Many thanks again for all that you personally and SWING professionally have done to make our trip to Ireland such a success. Arranging the weather as well was a lovely touch and much appreciated, particularly by our American contingent.
We are returning home with sun (and wind) tans and tales of such hospitality, friendliness, great food, brilliant logistics and wonderful golf courses.
Some personal comments
Adare Manor – top quality American-style parkland course. The layout is entertaining with water and large bunkers framing a number of holes. The large greens are a major challenge as they are quick with both obvious and also subtle slopes. Well worth playing a second time once you have experienced where on the green to put the ball with your approach shots. We came for the best links courses Ireland has to offer so this was a friendly warm-up course. But it is difficult to understand course ratings that have this course rated as better than Tralee
Tralee – the most spectacular course. The back nine through the dunes gets all the attention, but the front nine is never less than good, with at least 3 classic links holes (2, 3, 8). The view from the second fairway, looking back to the beach and the sandy dunes, is unforgettable. The views throughout the back nine are wonderful.
Waterville – the fairest course. Does not have quite the wow factor of Tralee or Ballybunion (or say Royal County Down or Turnberry Ailsa) with the dunes more subdued, but it is the best test of your golf game. Every hole is a challenge, whether short or long, but the trouble is clearly signposted. Few good shots go unrewarded, very few bad ones escape trouble.
Ballybunion Old – another spectacular course. A slightly underwhelming start (apart from the tough second hole) which can lull you into a false sense of security, after 5 holes you turn into the dunes for a roller-coaster ride all the way to the finish. Some of the peak to peak par 3s are remarkable but into the wind driver may not be enough. Several holes were difficult to assess off the tee, even with a caddie, and I think we would have enjoyed it even more had we played it a second time.
We only had time for nine holes on the Cashen course and were recommended to play the back nine which is the more spectacular through the dunes. The precision required for your approach shots was extreme and the penalty for even a slight mishit was severe. That said, the course was great fun to play and if (when) we return we will make sure we get to play all 18.
We played Lahinch twice, once in a gentle 15mph breeze and once in a steady 30mph wind, gusting to over 40mph. Either way, probably the toughest course I have ever played, including the Ailsa course in strong winds. There are strong elements of both Prestwick and Ballybunion here, with some old-school quirky holes (4, 5) and some of the toughest par 4s links golf has to offer (3, 6, 10, 15). Our 1 handicap golfer was 2 over par on the “calm” day, but did not get close to breaking 90 on the windy day.
Doonbeg was a curious mixture of classic links through the dunes plus a couple of holes on rather flat and uninspiring land round the turn. A number of really entertaining short par 4s (3, 5, 6) and some classic links holes (1, 9, 13, 15, 18). The short 14th is an entertaining picture and the wind makes the hole a real challenge. Of particular note was the quality of the greens, which were by some way the best of the links courses on our tour.
Our group was evenly split between Tralee, Waterville and Lahinch as the best course. If you were to play just one more round and had to play one of these, Tralee was the pick for the golf plus views. If you had to play all your golf at just one course, Waterville was the choice as the fairest test.
We had one fore-caddie for each group at Tralee, Waterville, Ballybunion and Lahinch. Highly recommended – the best of them were at Lahinch and Ballybunion. But if you are a good putter and reader of greens (not me), you should consider trusting your own judgement on the greens. Apart from reading greens, the key question for the caddie to answer is on the approach shot – where is the good miss? Many of the greens are reasonably accessible from one angle, but extremely difficult from others. If your caddie has not told you the answer, ask him (or, happily at Ballybunion, her!)
Until next time!