Here's Schiffman's trip report:
(Schiffman, second from right, at Ballyliffin,
with General Manager John Farren, far left, and two caddies.)
Ireland is my favorite place to play golf. Period. I’ve been going since my honeymoon in 1984, and it never ceases to stir the golfing spirit. The courses are the most dramatic, the people are the sweetest, the rainbows look painted on the clouds, the music is happy yet heart-wrenching, and the food has gotten a terribly bad rap. Indeed, the modern Irish cuisine has given Dubliners renewed vitality, and there’s nothing better than a traditional Full Irish Breakfast (I’ll pass on the blood pudding, however).
Here’s a whirlwind look at my one-week golf and sightseeing trip to Ireland.
After landing at Dublin airport on an early Saturday morning, I fought off jet lag with a round at the Island Club, which is on the outskirts of the city. My guide was club captain, Tony Bell. The course was created more than a century ago by a syndicate of 10 founding members who were upset that they were not allowed to play golf on Sundays at Royal Dublin Golf Club. In 1887, four of them literally rowed across the channel from Royal Dublin and scouted out a new course. The 14th hole, pictured above, is called “Old Clubhouse,” and it’s one of the tightest driving holes I’ve ever played. High rough on the left and water all the way up the right.
The next day, at Royal Dublin, I AM allowed to play on Sunday, but other restrictions apply.
If it’s Monday, it must be Baltray. Also called County Louth, this is a fine links an hour north of Dublin, giving me a headstart on the four-hour drive to Ballyliffin and Northern Ireland. As they say in Ireland, “Stay on the left and you’ll get there quicker.”
A clever way to measure closest-to-the-pin shots on par 3s.
Recognize anyone? A 16-year-old Rory McIlroy shot the course record at Ballyliffin’s Old Course, and it still holds. Note that the +4 handicapper’s 67 was turned into a net 71 on the card!
Dunluce Castle, just up the road from Royal Portrush and down the road from the Bushmills Distillery. The castle dates back to the 13th century and, more recently, in 1973 appeared on the inner gatefold of the multi-million selling Led Zeppelin album Houses of the Holy.
Site of the planned $100 million Bushmills Links, with a David McLay Kidd design. That’s Portrush in the far distance.
A freak of nature: The Giant’s Causeway, made by volcanic eruptions 60 million years ago. Named one of four Natural Wonders in Europe. It’s three miles from the town of Bushmills.
Now THAT’s a dune, pictured near the fifth green at Royal Portrush. My caddie was Bo Dunbar, who quietly tells me that his son, Alan, played on the victorious Walker Cup team last fall.
In Belfast, the Titanic Exhibition just opened. A must-see. It’s the 100th anniversary of the sinking. Twenty-two tons of soap was used to grease the runway for the ship’s launch. They re-created the Titanic’s grand stairway, with perfect attention to detail.
Back in Dublin, playing Portmarnock. Is that hail? You bet! Five minutes later it was gone.
The greatest Irish Amateur golfer was Joe Carr. He won 12 East of Ireland titles and 12 West of Ireland titles. And he won the British Amateur three times. His family created a room in his honor, housing his trophies and memorabilia. It’s in the clubhouse of the nine-hole Sutton Golf Club, across the channel from Portmarnock.
On a pub crawl, it’s important to understand the origins of traditional Irish music.
You can find a “session” in many pubs on a Friday or Saturday night.
Final round at the European Club, designer Pat Ruddy’s lifelong dream an hour south of Dublin. It doesn’t get any better than this, and miraculously the sun is still shining.
A last stop at the Padraig Harrington Room, created by members of the Stackstown Golf Club on the edge of Dublin. You have to be a policeman to join the club, as was Harrington’s dad. The members are proud of the fact that young Harrington learned his golf here.