Fall 2018

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 55 of 83

is best set from the elevated fourth tee, a 217-yard par 3 over rough heather. Everything else pales in compari- son to the par-4 ninth, where you have an unmatched view of the village of Newcastle silhouetted against the mountains with the Irish Sea and the golden strand along Dundrum Bay off the left from the crest of the hill. Royal County Down isn't rated No. 1 in the World by Golf Digest—among others— for nothing. Situated on the southeast coast of County Down, Ardglass Golf Club presents several holes perched along the coastline and enough sea-cliff tee boxes to have one of my cohorts comparing it favorably to Pebble Beach. On a clear day, you can see the Isle of Man off in the distance. The course meanders its way out to a headland, then winds its way back to golf's oldest clubhouse, a restored castle that looks like it could be a backdrop for an episode of "Game of Thrones." The first five holes are truly memorable and run right along the cliffs and rocks that keep the sea from overtaking the land. The par 3 second is a favorite of many as well as their undoing. With the tee shot needing to be fired across a rocky inlet into which waves crash and foam sprays, it is a real death-or-glory hole. Another spectacular three-shotter is the 12th, which plays no more than 150 yards from an elevated tee and features a postcard view of the village of Ardglass across a small inlet with the Mountains of Mourne in the distance. Ardglass was a pleasant surprise and makes a perfect pairing with Royal County Down for those hearty souls looking to squeeze in 36 holes in a single day. There was time for one final round at Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links after a return to Dublin. Guests staying at the resort should request a room that faces east and overlooks the Irish Sea or one that faces south over the golf course. If you plan it right, you will have just enough time for an evening nine holes (or maybe 18) at the hotel's Bernhard Langer-designed links course. The opening hole presents a unique setting with a fairway skirting a graveyard and final resting place of Saint Marnock, after who this Mecca of golf is named. That touch of Christian heritage often evokes the belief that the good Lord himself intended this particular tract of land for conversion to golf. If Langer is respon- sible for the embroidery, it is a credit to him that his design and layout brushwork is noteworthy for the fact that he managed the quite uncanny blend of the traditional perspective with all that is best in modern architectural trends. And this is why a trip to play golf in Ireland should be manda- tory. The courses are windswept, dunes-splotched landscapes ruled by Mother Nature and devoid of artificial lakes, railroad ties, island greens, motorized carts or sympathy. It is a reminder of what golf once was and what it always should be. 54 FALL 2018 | NCGA.ORG I reland is packed with such great golf—eight of the world's top 100 courses by one publication's count—but you must make time to enjoy the sites. They call it the craic in Ireland (pronounced crack, don't feel weird if someone tells you where you can find some) – and there's plenty of craic (fun) to be had. That could be as simple as fish and chips at a pub and a pint of Guinness, which the locals call Mother's Milk, and truly tastes better here. I'm told 4 million pints of Guinness is produced a day and 2 million of them are consumed in Dublin alone. Tourists flock to Temple Bar's cobbled streets between the River Liffey and Dame Street in Dublin, where you'll find pubs, restaurants and nightclubs. The Brazen Head, a brass-filled, lantern-lit pub hosting live music every night, dates to 1198 and boasts to be Ireland's oldest pub. In the center of Portrush along the wharf, my group squeezed into Harbour Bar, which allegedly pours the finest pint in all of Ireland, and the walls are decorated as a monument to favorite sons Graeme McDowell, winner of the 2010 U.S. Open, and Darren Clarke, who captured the Claret Jug at the 2012 British Open. If you're lucky enough to be there when they are in town, you might be able to join them in song. The Harbour Bar had two memorable signs, the first noting that Portrush is so small it doesn't have a town drunk. "So we all take turns," it read. The other was a sign of the times: "No WiFi. Talk to each other!" On the ride back to Craignamara Guesthouse, a 12-room bed and breakfast in the country where the husband-and-wife duo of Rod and Kerry cooked us a traditional Irish breakfast, our cabbie suggested spending three hours minimum at the Giant's Causeway, a three-mile stretch along the coast just outside the village of Bushmills. Indeed, you could easily spend a full day hiking and admiring the seals and dolphins at play in the North Atlantic. This lunar-like landscape of jagged cliffs and giant hexagonal basalt stones tell a thousand tales. If you believe Irish mythology, it is said to have been left by the Irish giant Finn MacCool during a battle with a Scottish giant. Scientists will tell you this natural wonder is the result of a volcanic eruption during the Cenozoic era 60 million years ago. Chris, our driver, says who you believe depends on how much whiskey you've consumed. Not far away is the Bushmills Distillery, where you can sample some of the mellowest and finest examples of whiskey anywhere. "We turn water (from the River Bush) into gold," our tour guide said. Dating to 1608 and home of the oldest, licensed whiskey distillery in Ireland, Bushmills offers an entertaining guided tour that ended with a tasting. One of my colleagues took a sniff and remarked, "It's like saying hello to an old friend." That reminded me of the words of wisdom bestowed upon me by one of my caddies. "In Ireland there are no strangers," he said, "only friends you haven't met before." A Craic-ing Good Time by Adam Schupak The Giant's Causeway is one of Ireland's most famous landmarks. TOURISM NORTHERN IRELAND Walk in the footsteps of Saint Patrick and pay your respects at the Slieve Patrick Statue. TOURISM IRELAND

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of NCGA Golf - Fall 2018