A fabulous golf trip to Ireland can indeed be yoursOctober 20, 2009
David Brice, Golf International, Inc.
There probably isn't a golfer around who hasn't dreamed of taking a golf trip Across the Pond, someday. Thoughts of playing a selection of those top-ranked, wild Irish links, is so tempting you can almost taste it. Yet as irresistible as the idea might be, for all too many, that "someday" never comes along. Procrastination becomes the order of the day and the Irish golf trip is postponed from one year to the next, then the next - and so it goes until, before you know it, too much time has passed, it's too late and the trip is never taken. A wonderful, once in a lifetime golf experience to the Emerald Isle is lost forever, simply because you allowed the years to slip by. And just in case you hadn't noticed, the older we get, so those years fly by, faster and faster.Ballybunion is one of the courses guaranteed to be near the top of every first-time visitors must play lists.Portmarnock Golf Club dates from 1894 and boasts one of the world's finest links.The European Club ranked Ireland's No. 4 layout maybe a less familiar name but that situation is quickly changing.Northern Ireland's Royal County Down still rules as the King of Irish links courses.Ballyliffin's Glashedy Course qualifies as one of Ireland's toughest links.Enniscrone's rough is something to be avoided but a round of top-drawer links golf is always guaranteed.Tralee is one of those fantastic Irish links you will dream of playing time and time again.The Old Head - Cliff-top golf drama at its best.
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Sometimes it's good to remember some of your mother's words of wisdom, such as, "never put off 'til tomorrow, what you can do today". She may not have had golf trips in mind, but her words apply as much here as they do to most other things -- mothers have a way of always being right.
The earlier you take that very first golf trip, the sooner you will learn that Ireland is jam-packed with fantastic golf courses and one trip isn't going to be enough. It would take a dozen years worth of vacations to play all the courses that literally call out to be played and then another dozen years to play them all just one more time. Speak to anyone who has played golf in Ireland and the chances are they have gone back and probably, more than once. Golf in Ireland really is that good.
If you have been a procrastinator, now is the time to make the first of your New Years resolutions for 2010 and start turning the dream into reality, all it takes is a little determination and some thoughtful planning to make it happen. Adding a little more temptation to the pot, there's still time for the early birds to take advantage of the special offers that have made Ireland such an excellent value over the past year, but hurry, demand is building fast and the deals are unlikely to last too much longer --2010 is going to be the year when it really will be the early bird that catches the worm and the procrastinators will be left behind again.
Determination is a very personal thing and only you can decide to make 2010 your year to visit Ireland, but when it comes to planning the trip, there's professional help available to help turn the dream trip into reality and importantly, prevent it from becoming a nightmare.
International golf travel experts, such as Golf International, know Ireland and Irish golf, inside and out and have been assisting clients such as you, plan golf trips to Ireland for well over 20 years. From planning the trip best suited to you, your style and budget, to their own local staff who ensure everything runs seamlessly while you are in Ireland, they take care of every last detail, saving clients an awful lot of stress and aggravation in the process.
There are a myriad of details that go into planning any successful golf trip, all of which must be dovetailed together perfectly and one of the first and most important is to establish which courses should be played on the trip. Ireland is home to well over 400 golf courses and they are literally located in every corner of the island. This leads to one of the biggest mistakes practically every first time golf visitor to Ireland makes -- trying to squeeze too much golf into a one week trip, without considering where the courses on their wish-list are located.
Ireland maybe a small country but it's not that small and driving times, more often than not, will be far longer than most optimists think. Spending half of your vacation on the road, driving from hotel to the next, then checking into and out of different hotels, is all time taken away from the golf courses you could have been playing. What would you prefer, driving a car or a golf ball?
Focus on just one Irish golf region, or at most two and you will have more than enough world-class golf to keep even the most avid player busy for a month, so consider the logical choices.
Dublin is one of Europe's liveliest capitals filled with an energy few others can match and there are more than 20 top-drawer courses, all located within a half hour's drive of the city center, including more than a fair share, ranked among the very best. Historic, Portmarnock Golf Club, is certainly one of the top ranked links in the country, along with The European Club to the south of the city. Drive an extra half hour north and you could be playing Irish Open host, County Louth Golf Club at Baltray.
Staying within the half hour driving limit of the city is the K-Club, venue for the 2006 Ryder Cup matches and even closer is The Island Golf Club, another prize links course dating from 1890. Just as close, Royal Dublin offers a masterly links, originally designed by the great Harry S. Colt. It will take a little longer to reach highly ranked Druids Glen, but the reward will be a pair of demanding heathland courses, good enough to test the mettle of any accomplished player and this is still only the tip of the iceberg that is Dublin's collection of top-flight courses.
Northern Ireland may be no larger than the state of Maine, but with more than 90 courses within its borders, it's a golf region entirely of its own, boasting Royal County Down and Royal Portrush among its golf riches. These are the two top ranked courses on the island of Ireland and both belong on every visitors must play list, but don't overlook the neighboring layouts, including Portstewart, Castlerock and Ardglass. For a change of pace, try Royal Belfast, a lakeside beauty that also happens to be the oldest golf club in Ireland.
The Northwest and West of Ireland, reaching from Counties Donegal, and Sligo to Mayo and Galway is the Ireland of yesteryear, where the golf courses are as dramatic as the windswept coastlines they occupy. This is perfectly natural linksland and golf in these parts is in a league of its own. The names may not be as familiar, but don't let that deter you from including this very special part of the Emerald Isle. Ballyliffin, Rosapenna, Murvagh, Enniscrone and Rosses Point are all fantastic links jewels that will live in your memory for years to come. Nothing less is the very special links at Carne, the eye dazzler at Westport, and still more at amazing Connemara Links and Galway Bay.
The Southwest has long been a favorite golf region for Americans and it still thrives with perhaps more recognizable names of world renowned links layouts, headed by Ballybunion, Waterville, Lahinch, Doonbeg and Tralee, great links courses one and all.
Base yourself in bustling Killarney for a few days and include one the town's three parkland layouts with the handsome Ring of Kerry Golf Club and more links golf at Dooks and Dingle. A week simply won't be long enough, even if you play 36 holes each day.
The South may not have as many courses as other parts of Ireland, but it remains an important player and the now fabled Old Head, a stunning cliff-top beauty, plays a leading role in attracting visitors. But don't miss some of the other golfing attractions of the south coast, including past Irish Open host, Fota Island and the magnificent new parkland layout at Moy Valley. If you are including a little sightseeing in the south, the historic medieval town of Kilkenny will certainly be on the itinerary and it will only be a short drive down the road to the superb championship parkland course at Mount Juliet.
Ireland is quite literally awash with golf and an astounding array of truly superb courses, each and every one of them offering a wonderfully warm welcome that's unique to the Irish. So maybe it's time to stop promising yourself an Irish golf trip, someday -- make that someday today and start planning a special Irish golf experience right now.
For more ideas and suggestions on putting together the perfect Irish golf trip, click here.
©2009 David Brice / Golf International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Golf International -- Providers of quality golf travel arrangements since 1988.