Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tralee Golf Club

Day 2: Tralee Golf Club County Kerry Ireland

After the second round at Old Head we traveled north to Killarney for a 3 night stay at the Woodlawn House. Very pleasant B&B with large rooms and close proximity to downtown. Rutman and I made a mad dash to Laurels Pub to have our drink with Carole Brown. Great story about Carole but better off you discover it for yourself. If you're ever in Killarney, visit Laurels and ask to have a drink with her.

We shoved off early Friday morning for 36 at Tralee which was approx. 1 hour drive north. Tralee Golf Club was founded in 1896 and moved to it's current location and Arnold Palmer design in 1984. Situated on the Barrow Pennisula it's an ideal setting for classic links golf. Surronded on 3 sides by water and beautiful beaches, you find yourself hypnotized and in need of a quick head shake to get your mind back on the game. In Mr. Palmer's words... "I designed the first nine but surely God designed the back nine"

Nicky Six on the par 3 3rd hole

The front nine starts with a gentle introduction on holes 1 and 2 to our first links golf. But, upon reaching the third hole, you're quickly reminded that wind and coastlines are going to be a prominent part of this trip. After a quick turn back inland for #'s 4 and 5, you reach Palmer's favorite 3 hole stretch of 6,7,8. The par 4 6th has such dramitic undulations in the fairway I was unable to see over them and told Nick, it looked like an elephant burial ground. My favorite hole on the opening nine, #8 begs you to cut a big chunk off Barrow Harbor but into the wind your landing area is about 15 paces wide. On your walk up the 9th fairway, a relativley straight forward par 5 birdie chance, you've no idea what awaits you on the back side.

View from #11 fairway to what awaits on the back. #12 flag in foreground with #13 flag in distance

While playing the front nine, you're insulated from any clear views of the back but after passing the clubhouse and arriving on the 10th tee, you understand why this is considered one of the best closing nines anywhere and we had not even played it. My jaw litterally dropped when I got the first glances the dunes and elevation changes. Palmer gently eases you down the 10th until reaching the green and you feel like you're on a different planet. Moving to the 11th "Palmers Peak" you climb up to hopefully what's your 3rd shot and reach the highest spot on the course. On to the 12th to which our friend Matty G. said "you haven't lived until you've this approach shot" Standing at the bottom of the fairway looking over the "Chasm" to a green that somehow clings to the side of a 90 foot sand dune, you realize there is no bail out. The short par 3 13th is all carry over the backside of the same dune...again... no safe options, pick a stick and swing it. After a brief calm, if you call it that, on the split fairway 14th you reach the most visually pleasing stretch of holes 15, 16, 17. The 15th is the shortest par 4 and according to index the 2nd easiest hole but it ate my lunch on both rounds. #16 is one of my favorite par 3's on the trip. If you're lucky enough to hit the green and choose to avoid the path taking the more direct route to the green, I suggest straping on the crampons or pray you have some billy goat genes. The 17th ranks as my favorite hole on the backside. A short par 4 that requires an accurate drive to setup a short iron approach that's played to a severly elevated green with trouble everywhere. I pumped 3 wood over the right hand fairway bunker and found the small sliver of fairway 120 yards out which sounds good on paper but you're left shaking in your spikes when contemplating the next shot. 18 is a good hole finishing towards the clubhouse but after spending the last 2 hours in utter amazement, your thoughts are not so much about finishing strong but left remembering how special the back nine at Tralee really is.

#12 "Chasm" Matty G wasn't joking about this little gem

Rutman on #13 tee, nice pegs.

#17 tee. Fisher, RP, Kissick, Chris

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Old Head Golf Links

Day 1: Old Head Golf Links Kinsale, County Cork.
Old Head is a relatively new course (1997) but what it lacks in age is quickly forgotten from the momment you top the hill before the entrance. The course is situated on a diamond shape piece of property that's connected to the mainland by a 30 yard wide strip of land that's 300 foot down on each side. During construction they "lost" a bulldozer over the cliffs while finishing one of fairways.

From a visual and geographic standpoint, this place is truly one of kind and will have a special place in my memories mostly due to it's uniqueness and the horrid conditions on day 1. Unfortunetly the golf plays second fiddle to scenery at Old Head. While there are some memorable holes, #4 "Razors Edge" , #17 down hill par5 (pic above) , as a whole the course ranks towards the bottom of my list on this trip. It's not traditional links (they moved in 250,000 tons of top soil to grow grass) and doesn't leave you feeling like you've experienced a true round of Irish golf.

Our first round was something out of a twisted golf thriller movie. 60 mph gusts and rain coming sideways. There were only 2 other groups on the course in addition to us. The only beneift in playing such crappy conditions was the fact that no other weather seemed to bother us after that introduciton. We spent the night in Kinsale and gassed it around Old Head again Thursday morning and the conditions were much improved.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Home Again

Home again, home again. What an incredible place, Ireland. I said numerous times on the trip, words can't describe the courses, views, people, weather, etc.. it's truly something special. I feel fortunate to have experienced the last 10 days with good friends, old and new.

Just finished downloading 255 pictures and everyone one of them brings a smile to my face. I've a feeling the Tool Shed will be featuring plenty of Ireland shots over the next few weeks.

Still compiling my best of list and can't wait to share thoughts with Matty G.

(pic from #8 tee box Ballybunnion Old Course) Nick "Otis", Hank, RP and Coach Rut who just about jarred it for an ace after this photo

Monday, September 8, 2008

Shotgun Shack

Never know who you'll see at the halfway house.

It's finally here...this time tomorrow we'll be north bound to the airport. Ready to catch that bird for the old country. Bags are packed and the camera has plenty of film. Fore !!