O'Tooles of the Trade - Familiar Places
Tralee Golf Club is one of my favorite places in the world. My visit this year is my 4th time playing the course and if I had to play one golf course for the rest of my life, this could be one I would choose. Located outside of Tralee town, it is an absolute gem designed by Arnold Palmer. This course is a tale of two nines with a relatively gentle and rolling front nine that leads into a back nine that snakes its way through towering dunes. My favorite holes being the 12th and 13th which is a long par 4 followed by a par 3 that is a complete carry over a grassy chasm hundreds of feet deep. I get teamed up with a father and son from Wales for my round and have the pleasure of having a caddie who is a 3 handicap at the club. He quickly learns that my game has many deficiencies and gets quite a few laughs as I beat the ball around in the rain. The finishing hole at Tralee is a par 5 that climbs to the clubhouse and provides a birdie opportunity to finish your round. Unfortunately for me, it is an opportunity missed.
After a night in Tralee, I head out to the Dingle Peninsula. This is an area of Ireland is one that I always make a point to visit. The town of Dingle is a fishing village that boasts a vibrant nightlife and some fantastic seafood restaurants. Heading past Dingle out to the end of the peninsula, you take a road called Slea Head Drive which provides views unparalleled anywhere in Ireland. Also located at the end of the Peninsula is the Dingle Golf Club. This 18 hole links course boasts to be the most westerly course in Europe. It is not a links you will see mentioned with Royal County Down or Ballybunion, but I find it a wonderful test of golf in a setting that truly makes you feel like you are in god’s country.
From Dingle, I made a stop at a little known 9 hole links course, Castlegregory Golf and Fishing Club. I catch a wonderful sunny day and this course is a hidden gem. After a relatively flat par 5 along a lake filled with swans, you head into the dunes and play 8 wonderful holes. The beach along the course is massive and filled with people enjoying one of the rare sunny days of the summer. I enjoy the round as the course provides two par 3’s around 200 yards as well as a couple of drivable par 4’s. Castlegregory is as fun a 9 as I have played to date. After speaking with some members I find out the course has gotten approval for another 9 holes so I look forward to a return visit in the future.
I spend the night in Castlegregory and it is a good choice as I have one of the most entertaining nights of my trip. I get to attend a fantastic music session that includes customers throughout the night singing and dancing about the club. It is a slice of life here in Ireland and one that makes a trip to this country so unique.
From Castlegregory, I take a ferry across the Shannon River and make my way to the Doonbeg Golf Club. Open for business in 2002, Doonbeg has already vaulted itself among Ireland’s top links courses. Designed by Greg Norman, Doonbeg provides one of the most complete golf experiences in Ireland. From the main road, you take a long driveway over a mile long to the clubhouse and lodge. You arrive under a large, stone archway into a courtyard where you a greeted by multiple representatives from Doonbeg. You are truly made to feel welcome. I am partnered with a father and 2 sons from Arizona for my round and they provide great company. We all struggle as there are 40-50 mph sustained winds and gusts to 65 mph. Even in such tough conditions it is tough not to enjoy the 18 holes Norman has laid out. It is a unique course that provides five par 5’s, five par 3’s and eight par 4’s. It is a course that forces you to use all the clubs in your bag as well as most of your balls. The first hole at Doonbeg is in my opinion the best opening hole I have ever played. It is a par 5 that plays out to a green surrounded by towering mounds on 3 sides giving it a sort of amphitheater feel. Doonbeg also has probably the toughest 100 yard par 3 you will ever play. The shot is directly into the wind as you are hitting straight out to the ocean. You have to hit the green as trouble surrounds all 4 sides and if you miss, you are almost guaranteed a 4 at best. After my round, I share a few pints with my new friends from Arizona and we look back on a tough but enjoyable round at Doonbeg.
I am off to Ballybunion tomorrow and will check back in a few days.
- MikeLink to this entry!!!!