Little by little, we’re gaining daylight hours. It won’t be long before you can squeeze nine holes in after work. OK, that might be a little way off, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get something in the diary. More specifically, how’s your spring golf break shaping up?
Spring is the perfect time to enjoy a golf break. The weather might be dicey, but the courses are starting to blossom and there’s Masters fever in the air.
Where better to celebrate the arrival of the new season than Ireland? RSNG caught up with Tom Kennedy of [Experience Ireland Golf & Travel] (https://experienceirelandgolfandtravel.com/) for some advice on how to plan the perfect Ireland golf trip this spring…
1. Have A Budget At the risk of sounding like a killjoy, it helps to keep an eye on your cents and pennies. In spring, you can still grab yourself a deal, but from May onwards it’s ‘silly season’ for green fees, especially during May Bank Holiday weekend (Monday 4 May).
‘September is an extremely busy month for golf. Most of the marquee courses are pretty much booked out already and August is a big holiday month for the Irish,’ says Kennedy, whose company arranges bespoke Ireland golf itineraries.
‘We get a lot of people who come over for St Patrick’s Day as well, which well and truly kicks off the tourist season (Tuesday 17 March this year) and with greater numbers will usually herald an increase in prices.’
The weather around spring can be iffy, but Kennedy has been running an event called the ‘Social Media Open’, in April, for seven years, and of the 28 days of golf played during that time, he’s witnessed only two days of rain. In any case, a few downpours will only add to the experience.
2. Treat Yourself To A Marquee Course Don’t scrimp so much that you deny yourself the opportunity to walk the same fairways that many of the game’s best ever players have graced.
Courses like Adare Manor, scheduled to host The Ryder Cup in 2026, may charge a premium price, but it’s a treat for anyone to play and fully justifies the lofty green fee.
‘The golf courses speak for themselves, especially a lot of the links,’ says Kennedy. ‘I think a third of the world’s links courses are in Ireland. Lahinch hosted the Irish Open last year and Portrush hosted The Open, but then you’ve got Portmarnock, Ballybunion, Tralee and Old Head. I could go on for half an hour about the courses and still not be done. There’s unbelievable choice for people.’
You could do four trips over four years if you’re a real connoisseur of Irish courses
3. Select A Region And Watch Your Mileage Which brings us on to where to play. Don’t underestimate the size of Ireland, and don’t try and cram too much in, there’s no rush. ‘I wouldn’t try doing a week-long trip playing County Down, Old Head, Carne and somewhere in Dublin, for example,’ says Kennedy. ‘You could do four trips over four years if you’re a real connoisseur of Irish courses.’
This means breaking Ireland’s courses down into regions. Starting in the south/ south west, and flying into Shannon, you have Lahinch, Doonbeg, Adare, Tralee, Ballybunion, Waterville and Killarney. Further up the west, there’s Galway Bay and County Sligo.
‘In the north west, you have Donegal and you could easily enjoy a week-long trip just there playing as there so many great courses,’ adds Kennedy. ‘Further north, Portsalon is also fantastic. It’s a good old stint up there; it doesn’t matter where you fly to because it’s a decent drive, but it’s well worth it.’
The north east, meanwhile, has its world-famous Royals – County Down and Portrush, as well as Ardglass, Portstewart, Castlerock and Ballycastle.
Down the east coast, including Dublin, there’s Portmarnock, The European Club, The Island, County Louth, The K Club and The Heritage. The list goes on, and it’s not limited to great links, either; Powerscourt and Woodbrook are both super parkland courses south of Dublin.
So, does Kennedy, a man who’s played virtually every one of Ireland’s top 50 courses, have a favourite? ‘In no particular order, Lahinch, Adare, Old Head, Enniscrone and Tralee.’ He has to pause, which tells you everything about how tough a task it is to narrow down a favourite.
4. Play Somewhere Different” What with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, there’s no such thing as a ‘hidden gem’ these days – but that doesn’t mean you should stick to the same itinerary year after year. In fact, you can’t beat discovering a new favourite.
‘A few courses up the west coast probably aren’t as widely visited, mainly because they’re a little bit cheaper than the marquee courses,’ says Kennedy, who shares a couple more secrets.
‘You’ve got a pretty remote nine-hole course called Mulranny in County Mayo, which is a beautiful part of the world. You also have Carne, Enniscrone and Strandhill. If you were up the west coast, you should get in as many of these courses as possible – they’re amazing with a warm welcome to match.’
Reidys is one of the up and coming pubs – there are six or seven mini bars inside so you could lose yourself in there for a night!
5. Factor In Time For A Bit Of Craic” The great links courses can beat you up, especially on a windy day. Try negotiating your way around Old Head on a gusty afternoon without losing half a dozen balls. The rumours are that when the great Tiger was here, he had to reload on more than one occasion.
It matters not, for it’s all about the ‘craic’. As Kennedy explains, a trip to the ‘Emerald Isle’ is about enjoying the off course stuff just as much.
To that end, he recommends a trip into the local town for a pint of Guinness or craft beer, where the night will undoubtedly end with the man who’s been sitting in the corner all night, picking up a guitar and starting a song.
On that note, Kennedy says he has a soft spot for Killarney. ‘It’s so well set up for tourists; it’s such a good base. I’m reliably informed there are as many hotel rooms there as the whole of the north of Ireland.’
‘They’ve got some great pubs, restaurants and whisky bars. Reidys is one of the up and coming pubs in the region. There are probably six or seven mini bars inside the bar, so you could lose yourself in there for a night, that’s for sure!’
Just don’t miss your tee time…
WHAT NEXT? Can’t wait until the spring? Check out five of the best winter sun destinations to visit right now.
- To find out more, visit Experience Ireland Golf & Travel and get that spring break in Ireland locked in the diary.*