Ballyliffin: Old Links a Nearly Flawless Trip-Opener

 

The Old Links at Ballyliffin Golf Club

 

 

All you need to know about the Old Links at Ballyliffin is that, for the 4 hours we spent going round it, I never did consider laying down for a couple hours in the fescues. Not strongly anyway, for they were invitingly cushy and sunsplashed.

We arrived here on the northern most tip of Ireland pretty pooped, following a 4-hour drive north through Newry and Armagh and Cookstown and Londonderry, all the way from Dublin in other words. That drive (wherein I took the wheel) had been preceded by a 6-hour blogger-wrangling exercise at the airport, which had been preceded by the 5-hour flight from Boston to Dublin. I departed at 6:20 p.m. Boston time and landed at what would have been 11:20 p.m. my time, Boston time. There simply isn’t time to sleep, or for appropriate sleep-aids to take effect. So I didn’t, and they never did, and I’ve not slept yet.

It’s coming, and soon.

But first, Ballyliffin, which sports two courses, the Glashedy Links and the Old Links. With Glashedy Rock sitting like a monolith in the surf, a couple miles off shore, and Malin Head (that northernmost point) framing the view to the East, the Old Links — which aren’t THAT old; they were laid out in the 1940s, and renovated very subtly and deftly by Nick Faldo in 2009 — simply never serves up an ordinary golf hole. There aren’t the towering dunes we associate with some Irish links courses; indeed, the neighboring Glashedy, would appear to occupy that sort of ground.

Nope, the Old Links just fits the land like a glove, moves right and left, is impeccably bunkered, and sports the perfect combination of firm, fast, bouncy turf, the perfect combination of green and brown, never anything but a perfect lie in the fairway, stern rough that punishes but rarely swallows the ball whole. It also features enough wind — in combination with holes that do, in fact, play markedly up and downhill — that 6,300 yards was plenty. One could go further back, to 6,937 yards. But why would four guys working on a sleep debt do that?

I’ve flown to the U.K. before, and it’s nearly always the same sort of drill: The first day is crazy. One gets off the plane and fights the jetlag by playing golf. Yet there’s something to be said for saving a day for the entire arrival ritual, for a long drive if you’ve got one in store, for a relaxing dinner overlooking the course you will play the next day. That’s the difference between an Irish linksfest organized by professionals, like those at Perry Golf, and those organized by a bunch of journalists cum bloggers.

We worked the Old Links at Ballyliffin in to the itinerary because one simply cannot come to this part of the world and not play it. Now we have. Glashedy tomorrow. But now, sleep.

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