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UK and Ireland Inbound Travel – Open for business!

25 February, 2022
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Each month one of our team will shine a light on golf travel and trip planning. We are fortunate to have some of the most widely travelled golfers to glean knowledge from, and this month Simon Holt describes how due to unprecedented demand for the big names in UK and Ireland, inbound golfers may well take the opportunity to visit some of the lesser-known areas for their links golf fix.

UK and Ireland Inbound Travel – Open for business!

Over the past 40 years, the UK and Ireland has become Mecca for travelling golfers looking to experience the origins of the game. Muirfield, Prestwick, Royal County Down, Ballybunion, Royal Portrushand of course, St Andrews, have been on the lips of every grill room in America for decades now. Any golfer worth their salt flew into Edinburgh or Dublin armed with new waterproofs, dozens of Pro-Vs and the giddy look of a 7-year-old running into Disney World for the first time. The firmest turf along with unpredictable weather gave birth to generations of cigar stories; rounds that were, or shots that could have been.

Then, COVID.

2020 was a complete write off. Courses wondered what to do but quickly sprang into action, followed by hotels and tour operators who reassured golfers that their money was safe and credited to the following year. The unthinkable; 2021 was close to a complete wash out too. Businesses that were already bleeding, credited again in the hope that surely the same couldn’t happen in ’22?

Finally, we find ourselves with brighter skies ahead. The UK and Ireland is open for business and 2022 will surely be the Year of Golf Travel. As of the last 2 weeks, all entry testing for fully vaccinated travellers have been dropped. Quick, let’s call the bucket list courses and all plan trips! Ah. Slight problem. The “big names” stopped taking bookings months ago. Yes, with the rescheduling of two years of trips, there is barely a tee time to be had at the likes of Dornoch, Troon, North Berwick or Portmarnock. And that is just a taste of the bigger issue. Hotel rooms are thin on the ground and if you’re a van and driver group, good luck finding one. This is where a tour operator comes into their own, but even they are struggling to put the tried and tested trips together.

So, what now? How do you scratch that links itch that has grown ever stronger over the past two years?

While Fife, East Lothian, Northern Ireland, SW Ireland and the Scottish Highlands are thankfully humming after 2 years of inactivity, we should be taking the opportunity to visit the lesser-known regions. The ones that you’ve always talked about but perhaps are too tempted to revisit old favourites. Top of that list for me, is Northwest Ireland.

For years I’ve talked about doing this trip and now have no excuses. The plan is to fly into Shannon with a group of 8, van and driver at the ready so we can all relax between venues and not have to worry about overindulging.

Day 1: Land into Shannon, drive to Carne Golf Club to experience golf in dunes that belong on the moon. A great starter before staying overnight in Enniscrone.

Day 2: An Enniscrone and County Sligo double up. A long old day but it’ll blow out the cobwebs from the night before. The courses complement each other both in style and geography.

Day 3: After another night in Enniscrone, we’ll head to Donegal Golf Club on the way to stay at Rosapenna as the base for the rest of the trip. The hotel at Rosapenna is full to the brim this year but if you can get a room, do! There are other good hostelries in the small town of Downings if the resort is full.

Day 4: Portsalon Golf Club. A true gem, amazing value and not to be missed.

Day 5: The revamped Narin and Portnoo in the morning, followed by the edge of the world 9-holer at Cruit Island. This is an absolute must if the reviews and pictures are anything to go by.

Day 6: A more relaxed travel day at the resort but we’ll blast out 36 on Sandy Hills and Old Tom Morris.

Day 7: A cheeky side trip to Ballyliffin. We prefer the Glashedy but neither course here will disappoint.

Day 8: Finish with a bang – 36 at St Patrick’s Links. This newly opened Tom Doak design has already risen to dizzy heights in other publication’s World Top 100 lists. The excellent routing that explores all parts of the property, coupled with the outstanding scenery, makes for an unforgettable golfing experience.

The Northwest of Ireland has the variety to satisfy the thirst for quirk, as well as those in search of a championship test. You’ll find excellent value, a warm welcome, and beat the crowds to what with the introduction of St Patrick’s, is the next “must visit” region in golf travel.

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