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S for Solheim Cup

S for Solheim Cup

Unsurprisingly the Solheim Cup is my chosen subject for the letter S!

Some snippets to get your head around:

⛳The most caps for Solheim Cup Captaincy was Micky Walker who lead team Europe four times.

⛳The Captains aren’t alone.  Talking to Alison Nicholas recently, she told me of the vast team and organisation behind making the Solheim Cup successful every other year

⛳ The next Solheim Cup is to be played at Finca Cortesin, Costa del Sol.  It is the first time it will be played on Spanish soil

⛳ Arguably one of the driving forces behind the rise in popularity of watching women’s sport on television

⛳ Team USA have won the cup ten times as opposed to Team Europe’s 7 wins. 

⛳ Team Europe go into the 2023 Solheim Cup in Costa del Sol defending their title

⛳ The Solheim Cup is played every other year on odd years.  However, it started as an even year competition switching to odd years after play in 2002 at the Interlachen Club, Minnesota.  The following year, in 2003, it was held at Barsebãck Golf and Country Club in Sweden

⛳ This move was made as the Ryder Cup switched from odd to even years after the 2001 terrorist attacks.  The Ryder Cup competition moved to 2002, and thereafter played on even years

⛳ Scotland have hosted the Solheim Cup three times, Ireland once, Wales once, England never!

⛳ Ohio have hosted it twice at both the most recent event at the Inverness Club last year and at Muirfield Village in 1998

⛳85,000 course visits are predicted to visit the luxury site at Finca Cortesin, Costa del Sol next year

⛳ 75 hotels have been blocked out for the event, 30 official tour operators appointed, over 200 direct suppliers and with over 150 companies involved in hospitality, it is sure to be another great event under the Spanish sunshine in Andalusia

⛳ Don’t forget to book your tickets, or your favourite safe in front of the TV 18 to 24th September 2023

⁉️ Are you going?

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T for Tapas

T for Tapas

??Whilst visiting Cadiz I was served tapas – this wasn’t the first time I’d eaten such mouthwatering delicacies, but learning its story of evolution it’s one I’d like to share with you now.

?Cadiz is known for its sherry production in Spain.  The sweet syrupy liquid is served in bars up and down this region of Andalusia.  Being so sweet it attracted those annoying little fruit flies – the type that bug you but you can never seem to swipe!

The bartenders were getting a bit fed up with the flies spoiling their customers experience of the sherry so decided to put a piece of bread over the top of the glass, as a lid. 

?The word tapas comes from the Spanish word to cover – tapar

The thoughtful, maybe even entrepreneurial bartenders started to add salty ham, such as jamón ibérico or cheese to the bread which the clients willingly ate.  This salty food made them thirsty and so they would order more sherry.  A win win for the client and the bartenders – but a lose for the fruit flies!

Today tapas has evolved into a culinary art and can be found all around the world.

?Whilst visiting a pincho restaurant in Barcelona I was amazed by its selection.  Similar to tapas but you’d choose a skewer full of food or in some cases a bowl of food and took them to your table to enjoy.  At the end the waitress would count up the wooden skewers and charge you per skewer of food regardless of what was on it.  I loved that concept as you could choose exactly what you wanted.  The pincho restaurants are more common place in the North of Spain.

?Tapas can be hot or cold with favourites being Gambas al Ajillo (garlic shrimp), chorizo (hot or cold), hams and cheeses.  I’ve had frittata with tapas – an egg based dish finished off under the grill – not to be confused with a spanish tortilla which is similar to an omelette as it is flipped over and finished off on the stove top.

⁉️Whats the difference between tapas and Mezze? 

Tapas is usually served with a drink, whereas mezze is served as a course, maybe a starter or a pre-dinner course

?Tapas treats for us include olives, fresh bread, dipping olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a good selection of meat and cheese – we tend to do a cold tapas, but do sneak in some warm chorizo if feeling indulgent

⁉️What is your favourite tapas?

Most mages courtesy of @cadizturismo

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U for USA

U for USA

??With the USA offering over 40% of the worlds golf courses, its a mega golf destination.  So vast in its land mass that it is easier to break it down by state.  

⛳Unsurprisingly, Florida has the most golf courses racking up over 1300 public and private ones.  I’ve been to Florida  a few times, I’ve visited and played some golf in the beautiful Naples in the South and the historic St Augustine and Jacksonville in the North.  Also lots in between: Daytona and of the course the LPGA duo of courses.  Mid Florida for Streamsong, then towards Miami for the PGA National, famed for the Bear Trap, then Turnburry Isle and three of the courses at Doral, home of the Blue Monster. I’ve also played a few around Orlando, Reunion and Isleworth stand out.

There is little wonder that people gravitate to this state with its promise of sunshine and golf, who wouldn’t!  From what I’ve seen and played, Floridian golf does have its own genre of golf courses.  Generally the courses are pristine, white sands and the greenest of fairways immaculately manicured and tweaked within an inch of their life striving for perfection.  Not that I’m complaining about that!  Whilst I feel as though I’ve played a lot in Florida, there is more that I haven’t played, so watch this space! 

⛳I’ve also played golf in North and South Carolina, with the latter being home to Myrtle Beach with its 90 golf courses and of course also home to Kiawah Island.  

⛳Playing Alabama with the Robert Trent Jones (RTJ) Trail of 26 golf courses dotted around Alabama enables you to explore this southern state and enjoy their overriding hospitality and homely cooking. 

⛳Hawaii is an interesting place, have I played golf there? – nearly… We’d just flown in from Australia and had crossed the international date line.  We had no idea whether breakfast was dinner or whether day was night.  A few days settling into the time zone gave us time to explore.  I’d had a few hits of a golf ball but wasn’t into golf that much.  Arriving at a golf club we enquired about a game to be put off by its high prices – bearing in mind, I wasn’t really a golfer then, just dabbling.  Not to be deterred, we enquired about range balls – hum that was even out of our price range then too – so we had good intentions of playing golf in Hawaii, one day!  

⛳I’ve also played golf in Arkansas, again an interesting experience as not a state one would probably travel to from the UK, but a good honest offering was great and again a wonderful opportunity to explore another state.

⛳Do you have a state (or states) you want to explore for golf?

V for Verulam

V for Verulam

I’m not sure how many of you have played this neat 18 hole golf course, but when you do, go with an open mind – not just for the great parkland course, but for the history associated with the club itself.

⛳In 1905 this James Braid designed course opened it doors.  Located on the outskirts of St. Albans, Hertfordshire and within spitting distance of central London makes it a real find.  It was here that, on the pristine practice putting surface in front of the club house, someone told me I reverse putt, I didn’t even know what that meant, it was just the natural way for me – and I haven’t changed it since.  Sometimes you just have to go with what’s natural, albeit not always conventional!

⛳With the River Ver menacing in play for a few holes, water on others, nicely undulating often testing unseen greens make this, albeit relatively short off the back tees (6429 yards) a good all round course.  The forward tees measure 5689 yards.

One hole that stands out as quirky and one unusually you can see the green is the Road Hole, no.17.  Only measuring 127/90yards, this SI16/18 hole is a real test of nerve as you flip it over a wire fence, over the road then ask, no plead, the ball to stop and not roll forward on this big back to front green. 

‼️Never before than now has the health benefits of golf become more apparent.  However in the early nineteen hundreds, a now well known 50 year old man after struggling with a breakdown and more so its slow progress to recover, was handed the ‘pill of hope’.  The game of golf.  With little enthusiasm he took up the sport joining Verulam in 1909.  Two years later he was appointed Club Captain, and again in 1926 and 1927.

That man was Samuel Ryder.

?In 1926, played on the newly open East course at Wentworth, was a match between British and American professionals.  This was the forerunner to the Ryder Cup, not the inaugural Ryder Cup, as it became known later that five of the US team were not American born, four were British and one Australian.

Discussion in the clubhouse afterward with Ryder, Duncan, Mitchell and Hagen spurred the Ryder Cup as we know it today, the biennial competition.  The famous gold trophy was first aired at Verulam when Ryder entertained the 1927 UK team.  The first official Ryder Cup.

⛳Playing Verulam is like playing in the footsteps of one of the greatest and original golf influencers. 

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W for Wales

W for Wales

Probably the most understated golfing country in the UK.  With around 180 golf course, 23 of them are links.  National Parks and areas of outstanding beauty are an added attraction.  We only live an hour from South Wales, but even before we moved to this area, we were enjoying golf in Wales with our fist trip to Pyle and Kenfig and Royal Porthcawl.  Both lovely course in their own right.  Pyle and Kenfig is a nice combination course and Royal Porthcawl is as good as any links in Scotland or Ireland.  When I was golf tour operating, I often put clients into Wales, staying in Swansea and travelling to the various local courses of Pennard or Langland Bay both with stunning views over the Gower peninsular or slightly further afield to Southerndown a good hill top downland course which plays like a links and with sheep grazing and views across Ogmore by Sea.  Ogmore was a childhood haunt for me.  It was a great place for sand sledging with my boisterous older brothers and fraught mother chasing us naughty children as we jumped on board the sledge (or each other) bombing down the dunes.  At that time we lived in a pub, so we used to steal (sorry borrow) the metal trays for our sledges.  With legs and arms flaying and heaps of laughter we came crashing to a halt at the bottom of the dunes, eager to do it all again.

In South Wales we also have the renowned Celtic Manor with its three golf courses including the Twenty Ten home of the 2021 Ryder Cup and various levels of accommodation.  Other course I’ve played in South Wales are Newport, an established tree lined course of note, St Pierre, a 4* Marriott Resort hotel with two golf courses on site, Rolls of Monmouth, once owned by the Rolls Royce family, a wonderfully hilly course to play and The Vale another stay and play 4* hotel also with two good golf courses on site.

The other Royal golf course of Wales is Royal St Davids.  With Harlech Castle on one side and the ocean the other its sure to satisfy the links junkie.  Porthmadog is another great place to play with sand dunes and surprisingly great holes with far reaching views.  Further inland we have the Vale of Llangollen, set in the vale between the hills a very pleasing and friendly course.  Welshpool might be a bit of a love it or hate it course.  I loved it with its blind shots and quirky holes, make it an interesting place to visit.

And a little further North we have Conwy, another stunning links with Llandudno (Maesdu) and North Wales across the road from each other make this trip a great little trio of challenges.  Heading east, towards Liverpool we have Abergele, one not to be missed and easily tagged on into or out of England to this part of Wales.

This quick scoot around Wales does have gaps – maybe this year we can plug those gaps and share even more great experiences with you?

W is also for weekend, and as it is Saturday, unlike last years A to Z, I plan to take Sundays off.  So join me again on Monday for Letter V – one you won’t be disappointed with.  For those of you playing this weekend, play well and enjoy.

This article is part of the golf plus series we are running to celebrate our newly renamed instagram account TLG.golfplus

We’d love to connect with you.

Sarah & Steve

X for No Score!!

X for no score‼️

The one thing you don’t want to see on your score card

It could be a hole that you usually play well or even one that you don’t and have developed a bit of a fear for?  Either way it turns out to be an X on the card.

❓How many times has that happened to you?

Last week I played and got an X on the final hole.  Bit annoying really as the final hole was actually the 19th, with the 10th being out of action.  A short par 3 uphill to a hidden shallow green was one I’d never played before and didn’t really know the distance.  I was just starting to get into my game too by by going par, par, par, par on what would normally be the closing four holes. 

Then na na na na 19 ?  came along, I went way too long and had to chip back onto the shallow green. Some poor putting, which had been pretty solid up until that point, meant I ended up with 33 stableford points.  I guess on a cold winters day that wasn’t too bad, except someone else had 33 points too and yep, you guessed it my 19th hole X meant I didn’t get the win on count back. ?

In the UK we tend to call a no score a blob, but nada, no score, X or anything else is the same annoying result. It just isn’t pretty and can be a real card wrecker!!

❓What do you call your no score on a hole – keep it clean!!

This article is part of the golf plus series we are running to celebrate our newly renamed instagram account TLG.golfplus

We’d love to connect with you

Sarah & Steve

Y for You Tube

Y for You Tube

You Tube – friend or a foe?

As we hit a landmark 2K subscribers to our Travelling Lady Golfer You Tube channel yesterday, Y for You Tube seems appropriate to have this discussion.

Our YT channel has been going for about 2 years, with a massive hole in its content due to – yep you’ve guessed it – Covid.

Both Steve and I work on You Tube content and production.  In the past he has been the cameraman and production and I’ve been front of camera, possibly as I don’t mind making a fool of myself and happy to show my somewhat erratic golf!  But with the newly refurbished, upgraded and regurgitated us, we are going to be flipping that camera around this year… maybe… hopefully…

In our ‘Girls Day Out’ features we do course reviews by women with more in this series coming this year too.  We invite golfers to join us and are very much looking forward to working with both male and female golfers of all abilities and ages this year too, so get in touch if you want in.  We also show, as the name suggests, some great places to visit for your golf.  

Being a golf plus channel, we will show you gastronomy, sightseeing, accommodation – pretty much anything we are shown, we share with you so you can make you own choices.  We don’t sell anything except ideas which costs you the grand sum of 5 to 10 minuets of your time to watch our videos.

From a personal perspective, we have found You Tube to an invaluable source of entertainment and information – its our go to channel if we want to know how to fit new seals to the landrover windows, or pick up some putting drills, it has it all.

You Tube is my go to for Yoga – Ha! a double Y – Yoga on You Tube.  I started doing weekly yoga in a class for and hour and half and whilst I loved it, I just didn’t seem to have the concentration to switch off for that long.  The relax period at the end was met by my fidgeting body and twitching hands and feet wanting to get up and get on. So I stopped the class and found @adrienelouise aka ‘Yoga with Adriene’ on You Tube.  I do one of her classes 3 or 4 times a week and feel great for it.  I even did her 30 day challenge!  Yoga helped me though a rotator cuff injury sustained as I bumped Micky Mouse style step by step down a flight of stairs jolting my arm on route . I could barely lift my arm above my head, now I have full rotation once again. Yoga is seriously good for golfers – in fact Adriene does one just for golfers, if you’re interested?

You Tube has been my friend, it has helped me show you some great, some ugly and some funny content, I also watch a number of golf channels, not all big names, in fact mostly they aren’t big names but they are real and I love YT for that

Please subscribe if you like watching our channel

What do you think to You Tube – Friend or Foe?

Z for Zanzibar

Z for Zanzibar

Is Zanzibar the perfect destination for golfing and non golfing families?

Off the coast of Tanzania on the East side of Africa in the Indian Ocean we have not one but two islands making up Zanzibar.  Unguja, often called Zanzibar is the main island and the one we visited. The other being Pemba Island.

Initially based @seacliffzanzibar we were greeted by friendly staff as we exited our taxi weary after travelling.  Seacliff with its 120 rooms and stocked fridges of fresh water and juice was just 45 minutes from the airport, far enough to not get airplane distractions and close enough to be achievable after a long haul flight.  This seafront hotel was as welcoming as the ever present waves on the shoreline. 

You’re on holiday with the family, and the urge to play golf has not subsided in fact it has become irritating as you yearn to hit that little white ball once more.  Then you’re in luck, as the only golf course in Zanzibar is here too!  We found getting up reasonably early playing golf then wandering back to the resort for a late breakfast/brunch worked perfectly for us and set us up for a day of adventure or relaxation.   This nine hole Peter Matkovich design is a good test and certainly keeps your hand in whilst on holiday. 

Playing in such tropical surroundings, palm trees, birds singing and the sea lapping in the distance lends to the relaxed golf you’d want from your holiday.  Holes with mounds in the middle of narrow fairways call for sensible club choice off the tees.  Achievable par 3’s and a finishing hole to die for as you shoot from an elevated tee box to the expanse of green just short of the white sands and the Indian ocean.

Afterwards, in the club house grab a big drink of anything cold or with ice and relax watching the waves cascade up the shore.  Fans whirling overhead keeping the air from becoming static.  A quick drop into the air conditioned pro shop with the pretence of buying something as you cool down.  Elias and his helpful calming presence and ever present smile shows you the colourful displays of Seacliff branded polo shirts.  Chat with the golf pro, Stanley or maybe book a lesson with him.  Golf Clubs are available to use at the resort, but it has to be said they are a cobbled bunch of misfits that do the job. 

From that same beach you can watch the horses come down the hill willingly taking their riders into the water for a cool dip.  Or hire a catamaran and take on those waves as you bob along dipping your feet into the sea.

A great restaurant where no request was too much plus the beach side dining has never been so good.  Only made better when I was given the opportunity to make Zanzibar pizza with the local chef on the beach.  Racing the sunset, filming aided by mobile phone torches gave us some great alternative footage and of course a tasty little treat at the end of the toil.  Not that cooking on a beach was toil!

Visit Stone Town itself, a colourful historic Capital; stay at Jafferji Hotel and Spa to soak up the authentic atmosphere in the centre of Stone Town.  Queen fans can visit the Freddie Mercury museum located in his home prior to moving to England.  Day trips could include visiting Jozani Forest. Organised walking tours around this small National Park to see the red monkey – the only place in the world who have the colobus red monkey.  Take the well trodden spice trail to enjoy the local produce of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper it must have been a hotly contested place to be during the trading years.  Then relax aboard a sunset dhow cruise to end your day.

Interested, we have a video on You Tube called ‘Zipping up Zanzibar’.  Link in Bio.

Contact me if you have any questions

This post represents the GolfPlus we plan to bring you to enjoy.

The Power of Golf Charity Days

With fewer tin rattlers outside the supermarkets and on the high streets and with the desire for golfers to get out and play some different golf courses, are charity golf days the perfect combination for a win win?

Sarah Forrest explores three very different golf courses in aid of charity.   She catches up with the organisers to seek the truth about the true worth of this income stream.

Edgbaston Golf Course,

A beautiful established parkland course in Birmingham, an oasis golf course is amongst the hustle and bustle of a busy metropolitan area.   A good golf course with undulations to consider, target greens and amazing playing conditions.  In aid of The Albion Foundation, the official charity linked to West Bromwich Albion Football club.  They use the power of football, to give back to the community.  Intrinsic with the local area is their desire to make a positive difference, growing and fulfilling potential in local people of all ages, gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic backgrounds. Golf sits well with the foundation’s ethos of their three key areas; Wellbeing, Behaviour Change and Active Lifestyles.

Is golf therefore the Ying to footballs Yang with the added bonus of playing a great course in excellent condition to benefit the foundation?

Spokesperson Ben Gregory-Rigg says “Obviously the golf days are a great opportunity for fundraising, which we rely on as a charity, but it is great to also demonstrate how the financial donations lead to benefitting our work in the local community.”

Lanhydrock Hotel and Golf Club

A three star hotel with 18 holes of golf on site make this a good place to rest your head with a not so typical resort course.   Lanhydrock is a good all round golf course.  It meandered its way around the landscape with ease playing well, albeit tight in places with fairly generous greens.  72 golfers decended upon this venue in aid of Prostate cancer

John Ogden aka Big Oggie a passionate man demonstrated an aptitude for being able to morph into a variety of roles to make the day the success it was.  More a friends and family golf day, it operated and felt like one big family.  You Tubers Rogue Golfers were on hand with cameras to make their contribution and John himself had cameras poised at every opportunity.  With the inner performer sometimes taking over the ability to play golf coupled with such quirks as ‘nearest the surfboard’, made for a fun day.   With golfers travelling from as far as the North of England and enjoying family holidays on the back of the golf day pretty much summed up the event.  John has a story to tell; his father passed away with prostate cancer and his brother is currently undergoing treatment.  Whilst raising funds for the charity was fundamental to the days success, being able to offer the golfers a fun day out was also forefront of John’s mind, who says “Cancer in all its forms visits our lives and changes them for ever – the circle is complete if we all do our bit’

Mannings Heath Golf and Wine Estate, West Sussex

Having the opportunity to stay in the on-site 17th century Fullers Cottage with its perfect location just a short walk to the clubhouse.   The golf day itself carried a hard hitting message – Slip! Slap! Swing!  Highlighting the need for golfers to cover up in the sunshine.  More than just golf, the Melanoma Fund had skin cancer specialists on hand giving private screenings.  The lighter side of golf day was more than catered for with Jeremy Dale engaging and cajoling the 60 strong golfers with ease.  With big elevation changes, up and down the golf course went, meeting up with legendary Paul Way for the par 3 5th as the beat the pro.  Got to say I loved that hole, a punchbowl green, rubbish left, hills right there’s only one way – forward. 

Spokesperson Michelle Baker, not a golfer herself, but now a possible convert, citing her enjoyment of all things golf says “having run the Melanoma Fund for the last 8 years, my work has become more of a vocation than a job, and it’s a cause that I feel very passionate about.  Raising awareness of cancer in itself is very fulfilling, and creating impact around prevention to those at the highest risk, such as those in sport, marries with my love of the great outdoors.”

This inaugural golf day attracted 60 golfers from all over the UK.

On a mission to keep skin cancer off the fairways, Slip Slap Swing is gaining momentum with each passing season.

Three very different golf courses, three very different charities.  Match this with the golfers desire to play different golf courses is surely a win win.

But what of the earnings?  Some may baulk at the cost to attend a charity golf day.  I would urge golfers to take stock and accept it isn’t all about the golf, it is much more than that.  Golfers can play different courses, meet new friends, and be part of something much bigger by simply participating

Earnings averaged out over the three golf days to be £5,000 each – these much needed funds will be well spent to better ours, our neighbours and our loved ones lives.

Sarah is the Travelling Lady Golfer

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Navigating Northern Ireland

One of the worlds golfing mecca’s with big named golf course to play but what else can you do?

Sarah Forrest gives an account of her first experience of Northern Ireland recently.

A quick and easy flight to Belfast airport makes Northern Ireland a real option for a golf or family holiday.

Having a private tour by black cab around Belfast regaling tales, possible tall tales! of the city opens you’re eyes to what you can do whilst there.  Culminating in lunch at the Drawing Room where the Titanic and many more were designed.  With as much attention to detail to the food was most likely given to the ships designs, the meal was a nice break in our sightseeing day.  Across the road is the imposing purpose built Titanic Belfast museum.  Insights into the lives of the dock workers to the first class passenger experience was exciting and well delivered in an easy to understand, and importantly, not boring way!

Drawing Room Restaurant, Titanic Hotel Belfast

A whistle stop tour and one night in Belfast we stayed at the Ten Square Hotel.  A nice comfortable 4* hotel in the thick of things and well located for our evening meal at Deanes Meat Locker.  The Meat Locker is part of a trio of restaurants in a row, each serviced by their own chef, offering grill, seafood and modern European food options.

The next day, I was playing in the Pro-Am for the ISPS Handa World Invitational at Galgorm Castle. The first tournament of its kind in the Northern Hemisphere being hosted by Modest!  An early tee-time meant no breakfast being available at Ten Square.  What a treat to play with Cheyenne Knight of the USA, a great golfer with an understanding of the Great British humour.  

Galgorm is about 40 mins outside Belfast and no stranger to big events with the Northern Ireland Open and the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. The golf course is a pretty, established parkland course, with water and trees in play, large receptive greens and a fair number of dog legs.  The greens were some of the best I’ve played this year. Forward tee stats 5559 yards, par 72.  Back tee stats 7105 yards par 70.

With more golf on offer our next stop was Castlerock Golf Club playing the Mussenden links course.  I do love my links golf and Castlerock didn’t disappoint either with its luna landscape appeal.  The River Bann waterway dissects the course at strategic intervals.  Keeping the ball in play was essential whilst most of the rough was OK, in places it was hard to find the ball in the long sweeping grass.  I really liked the way the fairways shaped around the natural terrain leading you forward and eager to move onto the next hole.  Castlerock didn’t confuse you by showing you all of its tricks in one glance, more of a gradual ‘lull you in’.  The par 3’s were of particular interest, all different and not all the highest stroke indexes ether!  Couple the waterways with the luna links style play in inevitable changing weather makes Castlerock a great choice for a tough game, which, if you do master,  will reward you accordingly.   Forward tee stats 5879 yards, par75.  Back tee stats 6780 yards Par73

Staying at the 5* Blackrock B&B in Port Stewart for a few nights meant we could try more than the usual fry-up for breakfast – and what a great selection there was.  Nicola, the owner, was attentive from start to finish she even helped us with evening meal bookings and places to visit, she really did go over and above the norm to make us feel welcome.  Blackrock has ocean views with further views towards Portrush beach and golf course.  Instead of trying to sell every room as a bedroom and squeeze more guests in, Nicola has made the decision to give the guests a spacious relaxing experience with two sitting rooms and a balcony area to enjoy.  One sitting room has an honesty box for drinks and an enviable whiskey (plus) selection for all to be enjoyed in comfort, in or out of your room.

Next stop, Port Stewart Golf Club where we played the Strand course.  More of a commercial set up but with the same friendly Irish welcome.  There are three golf courses at Port Stewart, with The Strand being the home of the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.  As you drive into the carpark, you’ll notice the road continues to a huge beach off to your right. A drive on beach was clearly popular with locals and visitors alike.  The first tee box is elevated and takes in that vista view across the Atlantic Ocean before your eyes are drawn down the fairway.  The sand dunes are in play, go over if you’re brave, but I speak with knowledge, you cant go through!   The fairways neatly sit amongst the high dunes scoping out the way ahead.  Be prepared to climb hill and dale, but don’t forget to enjoy the views when you’re up high.  Whilst the course took on more of a manicured look, it certainly wasn’t forgiving if slightly off target.  We played in a 2 club wind that day.  With upturned saucer greens which let the ball trickle back to your feet for the less committed golfer.  A beautiful undulating golf course where you seem to be in a world of your own until you’re suddenly walking up 16 towards the club house.  It did occur to me that maybe 17 and 18 had been simply added on or slotted in to make up the 18, but the par 4/5 17th and par 4 18th were no less challenging.  I felt that the front nine was different to back nine with the back nine being more open space. Forward tee stats 5867 yards, par 73.  Back tee stats 7094 yards Par72

Two links, both different, and one parkland course made this a special golf trip in itself, but that’s not all..

Where to eat?

Staying in Port Stewart we had dinner at Tides Restaurant, a short walk from Blackrock B&B. A family restaurant in a cafe style with views across the ocean. Eighteen Ninety Four restaurant in contrast was located upstairs at Port Stewart golf club.  With out being silly prices the food was as good as fine dining.  Our final choice was a bit of a random one, but a great alternative; Ocho, a Spanish tapas restaurant which was really tasty food served with atmosphere, despite being in a temporary location.

What to do when your not playing golf in Northern Ireland?

With such natural beauty all along the Antrim coast it was difficult to get it all in.  A bucket list UNESCO site is the Giant’s Causeway, the short walk from the new visitor centre opened up gradually over three bays.  Each bay exuding natural beauty, with the rock formations taking on the famous hexagonal shapes leading to Giants Causeway.   Then you get to the final bay and its there, spread out in front of you like a dogs tongue lapping at the water.  A brisk walk back up the other side of the bays left us feeling exhilarated as we looked down upon the patchwork quilt of this natural phenomenon.

Driving along the coastal route, you can’t help but notice a huge imposing building.  Naturally curiosity got the better of us, so we stopped at Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne just near Castlerock.  Perched atop a 120ft cliff top, you can image the  framed views from the large expanse of windows.  Now in a derelict state, it does get the juices going as to what it’d be like to have lived in such a place.

We did a fair amount of spec sightseeing, but our final booked activity was from Ballintoy Harbour.  Ballintoy is the cutest harbour you can image.  It reminded me very much of the small harbours around Cornwall which I loved exploring as a kid.  Ballintoy carries recent history as the scene from Game of Thrones.  Maybe I should be ashamed of this, but I’ve never seen Game of Thrones!

But I have been, seen and experienced Ballintoy in the best way possible – by Ocean Kayak.  Great fun as we set off and out of the cutest harbour in history into the open water with the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge as our destination.  Easy paddling, wind and current with us, it didn’t take too long until we reached the rope bridge suspended between two huge rock faces.  Currently closed due to covid, we were at peace as we gently kayaked into the small beach underneath.   Ambling across the narrow beach, Kayak in tow, we set off to return to Ballintoy.

That’s when the fun started – the nice wind, gentle current and easy paddling going over was reversed, the wind had got up, there was even spots of rain – and it was tough – I mean really tough for someone used to wielding a golf club at best and tapping on a key board at worst!  Grit and determination set in, and with bitesize strategic landmarks to conquer, we made it back safely.  Blisters on both thumbs and a huge smile told the story.  However, watching me ungainly disembark from that Kayak was a sight to behold, my legs had gone wobbly and I flopped out like the proverbial beached whale!

A loaded hot chocolate and a quick dash back to Belfast airport to catch the plane home finished off our trip to Northern Ireland.  What a place! 

Loads of memories, tick lists achieved and more to show you on youtube.

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Sarah Forrest is a 12 handicap golfer who is a member at Cleeve Hill GC.  

Sarah is the Travelling Lady Golfer

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Carnoustie Country – Golf and More

As the fickle eye of golfers flit around the world following one tour to the next, adding more exceptional golf courses to their ever growing bucket list to play, eyes will soon come to rest on Carnoustie in Angus for the AIG Womens Open.

But before we make a bee line to Carnoustie Championship; a wonderfully challenging links course in its own right, maybe we can stop and take stock of what we might be missing on route?

Driving over the bridge from Fife, you’re in Carnoustie Country.  Into the upcoming yet relatively understated city of Dundee, the forth largest city on Scotland.  Recent additions to help Dundee grow into a tourist attraction are the likes of the imposing and uniquely designed V&A museum.  The first design museum outside London stands proudly on the riverside. Dundee is cited as having some the friendliest people, it is hardly surprising it is in the 84th percentile of safe cities.  Roots in jute (for ropes), jam and journalism, shows its diversity as a destination with a unique and evolving heritage.

Before you leave the bosom of Dundee, eager to play some golf, try one called Downfield – a  good challenging 18 hole championship parkland course to break you in.  With the rush to play sea side courses, neat parkland course like Downfield often get overlooked, but for a good all round experience of Scottish golf, moreover golf in Carnoustie Country, give it a go!

Along the coastline the golf offering is as diverse as it is challenging with the likes of Monifieth, Panmure and into Carnoustie itself before travelling a little further North to Montrose.  Monifieth Medal with its 6 opening holes following the railway line are a wake up call to links golf.  Panmure screams deep rooted history, playing those first few holes lull you into a false sense of security before it spits you out on the 18th for being too complacent!  Carnoustie has three courses, but the most iconic one is the Championship course, with such known holes as ‘spectacles’ and of course the iconic closing holes of 17 and 18.  Buddon and Burnside are also good golf courses and compliment the championship without challenging its strength.  They certainly aren’t the ugly sisters of the mighty Championship course.

On route to Montrose, call off at Arbroath, home of the Arbroath smokies.  Still a thriving industry of dried haddock with a freshness of taste to die for.  You can see the wood smoking kilns where freshly caught fish is being dried.   You can even request vacuum packed fish to delight your relatives back home, if you can resist opening it up before getting home!

Montrose 1562 course is a delight.  For your first game you are not aware of its splendour until you finish hole one and the sea views open up as you walk over the crest to tee box number two.  Even though I’ve played Montrose more than once, that moment never fails to surprise and delight me.  

What else can you do in Carnoustie Country – Glamis Castle is an interesting place to visit.  The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret shared a common love of Glamis, and you can see why with its historic links and chic opulence.

With so many stunning beaches and myriad of open spaces, even the family is catered for when visiting. 

Who can resits an ice cream on the beach, or better still go for freshly picked Scottish raspberries in the sweet creamy Cranachan, but don’t forget to ask one without whisky for the children!

Sarah Forrest

aka Travelling Lady Golfer

Guess the Link

Two images but how are they related?

1.  The amazing Silver wear proudly displayed at one golf club the other is an image of another famous golf course.

But what’s the link?

One name, one man

2.  Whilst not the same course, they are within 10 minutes of each other by car

3. The man who links these two pictures played only a few British courses.

4.  A private man known as Wee Ice Mon to the locals

5. Reputed to have changed the spec of a golf green to suit his practice and prepare him for faster greens

Go to Golf Guru Group Blogspot for more clues and the answer

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