Editor's Note: The following article is written by David Brice, President of Golf International. Established in 1988, Golf International specializes in the design and operation of quality golf trips to Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Wales, France, Spain and Portugal. The articles written by David represent trips available to Golf International customers. Click here to learn more about Golf International.
There's something about Ireland and the Irish that practically everyone loves - there's perhaps no other country or people on this planet that holds so much appeal for so many, regardless of their interests and passions.
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Golfers are inevitably drawn to the Emerald Isle by the magic of one of the most wondrous collections of golf courses in existence -- more than 400 in all, they include some of the game's most highly regarded layouts. But any trip to Ireland -- even a golf trip -- should be a complete Irish experience of this multi-faceted and thoroughly delightful country. As Ireland excels in golf, so she does in so many other areas.
From the stunning beauty of the lush countryside and ruggedly dramatic coastline, to the charming small villages, bustling market towns and big city delights of Dublin, Belfast and Cork, the Emerald Isle is filled with a multitude of pleasures for all.
Ireland is a land filled with intriguing history that reaches back to the beginnings of time, and with it, a rich and colorful culture, as fascinating as any to be found. This has been a country of poets and authors for centuries and the tradition continues today with practically every Irish person, an aspiring wordsmith or an accomplished story teller. Spinning their tales with a twinkle in the eye, the sometimes mischievous, always fun-loving and invariably charming Irish, are perhaps Ireland's greatest national treasure.
The legendary Irish welcome, lavished upon every visitor, comes from the hearts of the friendliest and most genuine people you will ever come across. They're proud of their country, as well they should be, relishing any opportunity to offer a few sightseeing suggestions, share their knowledge of local history or assist with a few recommendations on where to find their favorite pub or restaurant. It's a chance for the Irish to get into a conversation and if ever there was a nation of conversationalists, Ireland is it.
Even the most passionate and committed golfers follow other sports as well and any sports enthusiast will find Ireland offers a dizzying array of opportunities to experience very Irish sporting events, some familiar, others totally unfamiliar, but all with a distinctly Irish flavor. It's an opportunity to taste another side of Ireland not often experienced by other visitors.
Horse-racing is dear to the heart of every Irishman and there are over 250 race meets held each year across the country. These are very festive, colorful affairs, where the wagering, Guinness and having a good time, are as important as the Irish thoroughbreds that are racing. Check with your travel company for a schedule of the race meets that will be taking place during your trip to Ireland and there may be no better meet to try to attend than the most popular of all, The Galway Races, which take place in late July / early August.
Coming under the general heading of Gaelic Games are a couple of sports that are all but unique to Ireland. The ancient game of Hurling involves two teams of 15 amateur players, each wielding sticks (resembling ice-hockey sticks) as they attempt to hit a small leather ball across the opponent team's goal line. It's one of the world's fastest and most impressive field sports, with no readily apparent rules and an incomprehensible method of scoring with both goals and points, but hurling is an exciting game to watch, if only to admire the skill and speed of the participating athletes. Hurling games typically take place on Sunday afternoons throughout Ireland, always watched by enthusiastically boisterous supporters.
Gaelic football is another very Irish game that produces thrills and spills aplenty and along the way, intense rivalries between the 15 player teams and spectators alike. Best described as a mixture of soccer and rugby, followers insist it's more exciting than either. If you are in Dublin in early September, plan on getting tickets for the All-Ireland Finals, as the best of the county teams battle hard and long for the year's championship. This single match attracts more spectators than any other Irish sporting event during the entire year If you can't make the big game, local weekend matches are played everywhere and are great fun to watch.
If you are more a participant than a spectator and there's a bit of the fisherman in you, Ireland boasts some of the finest fishing in all of Europe. The salmon and sea trout season starts in January and runs through the end of September, conveniently fitting into the time when most golfers will be planning to take their Irish golf trips. And wherever you find those fabled Irish links courses, the opportunity for some deep-sea, sport fishing for shark, sea bass and other challenging game fish, will be nearby and all at an amazingly reasonable cost.
Try not to let these other sports diversions take your focus of attention away from Ireland's fabled golf courses - they are bountiful, world-class and as with all things Irish, have a character and personality, entirely of their own. The only decision to be made is what part of Ireland and which courses do you want to play?
The decision will not be easy, but the reassuring fact is that Ireland will never let you down and no matter which region you choose, there will always be excellent golf and around the coastal parts, many will be those world-famous links courses.
Head to the Southwest, basing yourself in Killarney, one of Ireland's liveliest market towns and venue for this year's Irish Open and you will be spoiled for golf choices. Among the handsome collection of prized Irish links layouts in the area are Ballybunion, Tralee and Waterville, together with an excellent choice of less well known gems. Take a couple of hour drive northward, staying in Lahinch or the plush, five-star resort at Doonbeg and fantastic Doonbeg Links together with the classic links at Lahinch, will demand serious attention together with the classic links layout at Lahinch, will demand serious attention.
For another shade of green, discover Ireland's wonderful Northwest and the counties of Mayo, Sligo and Donegal, where the scenery takes on a more daunting look, the 21st century fades from sight and the Ireland of yesteryear thrives. Surprisingly, this is home to some of Ireland's most distinguished, though still undiscovered, links courses.
Any golfer fortunate enough to be visiting this very special corner of Ireland will have a long list of courses that must be played, which should include Carne, Enniscrone, Rosses Point, Donegal, Rosapenna and Ballyliffin, together with at least half a dozen more. These are Ireland's true hidden gems and the makings of a golf trip with memories to last a lifetime.
Combine Northwest Ireland with the British outpost of Northern Ireland and you will be adding more spice to an already zesty golf banquet, but you will also be including the two top ranked courses on the entire Emerald Isle, Royal County Down and Royal Portrush. As this one week trip expands into two, there will be a couple of available slots to fill with more golf and there are plenty of links to choose from. The logical choices will be Portstewart and Castlerock, both neighbors of Royal Portrush, together with the thoroughly delightful links at Ardglass, just a short drive from Royal County Down.
Another option and a wonderful golf combination is to play the best of Northern Ireland's links courses together with a choice selection of the links surrounding Dublin's fair city, where the girls are so pretty and the links courses are out of this world.
Topping Dublin's menu of links courses is Portmarnock, long ranked among Ireland's top three, closely followed by The European Club, Royal Dublin and County Louth - and this is still only scratching the surface of Dublin's impressive inventory of top quality golf.
If this has whetted your appetite, don't put off taking your Irish golf trip any longer -- there's no time like the present and for those who act sooner rather than later, there are some unbelievable Irish bargains to be found.
After literally years of seeing our US dollar get weaker and weaker against the Euro (the currency used in the Republic of Ireland) there have been some dramatic changes. For the past 6 months the greenback has been gaining strength by leaps and bounds and today is worth some 20% more against the Euro than it was back in December 2009. That's like getting a 20% reduction on the price of your Irish golf trip, plus a similar reduction on restaurants, pubs, local transportation, gifts and anything else you will be purchasing on your trip. .
Only making a good thing for American travelers to Ireland, even better is the general economic situation in Europe. Last year was not a good year for international travel and hotels, car rental companies, even golf courses, suffered from the decline in international visitors.
Faced with the possibility of a similar situation this year, many Irish hotels and other service providers, reduced their 2009 rates for 2010, in an effort to attract more business and they are beginning to see results. Problem is these emergency price reductions and special offers are unlikely to go on for too much longer, so take advantage of them while they last.
If you are thinking about a trip to Ireland, good for you, but the time to go is now, while our dollar is still strong and the Irish are still offering some very special values. Think about it, you could be playing those famous Irish links, enjoying a few glasses of Guinness and experiencing Ireland's many other delights, all within a month or two.
For more ideas and suggestions on how to make your dreams of an Irish golf trip come true, contact the Ireland experts at Golf International at 1-800-833-1389, or click here.
©2010 David Brice / Golf International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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