Club Choice Ireland are the experts at tailor made golf packages to the East & South East of Ireland.
This is a golf tour company with a difference… when they say ‘experienced’ and ‘personalised’ they mean it. The background to Club Choice Ireland is a father and son duo (Larry & Tiernan Byrne) with over 40 years combined experience in bringing golfers into Ireland.
Image: Us with ClubChoice’s Tiernan (c) at Malahide GC
You only need to spend a few minutes in their company to know that they are genuinely passionate about their region as a golfing destination. We get an annual treat to experience it for ourselves and the 2017 version certainly didn’t disappoint.
A reminder – Part I saw us hopping off the ferry to enjoy the charms of Island Golf Club, the first part of a two instalment stiff links test on this trip. Then visits to Balbriggan GC and Beaverstown GC, two stunning parkland venues, followed by a night at The Bracken Court Hotel in Balbriggan. During the evening I had time to dwell on my golfing at the Island, and the beating Bill had handed to me rather too easily. Time to step it up a notch………………
Tapping it around…
Day two dawned and we enjoyed a hearty full Irish at the Bracken Court ahead of our second big links test of the trip.
County Louth Golf Club or Baltray as the locals know it comes with a steely and formidable reputation, it didn’t take us long to understand why. Similar to day one at The Island, views of the sea are fleeting as again this golf course is adorned throughout by towering sand dunes. But what you don’t see you can certainly feel the effects of as the winds lick around and reek havoc for nervous golfers who already aren’t quite sure how to cope with the golf course in the first place!
It was OK from the tee, but towards the putting surfaces it was often white flag time as finding a route to the flag proved to be too formidable a task on a few occasions in the early stages.
But Bill found a way in the end; he merely tapped it around nice and low and allowed the contours to work his ball around the gnarled terrain this way and that. He delighted in telling me too, advising a similar approach for myself. My swing and tempo were so off though, that I wasn’t able to follow his risk free lead. Even when I did find some form at the wonderful signature 14th with its beachside tee, the banking around the green took care of a beautifully struck wedge, and led me down to a fearsome spot, it was one of those days. But what a golf course, full of memorable holes, especially the short ones, all of which have fearsome banks that you really need to stay away from, but nice flat greens to make pars pretty straightforward if you do find them with your tee shot. All very fair, you could never argue with that fact.
Better late than never..
County Louth is a tough course but it’s also quite superb, classic links golf that you could never hold a grudge against. Awesome conditioning, excellent putting surfaces and the chance to get creative in the extreme and find a way to conquer the challenge, marvellous.
How did we play?
As hinted at, Bill continued his excellent links play, and even though he didn’t get anywhere near his handicap, I was very impressed, he turned the power down and got results. He doesn’t hit it long, never has, but it never bothers him either.
Image: The Beast of Baltray – Bill celebrates (again)
I was awful again and went 2-0 down with a whimper. But hang on a minute, signs of life at the 18th! 521 yards long and yes it was downwind and a fast running fairway, but I overshot the green in two with my driver and my old trusted TM burner 20 degree, I knew I’d kept it in the bag all these years for a reason………..a bit of solace to end a tough round.
But Bill was wearing his self-satisfied smile again as we left and took a trip over to Donabate Golf Club for a course tour. 27 holes here, and even though it sits only a mile or so away from the coastline, it’s only related to the sea by virtue of the breezes that come along. Club manager Robert was our guide and he took us on a tour of each hole, three loops of nine that offer plenty of contrast and flexibility too for a group golfing day.
Image: Donabate’s impressive 9th – Blue course
A seamless changeover from links to parkland, lush green fairways, tight dog legs, mature trees and undulating greens of very impressive quality indeed. All very taxing too with a wide range of pin positions that they use to great effect. Apparently the club teams don’t lose many matches on home soil; the teasing greens form the main reason for that.
Water features too, the most memorable is on the ninth hole of the blue loop. The green sits underneath the clubhouse balcony, the fronting pond is there to wreak a bit of late havoc when the pressure is on!
The first floor clubhouse is quite huge with panoramic course views, and a little quirk is that the walls are adorned with caricatures, rather than images of past club captains and champions, never seen that before in a golf club!
Drop of the black stuff – with a view…
The day passed by quickly, just down the road from Donabate in walking distance is The Waterside Hotel. Manager Andy was waiting at the door and took us straight to the patio where two pints of Guinness were waiting there on the table for us. A first class Irish welcome and a sea view to equal that too, overlooking the delights of Lambay Island, Howth Head and Ireland’s Eye. You could sit outside here for many hours and never get bored.
Dinner was pretty nice too in The Tower Bar & Bistro, the hotel also has Samphire restaurant as a further eating option, Bill’s Sea Bass here was exquisite apparently, as was my steak. Our room came with a sea view as many do, gorgeous. Plus with Donabate in walking distance and another seaside test named Corballis Links even closer by, you’re very close to some twilight golf if the nights are long.
So to the finale on the morning of day three, a late opportunity to grab myself a golfing consolation prize. Malahide Golf Club, another 27 hole venue has a fine reputation as being one of the finest parkland venues in this golf rich area, and is also 125 years old this year. We were there to grab nine before heading home, and this time we had some company, club president Paddy met us in the car park and led us to the first tee.
What a great golf course too, the quality was evident right from the beginning as an unusually spot on straight drive from me rattled along the verdant green fairway towards the first hole ditch that looked well out of reach. (I’d brought some of that Baltray long hitting along with me!) The greens took a little getting used to as well, following the links putting surfaces; these were like putting on glass, stunning (think Robin Hood GC).
How did we play?
It came as some regret to us that we never managed to play well together in Ireland. Malahide was a complete turnaround, I played some inspired golf, finishing with three pars, all very nearly birdies.
Image: The Malahide Magician – A consolation prize for Phil
Bill, after his links heroics had a nightmare round compounded at the par three ninth here.
Tiernan had come to join us for lunch and shot videos of our last swings. Mine was lovely, but Bill duffed his and the sight of him instantly trudging after his ball head bowed and cussing away became a near internet sensation. I must mention the fact that the below clip was totally un-reflective of Bill’s week as a whole. He played some lovely golf at the two links course but ran out of steam at Malahide, but it is quite amusing!
Pride a little salvaged for me but it was just a consolation goal and despite his disappointment at the 45th hole Bill was a worthy champion. Final score – Bill 2 Phil 1 – well played pal.
We lunched with Tiernan and Paddy; it was delicious once again and set us up nicely for the trip back. So that was that and Stena Line brought us back to Holyhead smoothly on a calm and sparkly blue sea. We don’t half go on about it at MG, but yet again we were blessed with amazing weather throughout.
Another brilliant trip, totally different to our cross-country escapades of 2016 but no less enjoyable. Ireland never ceases to amaze us in its quality of golf and friendliness of welcome either. Another fabulous trip done and very affordable too, the ClubChoice North Dublin golfing packages are fun and varied, challenging and rewarding. You are going to be well looked after, the food and drink is great and it’s certainly not taxing in terms of mileage.
Time to make your own memories, give Tiernan a call and tell him Bill and Phil told you to!