Friday, November 23, 2012

SUNNY IRELAND - 2012 (First stop -Greater Dublin)

The title of this blog entry is not meant to be facetious.  In late May-early June, 2012, Lisa and I played golf 13 days straight  in Ireland without ever having to don our rainsuits. Mostly our rounds were played in brilliant sunshine. We had not  visited Ireland since  our first golf trip together in 2003. That previous  holiday encompassed golf in the west of  Ireland
 (Connemara, Carne, Enniscrone, Donegal, Sligo).  Based on the recommendation of  writer  Alan Ferguson,  we elected this time  to visit three renowned golf links  areas of the Emerald Isle: greater Dublin, Northern Ireland, and Donegal.

Subsequent to  some misadventures after  touching down at the Dublin airport, we found our B & B in Portmarnock, just north of Dublin. Our first glance at the  the "South Lodge," (another Alan Ferguson tip)  a former gatehouse to the Jameson estate (the Irish whiskey distiller) reassured us that we had found the perfect cozy place to kick off  our time in Ireland .Innkeepers Colin and Pat Burton were most hospitable in getting us settled in our second-story room with a view of adjoining Portmarnock Links and the the Irish Sea.  We have  had mixed success in the past on playing on our arrival day. The excitement and anticipation  of playing links golf usually collide with jet lag and exhaustion on about the 10th hole. But, after some hearty soup at the Portmarnock Hotel & Resort, a short walk from our B & B,  a short rest and the restorative sea breezes through our window, we could not resist giving the adjoining links a try. 
The Portmarnock Links is a relatively new course designed by Bernhard Langer over the aforementioned  Jameson estate land. 

                                                      South Lodge   

Both Lisa and I played respectably given the approaching
exhaustion and were glad we gave it a shot. This course has
all of the obligatory hummocks, gorse, and yawning bunkers associated with links play, but I would be hard-pressed to describe it as spectacular in any way. Still, it was the right test to get us started.

                                                         Portmarnock Golf Links  

                                                  Lisa - Portmarnock Hotel & Resort

 At times in our many U.K. golf excursions, my long-suffering partner Lisa has complained that  I run her ragged with playing golf too-early in the morning after hard play the previous time. So for our Saturday game, I scheduled a 3:40 tee time at Royal Dublin.  The links, designed in 1891,  can only be reached  by a narrow rickety  bridge over to Bull Island.  Lisa and I were paired with young American from Boston who hit tee shots with the most pronounced hook I've encountered. Even  strong winds blowing from our  left failed to deter  the ducking left trajectory of his tee balls. Royal Dublin presented a varried  array of classic  links holes. Without question, the most memorable is the finishing 18th- a  long sharp dogleg right.   To play it correctly, the player must flirt with the stream and boundary with a drive  hugging the right side of the fairway, followed by a second  (probably a hybrid)  over the boundary area  to the well- protected green. I accomplished the first part of the mission, but  came up a yard short of clearing the boundary with my less than stellar second-  disaster!                                                                          

                                                           Royal Dublin -clubhouse and 18th

 Most of the golf clubs in Scotland and Ireland  welcome us for lunch when we visit and Royal Dublin was no exception. Hearty  soup, toasted cheese sandwiches  and single malt was restorative indeed. Afterwards, Lisa and I perused the many cups and aged photos that graced the trophy cases. Noting our interest, the club's steward gifted us with a DVD commemorating the feats of the club's favorite son, Christy O'Connor, who successfully competed  on numerous Ryder Cup sides for GB&I.  The club respectfully  reserves a prime spot in the parking lot for  the venerable Christy.

Sunday, May 27th was an action-packed day.  Our golf was played  over the Island Golf Club's  vast and towering sand hills. Our innkeepers Colin and Pat,  came with us, and  all of us played for free due to a scheduling snafu to  which the club graciously  confessed error and comped us at an alternative time.

                                                       Bill, Lisa, Pat, Colin

Until recent times, the Island could only be reached by boat from the Village of Malahide across the estuary. While more accessible now, the  Island still conveys a sense  of solitary remoteness.  It was a lovely day, but I was  a little over-matched this day- particularly when hitting upwind. Deep reveted bunkers, nasty rough , and the ever-imposing dunes conspired to make pars extremely elusive.  Still we enjoyed this strict test of links. Pat and Collin had not played the course in many years.

                                                     The Island and Malahide across the estuary

After a quick lunch, we hurried back to the South Lodge to prepare for an afternoon in Dublin. Boarding the train at a nearby suburban station, we found ourselves in the middle of the great city in short order. A whirlwind tour of Irish pubs (music included) and Trinity College followed. This included the "Book of Kells" exhibit of ancient monastic  manuscripts.


                                                                      Trinity College

After dinner, to the theatre! We saw a stand-out production of Malmet's Glengarry Glenross.The  patter-filled dramatic story of conniving real estate salesmen was riveting throughout. Back on the train with one minute to spare, and home to our bed at the South Lodge.

We played our final game in the Dublin area  early in the morning at the incomparable Portmarnock Golf Club. Just  like Royal Dublin and The Island,  Portmarnock could not be reached in its early days except by ferry. The view from the first tee with the estuary hard-by the first fairway is spectacular.  On a perfect Monday morning, , both Lisa and I struck the ball well. I carded  81 with which I was pleased  given this course's outstanding reputation. Another wonderful lunch followed  in the club's red-roofed Tudor clubhouse, and now off to the north!

                                                                                                          Portmarnock beach



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