Scotland and Ireland are both bucket list golfing destinations. There is much discourse as to which is best and when it comes to choosing one over the other, well, that’s open to debate.
What we know for sure is the depth of great golf in both countries is such that you could make double-digit trips to the British Isles, playing different courses each time, without ever hitting a dud. There was passionate debate among our staff and tour hosts as to where we should go and what courses to play in both Scotland and Ireland. So we resorted to Guinness and Glenfiddich and a few late nights to come up with the ultimate bucket list tours to both destinations.
In golfing terms, there isn’t one Ireland or one Scotland. They are both essentially three apiece. Ireland has the Northwest, the Southwest, and Northeast; Scotland has the West (Turnberry), East with St Andrews and the Highlands (Royal Dornoch). Unless you have unlimited time and money, (we’re here to help if you do!) when it comes to golf courses, like us, you’ll be faced with a plethora of choice and then challenging decisions.
There is no denying Scotland takes the crown when it comes to pedigree. It is the holy land of golf. The Scots developed the game, created the rules, built the courses and nurtured the first architects and champions. What makes it so unique is the land on which it is played. You don’t go to Scotland to play parkland or heathland courses. You go to Scotland to play on a ‘true’ Scottish links course. You go there to play one of the courses where history was created and where the temperamental wind and rain can embellish the challenge of hitting a small ball along ancient dunes covered with grass until it falls into a four and a quarter inch hole.
It would be difficult to find a more fitting golf destination than St Andrews. The name is synonymous to golfing royalty and you’ll find some of Scotland’s finest links courses on its doorstep. With spectacular surroundings of beaches and medieval architecture, it is a lively little town thriving with tourists and students going to the historic University of St Andrews and more pubs per square-feet than anywhere else in the UK.
Kingsbarns, eight miles away from St Andrews, is relatively young and more man made than your average Scottish links. Yet it delivers a surreal, tiered amphitheater setting overlooking the sea. This modern layout is visually spectacular and tremendously fun to play. On a clear afternoon, you can often see across the North Sea to the small town of Carnoustie with its fearsome championship course that has tested the game’s best players for decades.
And then, on our Scottish bucket list there is Turnberry, on the Atlantic, where we’ve picked the fantastic Ailsa course and the majestic Royal Troon. Our journey will take you to Loch Lomond where you’ll play the Carricks golf course.
Now, what about Ireland? When it comes to links golf, it does pack a punch. For golfers, it doesn’t get any better than this. Ireland’s southwest is renowned for its string of links courses which stretch along the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Fashioned along windswept beaches and between high dunes, it takes you back to the game’s origins. There is nothing artificial here; just golf on foot, dictated by the natural landscape, the elements and the luck of the bounce.
Our Irish golf line-up is packed with the who’s who of links layouts. There’s the Alister MacKenzie classic - Lahinch, to the north, and embraces Ballybunion, Tralee, and the idyllic Waterville, on the Ring of Kerry to the south. And then there is the immaculate and awe inspiring Old Head Golf Club, peering down on the ocean from 300 foot cliffs, on a peninsula which resembles a diamond earring in shape.
Waterville and Tralee boast some of the most spectacular scenery in Ireland. Bays, peninsulas, mountains and ocean add to these inspiring golf experiences, but playing them is even better. Waterville has the most elegant and rhythmic dune systems. It is a course which builds and builds, with the closing three holes streaking above the ocean in a dramatic par four, three, five finish. It is the most picture perfect links in Ireland.
Tralee was designed by Arnold Palmer and/or God… or so said Arnold Palmer of the majestic back nine which rises and falls to create many of the most impressive holes in the country. Little needs to be said about Ballybunion, a links which rose to prominence thanks to Tom Watson’s visit in the 1980s. It is another course of muscular dunes and an outstanding green setting.
Old Head is an unbelievable cliff-top golf experience. It doesn’t get more thrilling than this, with nine of its holes literally clinging to the cliffs’ edge. From the iconic links to the breath-taking landscapes, not to mention the hospitality and the craic, not many golf destinations in the word can compete with Killarney and its accompanying golfing greats.
We’ve hosted several tours to both Scotland and Ireland and while we might debate the merit of course inclusions, for lovers of golf and life, these tours are guaranteed to hit your sweet spot. Start your journey in Ireland with a 13-day golf tour that will see you play 6 rounds of magnificent links golf. The fully escorted tour will see you stay at Dromoland Castle, partake in a sumptuous medieval feast, soak in the Irish culture and history, take in the breathtaking rural landscape sprinkled with quaint villages and have the best time of your life playing golf.
Continue onto Scotland to walk in the shoes of Open Champions like Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson. It is a 13-day bucket list trip with 7 rounds of golf that will take you to St Andrews, the home of golf, Loch Lomond and Turnberry, and to Dundonald Links where you will experience the atmosphere of the final day at the 2017 Scottish Open.
Sure, you can choose to just go to Scotland or to Ireland, but something tells me it will be too hard to choose. So let’s do both! Go to www.gogolfing.net.au for more information.