par 4 in Europe.

 

 

With dunes left and estuary right the fairway narrows to just 12 metres at driving distance!

 

 The Island GC- hole 15The Island GC- hole 15

 

Today the Carters came to play with Helen showing a clean pair of heels to the ladies with 32 points, and Rob carding 33- the best score of the day. 

And Rob hit a delightful shot on the par 3 ninth hole- our nearest the pin hole- only to find he was pipped by his nearest & dearest who hit it even closer and made the putt for 2 for 5!!!

 

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Day 10- Dublin

 

Guinness pic- Carters & StottsGuinness pic- Carters & Stotts 

 No golf today- instead we saw the sights of Dublin, starting with EPIC- the Irish emigration museum. We all learned a lot about the influence of Irish born in sport, music, politics etc

It was a very well presented exhibition and we could have all spent hours there

Next up we headed to the Guinness Storehouse exhibition where we learned all about the dark liquid, had a scrummy lunch, and wandered through the multiple floors learning about the various stages of production, marketing etc.

 

Guinness shenanigansGuinness shenanigans

Dublins Temple Bar district comes alive!Dublins Temple Bar district comes alive!

 

 

After a few hours shopping through Dublin’s CBD, we gathered again late afternoon to begin a musical pub crawl in the famous Temple Bar district. Our hosts Brenda & Damian played a variety of traditional instruments, and sang and were joined by a lass who demonstrated Irish dance. It was an evening full of music and laughter ( & dinner)- and enjoyed by all

 

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Day 11- Portmarnock Links GC

- see Course Report

 

Portmarnock Links- hole 18 & hotelPortmarnock Links- hole 18 & hotel 

This morning we walked out the hotel door onto the links- a very convenient arrangement!.

With rain threatening we teed off a little earlier than scheduled. Portmarnock Links is relatively unknown compared to the big name courses in Ireland, but is quickly making a name for itself. Designed by Bernard Langer in the late 90’s, the links is now rated as no 16 in Ireland and was all set to host the Irish Open next year- until the owner decided to sell.

It is more a scottish type links than Irish, with lower dunes and an impressive array of revetted pot bunkers at every turn…

 

 

 

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The comp of the day was ‘Battle of the Sexes’ and the ladies prevailed 3/1

Hank took the individual mens honours with a great round- 37 points, with Annette taking home the ladies event.  NTP was Dave B on hole 11

 

Relaxing at Portmarnock Links hotelRelaxing at Portmarnock Links hotel

 

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 Day 12- The Drive to Doonbeg

 

ClonmacnoiseClonmacnoise 

 Our drive from Portmarnock Links on the east coast to Doonbeg on the west measured over 300km, so it was a big day on the bus.

Our first stop was at the ancient monastery at Clamacnoise- home of St Ciaran.

Our bus driver Ciaran was so named after the saint…

 

Next stop was the iconic Cliffs of Moher where we all took happy snaps, and had a bite to eat

 

The Cliffs of MoherThe Cliffs of Moher

 

Hank & AnnetteHank & Annette

The most gorgeous girl I know!The most gorgeous girl I know!

Frank & KatrinaFrank & Katrina

Dave & JacquiDave & Jacqui

 

 

Then it was check in time at Doonbeg where dinner in the fancy clubhouse was quite wonderful

 

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Day 13- Doonbeg Golf Links

- see Course Report

 

Doonbeg Golf Links- hole 18 green, beach & clubhouse Doonbeg Golf Links- hole 18 green, beach & clubhouse  

 Originally designed by Greg Norman, Doonbeg was a long time in development due to the protection of a snail population in the dunes.

Eventually the project went forward with large tracts of dramatic dunes land fenced off.

Norman’s course won best new international course in the world, but the owners wanted changes and apparently did not see eye to eye with Norman on some issues.

The Trump organisation purchased the property a few years ago and appointed Martin Hawtree to remodel the course, and while the changes are largely minor the course certainly is better for them

It is a strong test of golf, but very enjoyable with a contingent of gorgeous seaside holes hogging the camera.

 

Hank in a reflective moodHank in a reflective mood

 

 

Doonbeg Golf Links- hole 14 greenDoonbeg Golf Links- hole 14 green

Doonbeg Golf Links- hole 1Doonbeg Golf Links- hole 1

 

 

NTP on hole 14 was Heather

The men’s comp was won by Rob with 39pts and the ladies comp by Donna with 33 pts.

 

After golf we boarded the bus and drove south to cross the Shannon river by car ferry and then on to our accommodation at Teach de Broch- right opposite the gates of Ballybunion GC

Perfect!!

 

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Day 14- Ballybunion GC- Old Course

- see Course Report

 

Ballybunion GC signBallybunion GC sign

 

We enjoyed clear skies, and it was warm today- so shorts and skirts were popular..

 

Ballybunion is one of the most famous old links courses of Ireland.

The Old Course was put on the golfing map by Tom Watson in 1981 when he used it as a warm up to the Open Championship and told the world about it.

 

It is a unique course with a cemetery in play off the first tee, and huge dunes dominating play after a ‘quiet’ start

Everybody loved the course!

 

Ballybunion GC- Old Course: hole 16Ballybunion GC- Old Course: hole 16

Ballybunion GC- Old Course: hole 18Ballybunion GC- Old Course: hole 18

 

 

Hank had 30 pts to win the mens comp

Rita has 32 pts to win the ladies

Heather won NTP on the 8th

 

Ballybunion GC- Old Course: Peter ,Heather, Craig & BarbBallybunion GC- Old Course: Peter ,Heather, Craig & Barb

 

After golf Geoff & Rita played the Cashen course next door before joining us for dinner in town at McMunn’s pub

 

 

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Day 15- Tralee GC

- see Course Report

 

 Tralee Golf Links- hole 15Tralee Golf Links- hole 15

 Tralee and I get on very well

Every time I play there, the sun is shining and we have a perfect day

Today was no exception- 27 degrees, sunny with a light zephyr to make things more interesting…

In the front nine holes 2, 3, and 8 are on the coast and very photogenic. However the 2 nines are like chalk and cheese.

The back nine is routed through enormous dunes adjacent to one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.

Holes 12-17 are perhaps the most visually stunning holes anywhere in golf

It is a joy to play!

 

Needless to say, everybody loved the experience.

 

Hangin with Arnie at Tralee Golf LinksHangin' with Arnie at Tralee Golf Links

Tralee Golf Links- hole 8Tralee Golf Links- hole 8

 

 

 

 

Hank won the boys comp on count back from Geoff with 33 pts

Rita won the ladies comp on count back from Katrina with 32 pts

Barb won NTP on hole 13 with a magnificent shot

 

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Day 16- The Skelligs

 

Puffin portraitPuffin portrait

 

Today the group diversified experiences with Wayne, Donna, Frank & Katrina choosing to play golf at Killarney Golf & Fishing Club, The Burns taking time out to visit the dentist, and the rest of the crew heading out on The Skelligs experience..

In recent years Heather and I had booked and had the trip cancelled due to heavy seas, but this year our luck was in, and we boarded the little fishing boat for the 12 km voyage out to Skellig Michael.

It was no mill pond and at one stage H & I got drenched by big waves- not a good start!

 

But the day improved...

Skellig Michael is basically a craggy rock sticking out of the ocean- a rock where 6th century monks decided to set up a monastery.

There is no flat land but over 6 centuries the monks carved steps, and level areas, and made walls and made the area habitable.

Skellig Michael went mainstream when a few years ago it was used extensively in a Star Wars movie.

It is now a big tourist attraction.

 

Skellig Michael is steep!Skellig Michael is steep!

Monastery on Skellig Michael (with Little Skellig in the background)Monastery on Skellig Michael (with Little Skellig in the background)

Watch your step!- its a long way down..Watch your step!- its a long way down..

Hank's 'happy feet' on the boat to The SkelligsHank's 'happy feet' on the boat to The Skelligs

 

 

Having conquered the famous links courses of Ireland, our group found the challenge of climbing 600 stone steps up the steep walls of the island- totally exposed to the conditions and without guard rails- a mere trifle..

We loved the old monastery, and the amazing accomplishments of the monks in making it- but the puffin birds were a quite wonderful sideshow attraction. As we climbed we came face to face with 6000 puffin birds going about their business. They are the most beautiful little creatures, and we had the opportunity to get up close and personal..

 

 

 

It was a wonderful day!

 

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Day 17- Killarney

 

Ross Castle, Killarney- group picRoss Castle, Killarney- group pic 

 After a free morning to explore Killarney the day kicked off with a jaunting trip through Killarney National Park to Ross Castle

Everyone got into the spirit of the day and the craic was flying with a real Irish humour prevailing…

 

 

On our return to the hotel our bus was waiting and we journeyed to Muckross House- a famous old manor house in a majestic setting- and enjoyed a guided tour of the house and gardens

 

A portrait of Frank & Katrina at Ross CastleA portrait of Frank & Katrina at Ross Castle 

Three pretty lassies at Muckross HouseThree pretty lassies at Muckross House

 

 

Muckross HouseMuckross House

The Gardens of Muckross HouseThe Gardens of Muckross House

 

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Day 18- Old Head Golf Links

- see Course Report

 

Old Head Golf Links- hole 17 Old Head Golf Links- hole 17  

We said goodbye to Killarney and boarded the bus for the drive to Old Head where we enjoyed afternoon tee times in heavy winds.

Old Head is located on a headland which is utterly exposed to the weather. Surrounded by steep cliffs the area has such a narrow connection to the mainland it is almost an island…

With no fewer than 9 holes perched on the clifftops Old Head is a truly spectacular setting for a golf course.

 

The accommodation and hospitality was absolutely first class ensuring a memorable visit

If one were to play Old Head under blue sunny skies with little or no wind it would be quite amazing- but for me the chance to play it in high winds was also very enjoyable.

At times the flight of the ball had to kept low as the higher balls would be gone in an instant- and with steep cliffs in play one quickly learns to play low!

 

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Two Old Heads?Two Old Heads?

Annette, Heather & Wayne at Old Head

 

 

A number of the group voted Old Head the best course of the tour- all agreed it was an amazing experience…

 

 

 

NTP went to Hank, while Rita prevailed in the ladies comp with 30 pts, and Ace Burns took the boys event with 28pts

Dinner in the clubhouse in the evening was special..

 

Old Head Golf Links- hole 12Old Head Golf Links- hole 12 

Old Head Golf Links- hole 16Old Head Golf Links- hole 16

 

 

 

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Day 19- Mt Juliet

 

Mt Juliet hotelMt Juliet hotel 

 After a lazy morning we departed Old Head for Mt Juliet, arriving in the middle of the day. Our accommodation in the manor house was very very nice, and everyone got nice and comfortable

Frank, Geoff, Wayne, Donna & Katrina headed off for golf, and the rest of us presented for a falconry exhibition. It was a wonderful activity with Roger the Harris Hawk swooping in and landing on our gloves, caps, swooping in between us

His brother Sebastian also did very well

Then the little owl stole everyone’s hearts

Between us we would have taken a thousand photos- it was great fun

 

Two hoots- Barb & little owl at Mt JulietTwo hoots- Barb & little owl at Mt Juliet

Big foot has landedBig foot has landed

Mt Juliet had heather in it's gardenMt Juliet had heather in it's garden

 

 

Then our final dinner got underway where Hank was presented as winner of the 2019 Pullis McNutley, pipping Rita by a solitary shot

 

The Last Supper (at Mt Juliet)The Last Supper (at Mt Juliet)

 

Everyone got up and talked about their favourite course for the tour with a fair spread between Old Head, Doonbeg, Ballybunion & Royal County Down as best course.

All agreed it had been a fun tour- all credit to our 14 guests who encountered relentlessly tough, confronting courses and a hectic schedule- but kept their sense of humour and fellowship..

 

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Day 20- Departure

 

The Travelling Golfers at Old HeadThe Travelling Golfers at Old Head

 The bus was packed and ready to go at 10.30 for the 90 minute trip to Dublin Airport. Wayne & Donna had a late flight and had decided on a transfer later in the day, and Geoff & Rita had a hire car for their early get away, en route to Iceland.

So we only numbered 12 as we waved Mt Juliet good-bye…

David & Jacqui, and Hank & Annette were staying on in Dublin, but the rest were flying every which way.

First up were Carters & Stotts with a 2.30 flight….unfortunately our driver Ciaran had not realised the hotel drop offs were in Dublin CBD, and when he realised he made that the first stop without consultation.

By the time we realised he was off track it became a roll of the dice whether we would reach the airport in time…but we did….just!And that was it- The Travelling Golfer 2019 Ireland Tour was over. Thank you to all for a most enjoyable trip

 

Peter & Heather Wood

The Travelling Golfers

 

p.s. We Take You Places!

 

 

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