Choose Ireland for your golf and you’ll find the ever coveted hidden gems, Ok they might not be the shiny ones to bling up your fingers but they are worth the trip with heritage and long associations to golf.
Visiting Ireland last month I arrived into Dublin Airport and drove a couple of hours up through Northern Ireland and into the most northerly part of the Republic of Ireland; Donegal. Driving is a great way to see somewhere and the whole trip opened my eyes to landscapes and scenery befitting a well thumbed through coffee table book. Coming from England, the drive was an easy one, the roads are the same as in the UK, the signage clear and a sat nav to aid the way for a pleasant trip. I’ve never been to Northern Ireland before, certainly I know the names of the places, but never actually set foot in this part of the UK. It caught me off guard when the speed signs changed from KM/hour to miles/hour as I drove into Northern Ireland though. Money was another one. Now who can’t call off at local bakery and get a potato cake – so I did in one of the picturesque border villages for breakfast. “That’s £1.50” said the cheerful lady behind the counter, ‘but I’ve only got euros with me’ I exclaimed thinking I’m not going to get my lovely warm potato cake– Oh that’s OK we take Euros or pounds came back the reply. These people are so accommodating, and I think she knew I’d do a runner if she didn’t give me my potato cake. I’ve no idea what the exchange rate was, I didn’t really care. I got my lovely warm potato cake. I was happy.
Off the beaten track – in fact the sat nav had a habit of doing this aided by my ignorance of the geography of Ireland, I think it had been programmed by Failte Ireland so visitors see as much as they can – and it worked, I welcomed the unspoilt Ireland, even at that time of the year it is beautiful. Even the sheep looked content munching away on the lush green grass!
First stop, Rosapenna where I pitched my metaphorical tent and checked into this family run golf resort on the bay. To be fair the outside of the hotel building was a little ‘corporate’ so I expected it to be similar inside, you know ‘one size fits all’ kind of rooms-this was not at all. They bucked the trend at Rosapenna by increasing the room’s sizes from 3 to 2 thereby loosing rooms but gaining a better quality and size of room, building into this new space character.
The restaurant and generous sized room overlooked the bay but my beautiful and tasty candle lit dinner for one was a little wasted on me. Rosapenna opened its arms to me, and I fully embraced the warmth and sincere welcome received from the freshly baked biscuits in the room to the two 18 hole
and one 9 hole golf courses. I played Sandy Hills with one of the members – this was something the Irish do very well, in my job I often play golf by myself, in Ireland they would not hear of such a thing and always paired me with members or with staff so I could enjoy the golf courses. A luna landscape links course, Sandy Hills invites you to crack a straight drive down the centre of the fairway and envelopes around you softly encouraging you to enjoy the course. A sunny yet cold and windy day open to ocean scenes is this elevated golf course in great condition despite the wet winter. Testimony to this well maintained course was a temporary green which had been laid to give the new green chance to settle, the temporary green was as good and some of the main greens at other golf courses I’ve visited. Needless to say the green staff were part of the family.