Planning the Solo Ireland Golf Trip

I just finished the Tom Coyne trilogy and A Course Called Ireland had my mind focused on a week of golf in Ireland in the distant future. About the same time, we booked our usual summer trip to Toronto to visit family and it occurred to me that YYZ likely had a direct to Ireland. Sure enough, I found a Toronto to Dublin redeye on Aer Lingus for under $1,000 in less than 6 hours. Being just two months out, I sent out emails to my list of dream Irish links courses – Royal County Down, Carne, Ballybunion, Old Head, Enniscrone, Lahinch, European Club, Portmarnock, Tralee, Donegal, and one gorgeous inland track, Adare Manor. Luckily, flying solo upped my chances as one guy is easier to fit on the tee sheet versus one foursome or one bus load.

The emails started to trickle back with a mix of “we have one spot we can offer you” or “members only on Wednesdays.” The first batch of yes emails was thrilling but no sane itinerary could be built as finding three tee times, three days in a row, in the same general part of the country, was looking like an uphill par-5 into the wind.

Old Head was a no, which was probably a blessing as there isn’t another course within a couple of hours. (Even though it was in my top 3.)

I screwed up the date on the Royal County Down website and begged via email for any time in the following three days, but not a word. The European Club had a spot but the Island was booked. Just 1 for 3 for the “Within 90 Minutes of Dublin” itinerary.

The Carne online reservation system did not like the length of my address so I was stuck there but Enniscrone had a spot. I could add Donegal or hit one of the Dublin courses on the way in or out of town, but Carne was the crown jewel so I moved on.

I tried to find something near Old Head again. Waterville? Then maybe Ballybunion? Still no Old Head tee time so it was moot anyway.

Then Lahinch came through. One slot on my last day. Moments later, my email welcomed a Ballybunion tee time. One slot on Day 1.  Okay, those were remotely close to one another (although nowhere near Dublin) so I pulled the trigger and tried in vain to explain to my wife how lucky I was and why this was cool. I sounded like I was applying to colleges, every day telling her where I was accepted to and where I wasn’t. I got a no from the Ivy League but got into Stanford and Georgetown. I was just waiting to hear on one last one, Notre Dame, of course. Notre Dame was Tralee. It was “Members only on Wednesdays” and my itinerary was crushed. I could always play Trump’s Doonbeg on Day 2, but that to me felt like the golf equivalent of going to Euro Disney. Adare Manor was kind of in the neighborhood and may have a tee time if I stayed at the hotel, but at $1,100 a night it was back to Google.

Overhead view of Lahinch links golf course in Ireland.

After hours of research in the first round, a partial second reading of A Course Called Ireland, and a late-night viewing of Tourist Sauce: Ireland, I found Dooks Golf Club in Episode 5. It’s a little bit of crisscrossing the Southwest corner of Ireland but it was the closest bunch I could get and play two amazing courses plus one pretty darn good one. Tom Coyne also called out Spanish Point Golf Club, a nine-holer just south of Lahinch, and I had my Day 2 morning round and fourth links course.

Gear Note: I may have hit the jackpot for visors and polos with the logos of Lahinch (goat), Dooks (Natterjack Toad), and Ballybunion (castle). Even Spanish Point has a ship from the Spanish Armada that crashed on the rocks off the coast from the golf course.

Hotels booked in Spanish Point, Tralee, and back in Dublin before my flight out and I’m set. Funny thing is the most expensive part of the trip was booking a rental car with automatic and a/c. Right-hand drive on the wrong side of the road after a red-eye without a blast of cold air to keep me awake would have been a very good reason to stock up on extra insurance at the counter. The last manual I drove was a friend’s RX-7 convertible in the mid-90s and I don’t recall being asked to drive her car again so I’ll save the clutch on a rental Peugeot and settle into the luxury of air conditioning and automatic transmission.

Budget Note: My rental car cost the same as my four greens fees and three nights hotel combined.

I’m 30 days out from this trip and busy buying rain gear, golf pants (shorts require knee-high socks and that wasn’t happening), and various clothing layers, so I’m ready for just about anything the Ireland skies send my way.

I’ll detail the trip when I’m back stateside so four course reviews to come and likely a few stories from a pub or a windy Irish road. Until then, check out the tacos and RTJII layout at Costa Palmas Golf Club.