Ireland's Challenging Golf Courses
In Ireland golf courses abound, both links and parklands varieties, about 410 in total, and this is a good number compared to the population of almost 6 million (4 million people in the Republic of Ireland, and 1.8 million in Northern Ireland). Ireland is one of the world's great venues for a dream golfing holiday.
Links golf courses are usually found around the coastline where they've been scratched out of the abundant sand dunes, where the wind often challenges players, especially on the west Atlantic Coast side of the island. Their designers have also used the proximity of water to make the game on these courses more interesting. One of the most famous links courses is the Ballybunion Old Course, whose contures and sea breazes challenge every player.
Parkland golf courses are mainly inland amongst the naturally hilly landscape where woodlands provide tree-lined fairways, which are used to advantage by their designers to test the competence of even the best of the pros. A notable parkland's course is the K Club just outside Dublin, which has been chosen to hold the Ryder Cup in September 2006. The Slieve Russell course in the Irish midlands is also another fine example.
Seven of Ireland golf courses are included in a list of the best 100 golf courses worldwide (Golf Digest)
In Northern Ireland: Royal Portrush Golf Club (Dunluce) and the Royal County Down
In the Irish Republic: the "Old" club of Ballybunion (in the 1st ten world ranking), Lahinch, Portmarnock, The European Club and Waterville.
Golf high season: June, July, August
Mid season: May, September, October
Low season: November through to April
Book tee times well in advance of your vacation. About 20% of Ireland golf courses have their own website on which you can make a booking. Visit the author's website to see a list of them.
Take care of how you dress. You may have difficulty at some venues if you do not take notice of the following advice regarding clothing. Wear proper shirts with sleeves and collars, golf shoes and sports socks, trousers or smart, tailored shorts. Clothes NOT TO WEAR include - denims, short shorts, trainer shoes or runners, track suits, sweaters without shirts, clothing with slogans.
Always be at the course well before your tee time. Most courses allow spikes - some encourage their use in wet weather. Many links courses do not allow motorised golf buggies because of the hilly terrain.
Take your handicap certificate with you as many golf courses will insist on visualising it. The handicap limit will usually be 28 for men, and 36 for women.
If you are taking your own golf clubs with you, you'll need to acquire a very strong golf bag to protect them during manhandling by luggage personnel. Some find an easier solution is to hire golfing equipment in Ireland, in which case this should be done at the earliest time, when booking tee times.
You'll find a friendly welcome not only from the Irish golfing community, but also from the population in general. Ireland has now become a very popular venue for a stimulating golfing vacation.
About the Author: Ron Mills is an amateur providing golf information on his Ireland Golf Vacation website, endeavouring to raise funds for TEAR Fund, a worldwide relief agency.