Ireland is a journey into the imagination and a truly exciting one for all of us golfers. To play some of the finest links courses there are and experience them in all their glory is something that many golfers dream about.
In the excitement of the trip and planning which courses you will visit and where you will stay it is easy to forget some important things that can make all the difference to the holiday.
Having caddied in my youth for many overseas visitors, in particular from the USA, it was conveyed to me many times that there was so much they wished they had known in advance – one being to take a caddy at every course, as local knowledge is invaluable when up against a different type of playing surface, the elements and rough such as one finds in Ireland!
Here are 7 advantageous tips from TheGolfPA.com;
1. When to travel?
Links golf is playable and open all year round but the best times to play and receive a small chance of favourable weather are April to October. During most of this time daylight hours are extended and in certain periods it is 1030pm before it gets dark which comfortably enables 36 holes a day or late tee off times to sight see in the morning!
2. Where to fly to?
Coming from overseas there are a few choices of airports, Dublin, Shannon, Cork and Belfast with the latter three have less direct flights but plenty of connections through UK and Europe.
Just doing certain parts of the country can mean it may be better to fly to Shannon to do the South West, or the North West. Belfast and Dublin give you access to the East Coast and the North. Cork is also much handier for the South and looking at this can save you time and enable more golf!!
3. Which Route? What Mode of Transport?
If you are going to be ambitious and play Ireland’s top courses then you are most likely going to be covering the whole island! This is doable by car / driver if you have plenty of time, but I do recommend a coach and a driver, allowing plenty of rest time and, having a local at the helm, means that they can negotiate the narrow winding roads that are still prevalent in many parts of rural Ireland!
It is also easy to break the island into regions and play many great courses in each of these. If there are a group of you a coach and a driver is the easiest and least hassle, well worth it to enhance your trip no matter how long or short.
Renting a car can limit your space, which is also something to think about when packing and ensure that you choose the right vehicle for your group size. It is advisable to request an automatic as you will be dealing with the roads so if not used to a stick shift then this is one less thing to worry about!! Don’t time the trip by mileage – many of the roads in Ireland are still single lane and therefore it will take more time to reach your destination.
There is also the option of Helicopter which cuts out any time and traffic issues!
4. Driving Ranges & Half Way Houses
Whilst most courses have ranges they are not just all as conveniently located so if you really want to hit some practice balls factor this in to your arrival times. The terrain of a links course is somewhat different and at times the tight lies are akin to that of hitting off tarmac….if you are taking your game seriously then some time at the range is advised!
Many of the top courses that have them, will man the 9th Huts or Halfway Houses during the peak season but always good to check in the Professional Shop and add any sustenance required to your bag just in case!
5. Golf Carts
Most of the golf clubs are walking courses and whilst, if they have one or two carts, they may allow usage with a medical certificate but most will not have any at all. Should this be a per-requisite then it is worth checking before you book as this may influence on which courses you play. Alternatively take caddies and book them in advance. It is also a smart move to bring a lightweight carry bag in place of your normal bag. Your caddy, or indeed you will be thankful of this!
Many players that I met told me they had started walking on their home courses a few months prior to the trip.
6. Preparation for the Weather
Unless you are extremely lucky, the odds are that you will encounter some strong winds and heavy rain for some of your golf, thus packing smart is also well advised. It’s true, you can experience all four seasons in one day here. GOOD waterproofs are mandatory and even though you may be coming in the summer this does not guarantee warm temperatures so bring layers and wet gloves as after it rains you get very cold! Umbrellas for the most part are a hindrance, best to leave them at home. Make sure that your shoes are waterproof and of you have the option it is advisable to bring two ensuring that you are wearing
dry ones at all times. A bucket rain hat is a MUST and if you can get your hands on one with a string you will be one smug golfer!
7. Don’t forget……
Proof of your handicap
Plenty of golf balls…the rough is tough!
Ireland is the Euro and N. Ireland is the Great British Pound.
Enjoy the golf no matter how you play a little wind can completely transform the difficulty of the course!
To mingle with the locals!! The hospitality of the Irish is second to none, immerse yourself in the company of them in the places that you stay and this will enhance your trip and ensure that you have plenty of stories to tell from your adventure.