Hidden gems and must-plays for the ultimate golf pilgrimage

Doonbeg Golf in Ireland, obviously, has existed for quite some time, and it continues to flourish in a pure state. Walking is the preferred mode of transportation; scores are more often measured by Stapleford scoring and matches than stoke play. Par is relative to the wind and weather conditions of the day, not the number on the card. Here, traditions are revered and respected. Unfortunately, most visiting golfers don’t spend enough time in one place to get to know the area’s history let alone its unique flavor. Rather than spending all your time driving from one area of a country to the other, only playing the big name courses, we recommend that instead, be it your first time or not, pick one area and play a variety of the courses—inland and links—trophy and hidden gems, for a real once-in-a lifetime experience. Slow down your trip, meet some locals, learn the history of the area and the courses, discover the perfect pub and become a regular for the week, even play your favorite course twice.

No matter where your dream itinerary takes you on the Emerald Isle, the best advice is not to delay a trip over the Pond for any reason (even the unfavorable current exchange rate), but especially not because you couldn’t secure an advanced time at Ballybunion. Just go as soon as possible and begin to explore the hundreds of courses and meet some locals who may become lifelong friends, both of which will give you a new perspective on your game.

There a number of fabulous golf resorts with distinctive personalities, many converted from castles and manor houses and with great on-site golf. Unlike the U.S., many private golf clubs allow outside play during certain days of the week, so that you can also stay in accommodations without on-site golf as well. One major advantage of booking into a golf resort is being able to schedule weekend tee times when many of the clubs have “members’ only” play and competitions. Check the links in this article for some of the best full-service golf resorts in Ireland with on-site golf that make perfect bases from which to explore the other courses of the area.

What To Bring

When traveling to Ireland in March or July, think layers. Temperatures are milder than one might expect in early spring and late fall, and may be cooler than one expects in the dead of summer. Rain will occur, but unlike wet weather in the U.S., precipitation is never extreme enough to cancel out rounds. In fact, if you are prepared, playing in the rain can be an enjoyable experience.

Essential items to pack:

   1. A great rain suit, two pairs of rain gloves (nothing improves playing in the rain than the ability to grip the club)
   2. Two pairs of golf shoes (both should be well worn in—you will be walking and this is no place for new shoes)
   3. A few sweaters (you’ll buy at least one trophy logo sweater there) and a pair of warm golf gloves (even in summer)
   4. A blazer and tie (some clubs have a dress code for lunch and in the better resorts & restaurants coat and tie are the preferred uniform for dinner)
   5. A letter of introduction from your club pro and your USGA handicap card (especially if you did not book through a tour operator)
   6. A low lofted driver for the wind, a lob wedge for bunker play, a Gustbuster umbrella that lets the wind through and, believe it or not, good sunscreen—it does get very sunny and it also helps with windburn.


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