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The wildest parts of Ireland: 2012 Links Golf Trip – day 1

September 24, 2012

Day 0 – The four of us; Rick Clay, Tom Toombs, Mike Hellwege and Marty Davis met at the international departure gate at ATL. This would be Tom’s sixth and Mike’s second trip with me. Marty would be the rookie. Our flight was normal if cramming full sized people into seats 17″ wide and 32″ apart for a red-eye flight could be considered normal.

Day 1 – We only slept a couple of hours on the flight and after exiting Irish immigration went searching for our rental van. The first Hertz counter redirected us to a van that took us to another rental car site on the other side of the airport. I guess the rental agents are highly trained in ways to take advantage of sleep deprived foreign travelers as it took me 20 minutes to say no to two optional vehicles, some extra insurance and a fantastic deal on petrol before I got the keys.

Our 9 pasenger VW van was huge with lots of room for our stuff (maybe too big for the roads where we’re headed). It wasn’t cleaned, parts were falling off and later that afternoon at Royal Dublin I discovered that we had only 5/8ths of a tank after I’d paid to buy a full tank of fuel. Departing the airport is the first challenge what with rediscovering how to drive a manual transmission, shifting with my left hand, driving on the left side while seated on the right and generally figuring out where to look for traffic when you enter roundaboutsor make turns. We only got lost once on the short drive to Portmarnock.  The hotel had been full the night before so it took until about 11AM to get into our rooms. Everyone jumped into bed to try to catch a two hour nap before we headed out for our first round of real links golf.

My alarm went off way too soon but a couple of hours later we were on our way to Bull Island in the Dublin harbor and the highly esteemed Royal Dublin Golf Club. The club has an important place in Irish golf, some of it due to it’s long association with their head pro Christy O’Conner, Sr. know as “himself” to Irish golfers. We arrived a little early and went to the range (unusual to find a range over here) for a brief warm-up. Conditions were tough despite clear skies and pretty warm temps; the 30-40mph winds were making it hard to hit balls, chip or putt. After a few minutes we headed out to the first tee, only to find ourselves behind what we labelled the “Canadian-Irish Ryder Cup”, about 6 foursomes of two Canadians and two Irish golfers playing in a big drinking and partying event. The quality of the golf appeared to be somewhat below what’s normal for the Ryder Cup. The pace of play was downright glacial despite buggies in use in all their groups.

We headed off the first tee about 20 minutes late. Royal Dublin is long and hard and the most forward tees listed were about 3,000 yards on the front and 3,500 yards on the back. Within a few holes we found ourselves overmatched by the very narrow fairways, punishing thick rough, tight bunkering and strong winds. After 2-1/2 hours (almost 6PM local) we’d barely made the turn. Mike pulled off the first great links shot by bouncing it onto the short 9th between two deep bunkers in a 40 mph cross wind that bent his punched 7 iron at least 20 yards to the right.

As the day started turning into night every hole was now 50 yards longer and playing directly into the strengthing winds making most unreachable in regulation. The temperatures dropped as the sun ducked behind the clouds but the pace of play, if anything, slowed down even more. By the 14th hole, it was clear we could not finish before dark so we walked back to the clubhouse and drove to our hotel for a quick dinner and an early bedtime.

Day 1 Summary:  We’re glad to be here, ready to get some sleep and nudge our bodies towards Irish time. It’s unanimous…we have no desire to put Royal Dublin on our schedule for a future trip.  Too long, too tight and way too slow. Tomorrow features a long drive and a wonderful course.

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From → Links Golf

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