There is a kettle in the halfway house at the Tulfarris golf course, near Dublin.
Not so unusual you may think, but this is a refreshment place with a difference. Nobody is there to make you a coffee; you do it yourself, and you are politely requested to replenish the kettle, switching it on for the group of players behind you.
It isn’t a trick to save money, or a crafty ploy to make sure nobody lags behind, slowing down play. It is just typical of the way the Irish do things. It sums up the good humour and polite friendliness that sets them apart, and is a good example of why golfing trips to Ireland are so much fun.
It is not as if Tulfarris is a backward members’ club. Officially named the Tulfarris Hotel and Golf Resort, it is a four star complex in Co Wicklow just over 20 miles south of Dublin.
The golf course is set on three peninsulas around a large reservoir known locally as the Blessington Lakes – needless to say water comes into play just about everywhere, particularly on the back nine.
Water lurks immediately on the par 5 first hole where an unforgiving pond cuts into the fairway on the left approach to the green, making big hitters nervously consult the yardage chart as they consider a setting up a birdie opportunity.
Risk or reward is a continual feature of this excellent course, which has four teeing options, good greens and three challenging finishing holes.
Like many of the lesser-known Irish courses, it offers absolute value for money – an incredible 69 euro for dinner, b&b and a round of golf was on offer during our visit in June. You can keep prices down further by not bothering with a buggy – it is flat enough to walk the course.
To the south east of Tulfarris near the town of Aughrim is Macreddin Golf Club, set on both sides of the beautiful Macreddin Valley. It was the first design undertaken by Paul McGinley, and although it opened as recently as 2007, its surroundings, notably thick gorse and tall pines and spruce, give it a much more mature feel.
Its signature hole, the stroke index one dog leg 12th is truly memorable, requiring a long drive over a brook and an approach shot that has to navigate two big trees in the centre of the fairway just short of the green.
It really is a good course, though I wouldn’t agree with McGinley’s claim that “it’s not too intimidating.” You have to be on your game here, particularly on the back nine where many of the fairways weave through the forest and higher handicappers might find it tough going. It also has glorious, if not treacherous pars 3s.
On the other hand Glen of the Downs golf course is much more open and you can really open your shoulders on the tees. With the Wicklow Mountains as backdrop and the occasional glimpse of the Irish Sea, golfers are soon at ease here, although they have to navigate a par three as an opening hole. It features an excellent finishing hole, a short par four which would be in range off the tee for long hitters, yet the back of the green drops straight in to the clubhouse pond – a watery grave for many who hit the ball just a tads too far. The greens are huge and immaculate and this is another Wicklow course that should be on your shortlist.
Glen of the Downs is a very friendly club with a smashing clubhouse serving restaurant quality food.
- The official tourist board website www.ireland.com is the best starting point when planning your trip.
- Take your car from Anglesey to Dublin by Irish Ferries www.irishferries.com (08717 300 400) and you can get around easily in Ireland and take all your golf tackle with you. Cruise-ferry fares start at £79 each-way for a car and driver, with no extra charges for carrying clubs or other baggage in the boot of the car. Crossings takes up to three hours but there is a short checking in time and once docked in Dublin you are straight off and away. Irish Ferries Holidays can also package hotels, B&Bs or cottages for self-drive golf holidays.
- For current deals and special offers check out Tulfarris Hotel & Golf Resort, Blessington, Co Wicklow, www.tulfarris.com; Macreddin Golf Club, Macreddin Village, Co Wicklow, www.maccreddingolfclub.com; Glen of the Downs Golf Club, Coolnaskeagh, Delgany, Co Wicklow, www.glenofthedowns.com