Last week, while reminiscing about our lovely golf road trip to Northern Ireland a year ago, we impulsively decided to plan a short golf break. To the West coast of Ireland, this time. Road tripping our way from one great Irish golf links to another. And, hey didn’t we have a wedding anniversary to celebrate?
The order of procedure is to first book tee times on some of our all time favs links courses, second the flights and last but not least accommodation.
The only tee times available on such short notice on Ballybunion, Tralee and Old Head were before 07.30 o’clock… So, rise ‘n shine and seize the golf day it will be. Upside is a less crowded course.
Ballybunion, a true links gem
The sky changes from dark into light grey around 06.30 hrs when we drive through small country roads. We are on our way to Ballybunion. This highly ranked challenging Old Course is world acclaimed. It meanders through massive dunes along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Golf and sea-breeze are best buddies.
Due to continuing good weather and therefore drought, the fairways are burned. Yellowish and dry. And quite fast, important to land the ball way in front of the green because it will roll on – or over – easily. This is playing golf the way natures sculps the course.
Ballybunion celebrates their 125th anniversary this year, congratz! Each of the 18 holes have their own challenging character. The ones that stand out for me are 7, 11, 16 and 17. All layed out along the ocean with amazing views. Don’t stare too long, keep your eye on the ball.
18 holes – Links course – 6802 yards – par 71 – green fees from 210 euro (high season) – book online
Tralee, Irish golf pride
Tralee golf links is designed by Arnold Palmer and located along Barrow Bay, just a 20 minutes drive from the little town of Tralee. Founded in 1896, three more years and also this course has some celebration to look forward to.
Ocean view from almost every hole where as the first nine are relatively flat, the second nine have elevation and dunes rough that one should avoid at all times.
The par 3 13th – Brock’s Hollow – needs some mental adjustment upon first sight. It is not the length but the Irish Grand Canyon between the tee and green that is intimidating. Don’t look down but make a confident full swing. With a little bit of luck the back wall acts as bumper and delivers the ball back at the hole.
Another stunning hole is the 17th. This par 4 (stroke index 3) plays from a high tee across another deep gorge to a green bordered by a long beach and deep blue sea.
Our tip: do take a caddy, this way you play a much better round of golf with local knowledge close at hand. And if you do, ask for Rory. He’s playing the course since he was three years old.
18 holes – Links course – 6890 yards – par 71 – green fees from 210 euro, married couple 350 (high season) – book online
Old Head golf links
On the tip of Old Head of Kinsale peninsula lies this intimidating golf course, on the cliffs high above the Atlantic Ocean. Old Head is a prestigious private club, just over twenty years old, the answer to American demands. Service-minded from taking your bags from the car to clean your clubs after a round. However, for me, the atmosphere doesn’t feel quite as genuine as they claim to be. I miss the sincerity the other two course display.
Back to the course, the reason for visit! This one should be on your once-in-a-lifetime golf list because the lay-out is as overwhelming as it is challenging. Oh, my. Even on the most beautiful day without wind – we had the weather gods on our side – you have to work hard for every boogie. A par is a true victory. Each and every hole has magnificent dramatic ocean and/or lighthouse views, Irish cliff nature at its best.
Play with your mind, as in course management, and you’ll have a wonderful day. We did.
18 holes – Links cliff course – 7215 yards – par 72 – green fees up to 300 euro ( in high season) – book online
Where to stay? Ballygarry house hotel!
Distances look short in Ireland but due to smaller – sometimes even single track – roads you have to take your time. We found this charming 4* hotel just North of Tralee, both Ballybunion and Tralee links only a 30 minutes scenic drive away. One might say your typical Irish wedding hotel.
We stayed in the newly renovated Signature Suite, no. 3, facing the garden. The uneven numbers all face the quiet inner courtyard and garden, while the even numbers might have some noise from the adjacent roads.
This is our small luxury place with very friendly staff and Kerry Mountains view.
Food and Spa at Ballygarry hotel
But there is more. The hotel has a spa, Nádúr, with six luxurious treatment rooms. Happy to see the Irish organic seaweed brand Voya again. The first time I experienced this great brand was at Martinhal hotel in Sagres and I am really enthusiastic about it.
I spoiled my self, what a treat after a long walk on the course, with the Seaweed Deluxe Facial. With a layering of real seaweed leaves as mask while the professional therapist performs a scalp massage. You get the idea?
The in-house restaurant 58 is fine dining style, overlooking the Kerry mountains in the back. Local ingredients and kind staff do the rest. This is also the place where they service breakfast. Which only opens at 07.30 but since we had to leave early every day, they set it up at 06.30. With a smile.
How to get there, Sunny cars for lefties
We fly into Cork (easy access from many European cities) and pre-booked a rental car. Renting a car can be confusing. The extra insurance forms they quickly shove on the desk and ask you to sign, when you already have the car key in your hands. Uh?
This is the second time we booked with Sunny Cars, a carefree car rental agent who takes over all the wheeling (no pun intended) and dealing. All-inclusive means all-inclusive, minus the wrist band.
Most important when driving in left-side-of-the-road countries is opt for an automatic gear. And in our case extra space since we bring two golf bags.
Navigation makes driving on the left side easier, before you know it you go with the roundabout flow. We really drive together, mr. B. is behind the wheel but I am as concentrated. Showing the way, reminding out loud they like it left over here when changing directions after a single track countryside road.
But how about the weather? The first question we have to answer when sharing we’re crossing the Channel to play golf. To be honest, in the past 15 years that we explore Scotland, England and (N) Ireland by car we seldom needed our rain gear. Sometimes a short shower but due to island winds, as quickly gone as come.
This year’s golf road trip felt like Spring in Algarve. That’s the way, aha, we links-course-roadtrip-addicts like it.