Destination Golf Ireland 2019 * - Page 10

Road signs near the Giant’s Causeway. The par-3 12th Ardglass GC. Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle. Claret jug replica with Darren Clarke & Fred Daly winners medals inside Royal Portrush GC. Par-3 3rd at Portstewart (Strand). The Bushmills Inn. The Giant’s Causeway may be the star of the Causeway Coast, but other worthwhile attractions include the stunning Carrick- a-Rede swinging rope bridge that spans a gaping chasm between the coast and a small island used by fishermen, and the haunting ruins of 16th-century Dunluce Castle perched precariously on the edge of a rocky headland. Back at the Bushmills Inn we spend a convivial evening by an open peat fire, sampling Bushmills whiskies and swapping golfing tales with other guests. Day 4: CASTLEROCK – County Londonderry Overnight: Bushmills Inn (Bushmills) After stocking up on a bottle of Bushmills 16-year single malt (matured for 16 years or more in a combination of American bourbon barrels, Spanish Oloroso sherry casks and Port pipes), our fourth round awaits at Castlerock Golf Club’s Mussenden Links situated further west along the Causeway Coast, and only a twenty minute drive from Portstewart and Royal Portrush. Founded in 1901, this historic links set amid tall sand dunes besides the picturesque River Bann estuary is a worthy neighbour of the aforementioned courses and will test every department of your game. Day 3: ROYAL PORTRUSH – County Antrim As Royal Portrush Golf Club first comes into view round a curve in the County Antrim Coast Road, it provides us with a magical sight with its green fairways hiding among shaggy-topped dunes and the great headland of Inishowen contrasting vividly with the low line of the Skerries and the sea beyond. Established in May 1888 and included in every list of the world’s top 100 courses, Royal Portrush’s Dunluce has long been regarded as a great test of a golfer’s skill. It hosted the British Open in 1951, when England’s eccentric Max Faulkner lifted the trophy, and the Open returns this year in what is sure to be a momentous occasion. There are plenty of great holes at Royal Portrush, including the brand new 7th and 8th, so it’s truly difficult to choose just one. On the front nine, the 5th with its cliffside green is a worthy contender, but on the back it’s got to be the 210 yards 16th known as Calamity Corner. This testing par-3 calls for a long carry with a long iron or hybrid over an 80-foot ravine to reach the green and to slice or push the ball right will earn you an almost certain double bogey or worse. Don’t be ashamed of taking a four at Calamity Corner – threes are as rare as an unfriendly Irishman. Once we finish our rounds we enjoy soup and sandwiches in the clubhouse dining room, and on the way check out 2011 British Open champion Darren Clarke’s winner’s medal and Rory McIlroy’s scorecard of 61 that he shot (aged 16), when he won the 2005 North of Ireland Amateur Championship. It is still the course record. Overnight: Bushmills Inn (Bushmills) 8 The following morning we enjoy a hearty full Irish breakfast before checking out and taking a pilgrimage to nearby Old Bushmills – the birthplace of Irish whiskey and the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world. It celebrated its 400th birthday in 2008 and behind that milestone is a tale of ingenuity and craftsmanship to perfect the art of distilling. We take a tour to learn more about the whiskey-making process, and then enjoy the best bit with a taste test in the distillery bar. One of the standout holes is the 200 yards par-3 4th called Leg O’Mutton which requires a tee shot struck over a burn, with a railway line lurking to the right and a tricky pot bunker in front of a raised green. Great courses have great closing holes and Castlerock’s short dog-leg right 18th is a beauty. A decent drive will leave you with a relatively blind approach with a short iron, to a tricky two-tiered plateau green with the clubhouse just beyond. We enjoy a 19th hole pint before taking a short drive west to Magilligan Point where we board the Lough Foyle car ferry to Greencastle back in Ireland, and then continue north- west across the scenic Inishowen Peninsula to the village of Ballyliffin and our bed for the night. Overnight: Ballyliffin Lodge & Spa (Ballyliffin)