For most folks who journey across “the pond” to play golf, chances are pretty good they’ll want to play in Scotland at courses like St. Andrews, Turnberry and Royal Dornoch. While those courses and the enchanting towns they inhabit are steeped in history, those wanting a more diverse and dramatic golfing experience should consider Ireland, in particular its southwestern quadrant.
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.
Hidden gems and must-plays for the ultimate golf pilgrimage
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.
Double-bogeys mean nothing when you're in paradise
The lure of the Caribbean islands is strong. Prospects of warm weather and a needed respite from the perils of modern living make the region a fine escape. Pair that with a geography exceedingly tropical and seemingly remote, despite the fact that the islands can be reached via a twin prop from most Eastern cities, and you have a bona fide vacation winner. Now, throw in golf far better than most people have ever imagined, and you have the incentive to start packing immediately, especially if your itinerary includes Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.
From Cabo to Cancun, golf south of the border is hard to beat
Golf in Mexico isn’t as storied as it is in Scotland or Ireland. It isn’t as sexy as it is in Hawaii or as dreamy as its Caribbean counterpart. But this much is true: South of the border, the game and all of its resort trappings attract more American and Canadian golfers than any other international golf destination. In 2003, nearly three-quarter-million determined duffers made their way to first tees, from Los Cabos to Cancun.
Like the mists that blow in off the Irish Sea, a sense of mystery tends to shroud golf in Northern Ireland. Indeed, the country itself possesses an aura of the unknown, particularly with Americans. It’s not as if the courses here are completely unknown, it’s just that they tend to be overshadowed by their more famous neighbors in Scotland, The Republic of Ireland and England. However, Northern Ireland has not only a rich golf history of its own, but also a collection of links layouts that stand up to any of its more heralded British Isles’ mates. Two, in particular, are capable of challenging for the title of best links course in the world: Royal County Down and Royal Portrush.