People who love golf – whether they’re players or spectators – can always be relied on to tell you a good story. That legendary, never-to-be-repeated hole in one, that 150 yard shot out of a bunker, over water, to a pin r-i-i-i-ght in the corner of the green. There’s also lots of great trivia around the sport that seems to instantly divide people into the lovers and the haters. (It is indeed the Marmite of sport).
For starters, did you know that golf balls travel significantly further in hot weather as the rubber has more elasticity? Or that the term ‘birdie’ was coined by an American named Ab Smith in 1899 who, thrilled with his performance, declared it to be a “bird of a shot.”
There’s also the fact that a regulation golf ball has exactly 336 dimples’.
Golf is a game of myths too! Many players will tell you ‘it never rains on a golf course’, and some insist that the word ‘golf’ is an acronym for ‘gentlemen only, ladies forbidden (in fact around 23% of professional golfers are women).
Those not fond of the game will tell you that ‘golf is a way of ruining a good walk’ – but you should remind them that golf is brilliant exercise: a 175-pound man can burn 460 calories if he carries his clubs during an hour of play.
But the most important thing you definitely need to remember if golf is your first and last love… Come to County Clare and you will play some of the finest courses the world has to offer, combining challenging, professionally-designed course architecture with the ultimate in beautiful landscaping, features and club facilities.
Founded in 1907, Ennis Golf Club in the heart of the Mid-West is close neighbour to both the beautiful coastline of Clare and the enigmatic Burren landscape. It’s also ideally placed for Shannon airport too. This club has a stunning 18-hole, Par 70 Parkland course – with tree-lined fairways and beautifully-maintained greens. It presents a good challenge for serious players while its fairly even terrain makes it a pleasure for the holiday golfer. The Club is known for its friendly, welcoming approach and extremely member-focussed service ethic. There is a beautiful state-of-the-art clubhouse and facilities include lounge bar, dining room, ladies’ and gents’ showers, visitors’ lockers, changing rooms and a large car Park.
Woodstock Golf and Country Club is set two miles outside of Ennis – on 155 acres of rolling green countryside belonging to the recently refurbished 4-star, 67-bedroom Woodstock Hotel. It’s a championship standard golf course generously spanning 5,864 meters, and is playable at any time of the year. The views are simply splendid – making a game here an experience that is about so much more than simply the game. The course is set amongst mature woodland: many of the holes are tree lined, some have water as a main feature and the Kilmaley River flows gently along by the back of the green. The course’s signature hole is the Par 4, 7th, which measures 391 meters, while the three closing holes have been described by members as: “three of the best finishing holes as you are ever likely to encounter.” It’s a gift for golfers – complemented by the beautiful bedrooms, delicious Irish cuisine and leisure club with pool, sauna and gym at the hotel.
Naturally, Dromoland Castle’s golf course offers an exceptional golf experience – against the backdrop of this beautiful 15th century castle, stately hotel and gloriously grand estate. Here is a golfer’s idea of Paradise, with views of the Shannon and Fergus, green, rolling Parkland and an atmosphere of elegance and tradition. It’s an 18 hole championship Par 72 course with a total length of 6824 yards – and was transformed by the late world-renowned Irish golfing legend, JB Carr and golf course architect, Ron Kirby. And while old-style grandeur may be a Dromoland Castle signature, this course wants for nothing when it comes to modern practising features: there are 10 fully-automated driving bays, putting greens and bunker and all bays are fitted with Golf-Tech’s second generation, fully-automated power tees. Worth mentioning too is the riveted face links style bunker which is modelled on the famous road hole bunker on the 17th at Saint Andrews. And of course golf is just the beginning… To stay at Dromoland is to experience luxury beyond compare – offering an extensive selection of dining options from a la carte, gastronomic and daily table d’hôte menus. Enjoy afternoon tea served in the sumptuous Drawing Room or a light snack in the Country Club. This is genuine Clare hospitality – with uncompromising style.
Just down the road, Shannon Golf Club is located close to Shannon Airport and definitely needs to be on any self-respecting golfer’s itinerary. The course, that is a combination of sand and traditional greens, was originally designed by John D Harris and it has grown to become one of the best inland courses in Munster and indeed, Ireland. Shannon is also a Parkland course with natural meadow-grass fairways that are bordered with beautiful deciduous trees. Be prepared for the famous 17th Par 3: the signature hole that demands a dedicated golf shot over the Shannon Estuary.
You’ll find the Doonbeg Golf Links at the Trump International Golf Links and Hotel in Doonbeg – spanning 1.5 miles of crescent shaped beach and ancient old sand dunes along Doughmore Bay. The course was designed by two-time British Open Champion Greg Norman: upon opening back in 2002 it received the much-coveted title of Golf Digest’s Best New International Course and was also awarded European Golf Resort of the Year by the IAGTO, in 2010. The Par 72 layout features a single loop of nine holes out and nine back, and in line with Norman’s philosophy of ‘least disturbance’, the most natural route was taken in laying the course out through the sand dunes. A resident golf professional is on hand throughout the year to provide instruction and caddies are also available.
Heading out to the coastline, Lahinch offers one of the world’s great classic links. This course has all the ingredients it takes to transform a good game of golf into an unforgettable experience: a beautifully-inspiring natural setting, a colourful, rich and impressive history and incomparable natural terrain. A few ‘unexpected features’ make for a uniquely Irish experience – from a ruined castle to a few goats that enjoy the freedom of the links. Often referred to as the Saint Andrews of Ireland, this course should take a very firm place on your ‘golfer’s bucket list’.
Of course it doesn’t get more Irish than playing your game while the breathtaking Atlantic Ocean glimmers and roars in the distance, delivering a breeze that whips against your cheeks – invigorating and energising. This is Kilkee Golf Club – an exceptional 18 hole course nestled on the cliffs of West Clare. Some tees to look forward to? The first and second with a view of the Atlantic, and the third tee with an awe-inspiring cliff-top view of Chimney Bay.
Apart from being a fabulous course, there’s a lot of history to be enjoyed at Spanish Point Golf Club. This mature and beautiful course was opened in 1896 and is situated just 10 km from Lahinch and Doonbeg in West Clare. The course covers over 5,000 yards, with 18 holes (par 68) and natural drainage. The course overlooks the beach, so the views really are hard to beat. It’s a challenging course, but oh-so-rewarding:
“This mature links course provides difficulties that demand accuracy from the golfer. It overlooks the beach at Spanish Point, offering fine views but also strong Atlantic winds, especially at the 6th Par 3. It presents a stern challenge to all categories of handicap golfers but is an enjoyable golfing experience.”
– Wild Atlantic Way
Often referred to as ‘one of the friendliest clubs in Ireland’, Kilrush Golf and Sports Club is situated just half a mile outside the old heritage town of Kilrush. The original club was founded in 1934 but the new course was re-designed by Dr Arthur Spring in 1994 – and it’s a cracker of an 18-hole course! First off, it’s incredibly scenic – in a beautiful location overlooking the Shannon Estuary. The course perfectly combines water, trees and sand bunkers – making it such a pleasure to play. Without a doubt a Club highlight is the ninth hole – a Par 3 guarded by water on three sides and by sand on the fourth – while the course’s closing stretch into the wind will test the skills of even the very best.
The East Clare Golf Club is a beautiful discovery, set in 150 acres of the best of Irish countryside – unspoilt, peaceful and with views of forever. Best of all, it’s just 5 minutes away from the stunning Lough Derg, and 35 minutes from Shannon Airport. This is a championship Par 71course with 5,920 metres of fairways – and more than its fair share of sneaky lakes, streams, trees and bunkers. As an extra bonus, here is a course that’s rich in wildlife. Foxes are a familiar sight at the 4th and 8th tees while many birds nest here and swans swim happily on the lakes.
While most courses are open year-round, prior booking is recommended.