David Brice, CEO of Golf International, reviews destinations on PGATOUR.COM that can be experienced by purchasing a package with Golf international, a leading provider of high-end international golf travel. For more information about this trip or any other of Golf International's destination trips, click here.
If you have ever dreamed of taking a trip across the Atlantic to discover the wonders of the Emerald Isle and play a few of the outstanding links courses Ireland is so famous for, now is the time to do it -- prices haven't been this good in many a year.
|Book Your Trip:|
Much the same as other European countries, the Irish economy has struggled over the past few years and with tourism such an important revenue generator for the country's coffers, exceptional steps have been taken in an effort to attract more tourists. Hotels, car rental companies, restaurants and most other elements that go into a vacation, including some golf courses, have shaved prices back to almost fire sale levels.
Bringing Irish prices down even further is the relative strength of our US dollar when compared to Ireland's currency, the Euro. One year ago a Euro cost $1.50, today that same Euro costs just $1.21, an increase of about 20% in the dollar's buying power. The end result is that a vacation to Ireland, whether golf is included or not, is nothing less than a bargain and this might be a good time to take the entire family along. The only decision to be made is which part of Ireland should it be?
Ireland will always be associated with its warm, friendly people and their gift for story telling. Think of Ireland and images of pubs and Guinness, thatched roofed cottages, castles and quaint fishing villages; green, rural landscapes and rugged coastlines, filled with natural beauty, all spring to mind. To any golfer the picture also brings up visions of glorious links courses. Golf is as much a part of Ireland as anything and golfers are being drawn to the Emerald Isle in ever-growing numbers.
The first time visitor will probably be chasing after a few of the more famous names located in the southwest, such as Waterville, Ballybunion, Lahinch and Doonbeg or Northern Ireland's top ranked links at Royal County Down and Royal Portrush. Excellent as each of these courses are, there are many more golf gems to be found in other parts, most notably in the far west and northwest of the country. The names may not be as familiar, but their challenge, charm and overall appeal, is every bit the equal of the household names and the awaiting welcome, perhaps even greater.
For any who yearn for the good old days and an Ireland the way it used to be, it's still here and can be readily found in these less populated, westernmost reaches. In Counties Mayo, Sligo, Galway and Roscommon, extending north to the very tip of County Donegal, life goes on much the same as it always has. That's the way the folks out west like it, showing little regard for whatever century the rest of the world may be in.
Unspoiled and uncluttered with no hustle and bustle or thronging masses, this is where Mother Nature still reigns supreme. The coastline is spectacularly handsome; the landscapes breathtaking, the air crystal clear and life is easy going. This is the Ireland of yester-year, steeped in tradition with a history reaching back thousands of years.
Any golfer should relish the opportunity to come to this side of the Emerald Isle; the golf courses remain very much undiscovered, but the quality is outstanding with a number of beauties that will tickle the fancy of even the most jaded golf traveler.
Connemara, Westport, Enniscrone, Carne and Rosses Point are only the beginning of the west coast chain of courses that extend non-stop to the most northerly point of County Donegal. Bundoran, Donegal's Murvagh, Rosapenna, Port Salon and Ballyliffin are layouts that must be played by any serious golfer. Each is a treat and guaranteed to provide an Irish golf experience ranking alongside the very best.
This is the undiscovered side of Ireland containing some of the country's most stunning natural beauty and because it's less known and less visited; the golf courses are never crowded, even in peak season. The people you meet on these courses of the West will be the local Irish, adding another dimension to your trip.
But don't limit your experience to only the golf - as big a temptation as that will be, there is a lot more to see and do. With more history to tell than most places in Europe, there is every reason to spend a little off-course time discovering some of this rich past for yourself. You don't have to be a history buff to quickly develop a real appreciation and respect for how life was, so long ago.
Pre-historic sites abound and even those with only a passing interest level in such things, can't fail to be impressed by Ceide Fields in North Mayo, a 50 centuries old, complete farm settlement, considered the oldest and best preserved such example in all Europe.
Visit the Aran Islands, a bastion of traditional Irish culture and language. In the 5th century, St. Enda brought Christianity to Ireland, establishing a long monastic tradition in Aran that would be protected for centuries The intriguingly austere landscape of the three islands is crisscrossed by a never-ending maize of dry-stone walls, stunning coastal views and a succession of large, prehistoric stone forts. The islands are famous today for their distinctive knitwear and for the traditional Aran costume, still worn by many of the locals.
The most impressive monastic remains in all Ireland can be found at Kilmacduagh in the South of County Galway. Founded in the early 7th century, the centerpiece is a huge round tower that leans precariously over a roofless, but otherwise, almost perfectly preserved cathedral. Nearby are the remains of several other churches that once depended upon the monastery.
Take time to visit the city of Galway, center of the Irish speaking regions and a lively university town. In Anglo-Norman times Galway was a thriving trading post and a stronghold surrounded by warring Gaelic clans. After the Cromwellian victories of the 1640's, many Irish, stripped of their lands were dispatched here to hell or Connaught as the province is called, to start new lives. Today Galway is a charming, lively town, filled with shops, pubs and restaurants and numerous examples of fine 16th and 17th century architecture.
Imposing Kylemore Abbey, a 19th century fantasy of a wealthy English industrialist, is now run as an elite girls boarding school by Benedictine nuns. World famous for its walled Victorian gardens, Kylemore is one of the West's most popular visitor attractions.
Founded in 1750, the lovely town of Westport, nestled on the shores of Clew Bay, may be the prettiest in County Mayo and is well worth visiting. Wide tree lined streets with elegant Georgian buildings bring an unexpected air of charming sophistication to this, one of the few planned towns in Ireland and a tribute to 18th century urban development. Not far from town is Croagh Patrick, the 2,500-foot Holy Mountain where in 441 A.D., St. Patrick is said to have prayed and spent the 40 days of Lent. Among the many reasons to visit Westport is Westport Golf Club, one of the must-play courses of this part of Ireland.
The West is also famed for its festivals that run virtually throughout the year, but with an especially heavy schedule starting in March and running full tilt through October. There's hardly a small town or village that doesn't have at least a couple of festivals during the year and chances are there will be a few going on during your trip. There are festivals for Irish music, dancing, singing and folk drama; there are literary festivals and art festivals, fiddle festivals and classical music festivals. There are festivals for poetry and story telling and so it goes, the list is endless.
So if you are in quest of the Ireland of your dreams, the old traditional Ireland that may be more difficult to find around the major cities, be assured it's still here, alive and thriving in the West of Ireland. Go West and you will not only find the Ireland of an age gone by, but you will also discover some of Ireland's finest and still undiscovered golf.
Why this part of Ireland has remained a secret for so long is no mystery -- its relative isolation from the rest of the country always kept it remote and more challenging to reach. But this is quickly changing as word gets out that any extra driving required is more than rewarded by the very special experiences to be gained, most unique to this part of Ireland. If you want to discover the last of the Emerald Isle's hidden golf gems -- to see and live the Ireland of yester-year, get there before the crowds.
Better go sooner rather than later, taking full advantage of our strong dollar and the wonderful values that fill the entire island of Ireland -- and that warm Irish welcome is always included, at no extra charge.
For more information on the real Ireland and a few ideas on how to include a few of the best courses in your golf trip, contact the Ireland experts at Golf International by calling toll-free, 1 (800) 833-1389, or click here.
©2012 David Brice / Golf International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Golf International -- Providers of quality golf travel arrangements since 1988.