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July 2, 2020 | Guest post by: Tom Cotter
Ireland is one of the most popular countries in the world when it comes to overseas golf visitors. World-famous names such as Ballybunion Golf Club, Royal Portrush, Portmarnock, and Old Head Golf Links attract tens of thousands of golfers each year to Irish shores. Whilst many golf enthusiasts may have heard of these courses, significantly more simply just don’t know where to begin when thinking about organizing their trip. Here are the top five tips to consider when starting to plan.
The best time of the year to play golf in Ireland is between early May and the end of September. The summer months have longer drier days and the growing conditions are most conducive to golf. However, during the peak of the summer, and in particular from late August to mid-September, Ireland is exceptionally busy with overseas golfers, particularly from North America. Acquiring a tee time during these months can be extremely difficult to almost impossible due to the demand. Many of the premium golf courses in Ireland are booked 12-18 months in advance of play such is their popularity so bear this in mind. That said, the shoulder months of the season can be very pleasant. Late April and early May, as well as late September into the beginning of October, see fewer crowds, better availability, and oft-times better rates. For those of you thinking of planning a trip around the weather, don’t, it’s simply impossible to predict the weather in Ireland. Whilst June is statistically the driest month of the year, the best way to think of, and describe the Irish weather is simply, ‘unpredictable’!
Once you have established your travel dates, the next question is, where to play? Ireland is a small country approximately the size of the state of Maine so you would think that it is very easy to navigate. However, as anyone who has been to the country will tell you, Irish roads are certainly not conducive to those of you in a hurry. What can on a map look like a straightforward journey between golf courses and hotels, can often result in a 2-3 hour commute, so you must take professional advice in planning your trip. We strongly recommend that you try to stick as closely as possible to just one region of Ireland for your first trip to minimize your driving time. The following are the most popular regions: -
The South-West: is centered around the incredibly popular tourist town of Killarney in County Kerry. The courses at Waterville, Ballybunion, Tralee, and Dooks are all within a short hour and a half drive making this one of the few great golf and accommodation hubs in Ireland.
Northern Ireland: The north of Ireland has grown in popularity for golf visitors almost exponentially since the turn of the millennium in parallel with the rise of Rory McIlroy. It’s unsurprising really when you consider that the region has the world No.1 golf course in Royal County Down and the 2019 ‘Open Championship’ venue in Royal Portrush. Add on the fabulous Portstewart, Castlerock, and Ardglass golf clubs to that rota and it’s not difficult to understand why Northern Ireland has become just so popular.
The Greater Dublin: region alone contains some of Ireland’s most famous golf courses. Portmarnock Golf Club, The Royal Dublin Golf Club, and The Island are all within a short drive of the city and have hosted many professional tournaments. If you include the County Louth Golf Club (Baltray) which is a 45-minute drive north, and The European Club, one hour to the south, you have a fabulous week of golf to enjoy.
The North-West of Ireland: is continuously growing in golf popularity. Comprising of the beautiful counties of Donegal, Sligo, and Mayo this is part of Ireland is a hidden golfing gem. The beautiful links courses of Rosapenna, Ballyliffin, Portsalon, Carne, and Enniscrone are amongst some the most revered in Ireland, and their reputations are growing on the international stage every year.
Once you have chosen your region, the next decision is around lodgings. One of the unique features of the Irish accommodation sector is our lack of international brands such as Hilton, Marriott, and Ritz Carlton for example. The overwhelming majority of the Irish sector is comprised of indigenous hoteliers, many of whom are running properties that have been in their own families for several generations. This is pretty unique, but also greatly adds to the experience and hospitality you receive as the owners have a real vested interest in your stay. Ireland has a broad array of accommodation options, from homely Bed & Breakfasts or Guesthouses, through to luxury 5* hotels and private castles. The key to a successful Ireland golf trip is to plan your tee times and accommodations in such a way to minimize your time on the road between one course and the next. This is where a professional golf tour operator is worth their weight in gold and will not only save you time during the planning stage but will allow you to maximize your time while there.
As we alluded to above, Ireland is well known for its inconsistent weather patterns, and as a result, golfers can quite often be exposed to the worst of Mother Nature. Our key tip is to pack plenty of thin layers. It is unusual for a day to be a complete washout in Ireland, but regular rain showers can occur, and when they do it is always better to be ready to add or remove a layer as necessary. We recommend wearing a good, warm, long-sleeved base layer on all days. Cover this with a short-sleeved polo shirt and have a light sweater on hand just in case the temperature drops. A good set of waterproof rainwear is an absolute must, so invest wisely in this, because on the majority of links golf courses, there is always a breeze, and amid a squall, your average umbrella will become as useful as a chocolate teapot. For these reasons, we also recommend that golfers take at least two pairs of golf shoes with them. If one pair needs to dry out overnight, being able to put your feet into a dry pair will be a godsend!
Irrespective of the location you choose, the number of friends you travel with, or the duration of the trip, the top tip for a golf vacation in Ireland is to hire a vehicle and local driver. Irish roads are notoriously narrow and, in some places, one car can't pass another on a country lane. So, we highly recommend that you hire a chauffeur for the duration of your golf trip. Not only will they remove the stress of driving from you (on the wrong side!), but you can also really enjoy those post-round libations safe in the knowledge that you will not be putting anybody at harm on the roads. A good driver will also point out the sights and scenery, get you to where you need to be on time, and will become your unofficial tour guide for the duration. Years of experience tell us, that this choice above all others, will make your golf trip infinitely more enjoyable.
A golf trip to Ireland is a fabulous experience, and for many people, it is a true bucket list experience. For that reason, it is worthwhile seeking out a professional golf tour operator to design and plan your itinerary to maximize your time and money.
About the author
Tom Cotter is the owner of The Consummate Pro Golf & Travel, a professional golf tour operator based in Belfast, Northern Ireland with over 25 years' experience in designing and delivering world-class experiences in Ireland.Back to overview
We are Jacob and Taylor. Travel is our passion and we love sharing our experiences here at The Travelling Souk. Our hope is that you would be inspired by this little blog to try something new, embrace an adventure, and live life to the fullest.