Make your golf dreams come trueIrish Golf. From the windswept dunes of Lahinch, Ballybunion, Portmarnock, Doonbeg and Waterville to the spectacular cliffs of Old Head and the rolling parkland of a former earl’s estate at Adare Manor, Ireland supplies golf that can’t be found anywhere else. In fact, if you ask most golfers who’ve vacationed in Scotland and Ireland which place they prefer, you’ll get a conflicted answer. While Scotland often gets the nod for pure historical significance, the traveling golfer frequently gives Ireland the nod for sheer diversity and its dramatic landscape. In addition, Ireland has Old Head, surely the world’s most spectacular golf course with its elevated 350-degree views of Courtmacsherry Bay and the Celtic Sea.
Ring Of Kerry. Playing golf in Ireland, in particular the southwest corner (counties Cork and Kerry), affords not just some of the world’s greatest golf, but also some of the world’s most charming towns. The drive from Waterville Golf Club to Old Head (aka, the Ring of Kerry) is full of picturesque small towns, photos of which grace the pages of guidebooks and Travel Channel programs. Be forewarned, navigating the Ring takes time, patience and, we might suggest, a small car. The roads are narrow, winding and the topography changes dramatically from sea level to cloud enshrouded mountaintops along the stretch. But the payoff is worth it. Towns like Sneem, Kenmare and Bantry are just a few examples of Ireland’s so-called “Tidy Towns,” which are clean, vibrant, charming villages with brightly colored pubs and restaurants.
The Irish. It would be hard to find a kinder, more hospitable group of people than the Irish. Sports mad and down-to-earth with a love of golf, hurling and Gaelic football, the Irish have a direct connection with the States and it shows. Don’t be surprised if you’re paired with Americans, as much of the tourism comes from the States. But should there be just two of you (the Irish call such a pairing a “two-ball”), hire a caddie or rent a pull cart (“trolley”) and find some locals to share the experience. Their love of golf and its customs is infectious.
Stirling Castle. Stirling Castle is arguably the most famous of Scotland’s castles and one of the most popular attractions in the entire country. Located atop an extinct volcano, Stirling Castle was a key military stronghold during the Scottish Wars of Independence and the site of the famed battle of Stirling Bridge where William Wallace (of Braveheart fame) led the Scots to victory over the English. Other important historical events surrounding the impressive structure include the Battle of Falkirk, when Edward I regained the castle for the English, and the later siege by Robert the Bruce which resulted in the Castle changing hands once again.
St. Andrews. Every golfer knows that the Old Course at St. Andrews is the one golf course they must visit before they die, but most are probably not aware of how many incredible sights and points of interest there are in the town of St. Andrews itself. In addition to the Old Course, there are numerous other fantastic links in the area, including the New Course, the Jubilee, Crail, Kingsbarns, Carnoustie and St. Andrews Bay, while attractions like the ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral and St. Andrews Castle, the British Golf Museum and St. Andrews Aquarium shouldn’t be missed. And for golfers who crave a bit of an education, there’s the famed St. Andrews University, one of the finest in all of Britain.
The Highlands. This mountainous region of Scotland in the north of the country features a wide variety of sights and activities, including numerous castles like the impressive Urquhart Castle situated next to famed Loch Ness. Whiskey distilleries like Glenmorangie, Glen Ord, Dalmore and Talisker also abound in the Highlands, giving visitors the rare chance to witness the art of making single malt Scotch. A variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, kayaking, sailing and horseback riding, are plentiful in this beautiful wilderness area, as well as lots of great golf at top-notch courses like Royal Dornoch, Nairn, Boat of Garten, Brora, Tain and Inverness.
Edinburgh. Scotland’s capitol, located on the east coast on the Firth of Forth, is one of the most exciting and interesting cities in the UK. Featuring loads of first-class dining, sightseeing (Edinburgh Castle) and cultural activities, Edinburgh is a destination that travelers to Scotland shouldn’t pass up. A great time to visit this both ancient and modern city is late summer, when the famous Edinburgh Festival takes place. Anyone who enjoys theater, live music, fine art and political discussion will like this exciting event. Golfers will also appreciate the high concentration of outstanding, classic golf courses located in the Edinburgh area, including Gullane, Musselburgh, North Berwick and West Lothian, as well as a slew of modern designs like Craigielaw.