Ireland Trip Report

Who: 8some from Buffalo NY, all golf buddies at Park CC, handicaps 0-3-4-5-8-11-15-17.
When: August 2017
Weather: Wonderful, 60 – 70 degrees , rain free 6 of 7 days

Our Course Rankings
1 –  Portrush Dunluce:  felt like a championship golf course, impeccable condition and the most difficult of the 8 courses we played. The 2 new holes (particularly the par 5 seventh hole) are a big improvement. This is a perfect venue for the 2019 British Open.

IMG_10801st hole at Portrush Dunluce

2 –  Royal County Down:  beautiful setting, course condition was OK but not as good as I’ve seen on previous Ireland trips. They should try to steal the Portrush grounds superintendent. The are finally getting a driving range. it will be adjacent to the 17th and 18th holes ( a 500 yard cart ride from the first tee) and is expected to open in 2018. We should have played Annesley for a 2nd round in a 36 hole day.

Ireland 052.JPG#9 at Royal County Down

3 –  Portstewart Strand: terrific golf entertainment. The wild and wooly front nine is most memorable.
The top 3 courses (Portrush, RCD, and Portstewart) were top shelf, world class golf. All deserve to be included in your bucket list.
4 –  Portrush Valley: easier than Dunluce. Makes for a relaxing 2nd round in a 36 hole day.

IMG_1094.JPGNew 7th hole Portrush Dunluce

5 –  County Louth: Interesting, well worth playing, rock hard greens require precise shot making.
6 –  Castlerock: hard to follow routing, fair course condition, some interesting holes. Worth playing because it is conveniently close to Portrush and Portstewart.
7 –  Ardglass: prettiest scenery, there are some exceptionally good holes along the water. However, much of the course felt like an amateur’s cow pasture. AVOID until Donald Trump buys this course and turns it into a Pebble Beach / Old Head rival.
8 –  Ballycastle: AVOID

Bushmills Inn may be the best buddy golf trip hotel in the world. Outstanding included breakfast, excellent restaurant, clubby bar, beautiful patio, and convenient location close to Portrush and Portstewart.  We took the Giant’s Causeway tour – very interesting and worth an hour of the groups time on the way to golf.  The group wasn’t as keen about the Bushmills Distillery tour.
Slieve Donard is 5 star hotel. Stay in one of the new spa rooms. Walk to Villa Vinci restaurant in Newcastle. VV was so good we ate dinner there twice. Make a reservation. Great food at very reasonable prices. The crab claw appetizer and lamb shank entrée are highly recommended.  AVOID the Percy French restaurant — food is adequate, service is slow, and prices are high
Our tour operator, Celtic Fairways, and their coach driver (John) did an excellent job for us.
LESSON: Irish golf is very penal due to pot bunkers, gorse, and knee high grass. The 1st commandment is HIT IT STRAIGHT off the tee. Fairways are rock hard and the ball runs forever. Even short hitters are long if they can land the ball in the fairway consistently (If you can’t, don’t go to Ireland)

Bandon Dunes July 18-22, 2008

CIMG2529 driver-on-par-3

8 players hailing from Buffalo, Cincinnati, Charleston, Houston, Salt Lake City, and Columbus GA.

Daily Routine for 5 days:
0600 get up
0700 shuttle to course and breakfast
0800 tee off
1230 lunch at the course
1330 tee off
1800 cocktails at Grove Cottage
2000 dinner
2200 go to bed

36 holes per day on same course worked well. Tee times at 8 and 8:10 with replays at 1:30 and 1:40 worked perfectly allowing an hour for lunch & recuperation.. Played BD-PD-BT-BD-PT rotation. One drawback to this rotation was that hole positions are rotated front-back-middle; so we were surprised by the same pin locations on days 4 and 5 at BD and PT. Lesson: don’t play same course 3 days later. If winds go over 35mph, play a Scramble.

Bets : $30 exposure/player/round. $20 on team bets; $10 on individual . 2 balls. Modified Stableford.

Greens are rock hard, no divot repair tools needed. Lies are very tight. Chipping and putting skill is crucial. Texas wedge and Scottish run up shots work best. Course routing is obvious and greens are straight forward with an occasional exception: Caddy isn’t essential.

Tough walks: hilly terrain with elevated tees and greens not close to each other. Rickshaw trolleys are free. Railroad tie walkways are wet and slippery in the AM: Be Careful!

Average Round: 4 & 1/2 hours — a good pace of play except for one 5 hour round stuck behind PGA wannabees. Marshalls are everywhere. Just keep up with the group ahead of you. Laser rangefinder very useful; most sprinkler heads are yardage marked.

Pacific Dunes: by far the hardest of the 3 courses. Bunkers and greens not in great condition. Windiest of the 3 courses. Most scenic course, ocean view holes are spectacular. 2 of our players ran out of balls.

Bandon Dunes: best of the 3 courses as rated by our 8 players, per summary below:

Course Rankings
Name w/handicap
Hen 5
Joe 13
Arch 4
Greg 5
Tony 10
Brad 6
Woody 4
Bob 7
Bandon Dunes
Bandon Trails
Pacific Dunes
Average Score

Bandon Trails: a pleasant surprise, an inland course with links style bunkers, with a nice variety of hard-easy golf holes and the best greens we played : a protected refuge from fierce afternoon winds.

We eschewed the black tees, and played the Greens on all 3 course. 6200 yards never played so long. A 4th course, Old MacDonald, opens in 2010.

Don’t go to Bandon Dunes unless you are a strong player. The short hitting slicer with a 20 handicap won’t enjoy the punishment. Must have a knock-down stinger in your arsenal. Trappers of the ball have much easier time here.

CIMG2566 trails-par3

4 in Lily Pond Rooms
4 in Grove Cottage

Lily Pond Rooms: upscale Holiday Inn, very comfortable, good beds, reasonable price. “We thought our rooms were great… until we saw where the Grove boys were staying”

Grove Cottage: outrageously expensive, top shelf accommodations, 4 of us deserved it!

Bottled Water is free at Lily Pond and Grove Cottage. Take a bottle in your bag. There isn’t much water on the courses. Refill your bottle at the rare water fountain to stay hydrated. Halfway house refreshments are available as well.

On site shuttle service is superb and very quick.

Practice Area: very large, but exposed to wind and not convenient to any first tee. We practiced briefly the day of our arrival. It was impractical to shuttle between practice area and golf course prior to any of our rounds.

Alaskan Air service from Portland to North Bend was excellent:: free beer, acceptable snacks and friendly staffers.

Connoisseurs Shuttle Service: 45 minute limo bus ride from North Bend to Bandon Dunes was excellent. Free beer and coffee included. Stopped for liquor and snacks in route. Grove Cottage has small refrigerator, no kitchen. Grove Cottage staff provided iced cooler for our drinks. Grove Cottage common room was perfect post round rally point for our group of 8. Taxi ride to town (Bandon) was $60.00.

3 restaurants on property: McKee’s Pub, The Gallery, and Bunker Bar all within wedge from each other. Food was good. Tasted like same chef was preparing food for all 3 restaurants. Breakfasts were the best. The 3 egg “meat lovers” omelet & 2-eggs w/ country sausage is especially recommended. Friendly, quick service was the rule.

Golfwear: Layer yourself. Very cold in AM required ski hat and windbreaker. Shorts + rain pants is a workable combo. Warms up mid first round such that if wind is down, shorts and golf shirt works. 65% wore slacks, 35% shorts. Never rained, thank GOD! It will be windier and colder than you expect..

Recommended Outfit: slacks, long sleeve undershirt (UnderArmor), golf shirt, sweater vest, and short sleeved rain shirt. Wear golf hat. Put ski hat and rain pants in your bag.

Must Bring: chapstick, sun screen, moisturizer to treat post round windburn

Overall Experience Rating: Very Good

large tony-hinge