Saturday, December 1, 2012


by Larry Berle

There are over four hundred golf courses in Ireland and several of them are  in the Dublin area and its quite possible to come to Dublin, stay put in a bustling interesting city and take in all the wonderful links or parkland golf you desire. We spent two nights at the Westbury Hotel , right in the center of town with plenty of restaurants, nightlife and shopping just outside the door and a couple nights at the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt  in the serene countryside just a few miles out of the city center.

Powerscourt Golf Club

The majestic peak of Sugarloaf Mountain, in county Wicklow, Ireland, keeps a watchful eye on the lush, green parklands of the Powerscourt Estate and the Powerscourt Golf Club. The area is better known for its world famous gardens and award winning Ritz-Carlton hotel, but the West and East golf courses of Powerscourt hold one of the regions best kept secrets. Approximately half hours drive south of Dublin, and about one mile from the sometimes sunny southeast coastline in the land of rugged beauty, you will delight in finding treasures of Irish golf.  This is not the linksland most people come to Ireland for. Apart from the brisk Irish air, you may well liken this beautiful parkland course to those beauties found stateside. 
Its Oct 27 today and its not much warmer than forty degrees. You would think the courses would be empty but the first 3 hours on both courses are full.  These people are hearty and love their golf, weather be damned.

Throughout my years of playing golf I have learned the difference between a challenging course and a punishing course; the former being infinitely more enjoyable.
At the P.G.C. (one of Irelands East Cost Alliance along with the K Club, Druids Glen, The Island G.C., and the Carton House) the pleasure is in the challenge. Instead of punishing, shoulder-high bunkers, there are strategic, waist-high traps requiring enough skill to soldier forward. The thick, dense rough needs a steady arm to advance your position rather than often-found, ball stealing, wickets. And, cleverly angled dog-legs keep a player sharp minded. These are the challenges that allow for the ever-improving golfer of all skill levels rather than catering to the lowest of all handicappers.

I played the Peter McEvoy designed East Course with my wife and found the holes to be well routed. The first hole draws you into the lay of the land with ease at less than 400 yards.  The following nine holes give you reasonable par 5’s, spacious par 3’s, and mid-distanced par 4‘s for a casual walk in the park. 
The back nine holes meander higher on the hillside with a splash of water on holes 16 through 18.Number 16, a par 3, is clearly the signature hole with a very short iron over a pond to a postage stamp green. This hole may even remind you of the famed number twelve at Augusta National. 
The West Course, designed by David McClay KIdd, who gained instant notoriety in the U.S. with his design at Bandon Dunes, holds a similar sequence with the difference being the greater undulation of the greens. There are fewer flat spots on the greens making your approach shots more difficult. A good short iron is a mainstay on the West Course. It will eliminate that 3rd putt.
Keep that flat stick steady, and you will come into the clubhouse with a respectable scorecard.

On number eighteen we were inundated with a flock of seagulls on the fairway dodging in and out of the aged ash trees.  It was quite a sight. The semi-manicured hillside provides enough natural topography to make you feel like you are in a “land of magic” (a direct quote from the club’s cook).  

The fairways are generous allowing you to “let the big dog hunt”  and it’s a very walkable course, in fact a majority of the players here are walking. The yardage book gives you all the information you need, so it’s easy to know your distances, but keep in mind the measurements are in meters not yards (meters are approx 10% longer)

Steve Masterson, the head of the club, told us that these days, less than half of the players coming from the U.S. bring clubs, so they have upgraded their rental program.  We played with a tremendous set of Taylor Made Rocket ball woods and RBZ irons, They also rent Titelist clubs (in my case these rentals  are probably better than my clubs at home.)
Good golf and great storytelling are infinitely blended in Irish tradition. So, look and listen here in the land of Eire for a grand vacation stay.

Golf Packages Available with/without hotel at varying prices per season with bargains to be had in the fringe seasons between 45-55 Euro. 

for more information visit

Royal Dublin Golf Club

 How does a club like the Royal Dublin get an official Royal designation?  Just as you might have thought, the reigning King or Queen designates it so. It could be due to some great accomplishment, some special contribution to history, or they just played there and liked it enough to make such a declaration. Royal Dublin received its Royal designation in 1891, six years after it came into existence.  It’s third and current location is Bull Island in the Dublin Harbor. Bull Island was built as a sea wall to protect the port following advice of Captain Bligh of “Mutiny on the Bounty” fame.  During WWI it was taken over by the Army to be used as a firing range  (there is still a bunker just off the 6th fairway).  After the war the course was redesigned by H.S. Colt and in 2006 redesigned again by Martin Hawktree.

This is true linksland, on the Irish Sea.   It is a championship course playing 7269 yards from the tips with most of the holes being straight, but seeming to meander left and right with the gorse and hillocks that frame the very narrow fairways. It sits on a long narrow piece of land, playing downwind on the outward nine and into the teeth of the wind on the returning nine.   There are only a couple cross wind holes but the wind conditions make these two nines as different as night and day. There could easily be a 4-5 club difference in the distances depending on weather you are upwind or downwind.   The fairways are firm and the greens quick with wonderful undulations.  The sand bunkers, and there are plenty of them, are very well maintained and quite easy to play from.  

There are only a couple ponds on this course but there is a menacing  narrow stream running through the course crossing the fairways in several places.  It shows up in front of greens, and is narrow enough that it may be impossible to see from where you are hitting. Since its shaved at its shores, it can gobble up golf balls in the blink of an eye.
The home hole is a severe dog leg right that brings you back to this
 Intriguing club house.  Paddy the pro was very friendly and this private club is most welcoming to all visitors from home and abroad.

For more information  visit
Rates: depending on the season  range from 75 Euros to $125 Euros

The Island Club

The Island Club, which was founded in 1890, is just 15 miles north of Dublin in the small town of Donabate, just 5 miles from the airport. It is an island, (a peninsula, actually) in the Irish Sea.  This is also true linksland but that is where the similarity to Royal Dublin ends. It plays 6943 yards from the tips to par 71. Many of the dunes that frame the fairways are of significant enough height that you feel like you are on a very private golf course.  These dunes are probably the highest in Irish golf. There are only a couple holes where you can see to a neighboring fairway, you may be able to see the groups ahead or behind you but that is about it. Speaking of private, the concept of a private club in the U.S. is very different than here.  I don’t think there is a private club in Ireland that, as a tourist, you can’t get a tee time. This one has nearly 1,000 members and there never seems to be a problem getting a starting time.

The Island has a comprehensive Jr. golf program. They just finished a very successful Jr. golf membership drive and recruited lots of kids at all levels play. One kid in their program, Club Captain Tony Bell told me, is Gavin Moynihan. He’s 17 and already a plus 3 handicap. Tony thinks we will see him on the tour in the next couple years.

What is windy to me is “just a breeze” to an Irishman, Tony informed me, when I told him the wind was a factor I rarely encounter in the U.S.  Today was his idea of breezy,   The first four holes play in every direction and with wind such a big factor as it always is by the sea, knowing this is quite important, because the “breeze” has a big effect on every shot, even putting.  On the second tee box you have a wonderful view of the town of Donabate on the far shore.

Number 5 is a wonderful hole, the tee shot is the only blind shot on the course to a severely undulating fairway. The green is fully protected, almost caressed, by an amphitheater of Dunes that surround it on three sides.
Number six plays from the highest tee box on the course and this is the first place where I could clearly see the Sea.
Number eight is called “The well”. It is best to keep your tee shot under 200 yards on this 300 yard hole or your ball falls off a cliff into some nasty rough, But hit the tee shot where it belongs and it is a beautiful wedge into the picturesque green below.
Number nine is a mid length par three to the most guarded green on the course.
On number ten club captain Tony Bell joined me and we had a very fun back nine.  On this 550 yard par five he let me know that Rory McElroy hit driver 9 iron to the green when he was here a couple years ago. Tony and I both hit driver 3 wood and wedge to this green.

If they have a signature hole, it would be the par three thirteenth. Its 200 yards over the water which is a bit much for me.  This hole truly reminds me of the 16th hole at Cypress Point, which is the most photographed hole in all of golf.

On number 14 called “clubhouse” Tony pointed out that the clubhouse once sat on this tee box and this was hole number one.  The primary way of reaching this course until 1973, was by a short boat ride from the mainland to  this point. Now you can hop in your can and drive. which prompted a rerouting of some of the holes and a new clubhouse location.

I don’t suggest that you come the end of Oct when its freezing cold  but this is one course you will truly love.

Larry Berle is a golf travel writer and has played the Golf Digest top 100 courses in the U.S. and written a book about his journey A GOLFERS DREAM.   more info at