Golfing around... Ireland (On the Tiger Trail)

24 Sep 2008 by Sara Turner

WHERE IS IT? 34km west of Dublin.

WHAT'S IT LIKE? The eyes of the world homed in on the Palmer Course in September 2006, when Europe beat America in the Ryder Cup. Built in 1991, it is the first of two Arnold Palmer designs at the K Club. When the Smurfit course opened in 2003, it took over the hosting of the European Open, leaving the Palmer free for the Ryder Cup. Although the team competition didn’t trigger Tiger Woods’ best golf, he has been a regular visitor to Straffan House, the lovely Georgian mansion that is now the Kildare Hotel and Country Club hotel, since 1997. That was the year he caught his first Irish brown trout in the River Liffey which runs alongside the course. Always an early riser, he works out for two hours before boarding a helicopter provided by his friend, global entrepreneur JP McManus, to land near the first tee on the course of his choice. When he reaches the 18th, he gets back in the chopper and flies off to the next one and so on until it gets dark. Although he has often played the K Club courses, the record for the more demanding Palmer is a magnificent 60 shot by Darren Clarke.

ADDRESS Straffan, County Kildare.

CONTACT Tel +353 1601 7200; kclub.ie.

PRICE May-September: Palmer €380 (hotel guests €230), Smurfit €230 (hotel guests €150); October-April: Palmer €245 (hotel guests €190), Smurfit €155 (hotel guests €140).

CLUB HIRE Taylor Made Burner €60.

PRO SHOP Open summer 7am-7pm, winter 8am-dusk.

MINIMUM HANDICAP 28 (men), 36 (women). No certificate required.

FACILITIES Two 18-hole championship courses: Palmer, par 72, 6,603m; Smurfit, par 72, 6,549m. Two driving ranges (free balls) and practice areas with bunkers, pitching and putting greens.

AFTER THE GOLF Each course has its own clubhouse with a snack bar serving breakfast from 7am in summer and a bar menu until the end of play all year round.


WHERE IS IT? 56km south of Dublin.

WHAT'S IT LIKE? Pat Ruddy, a living legend in Irish golf, had the game to be a top professional but claims he “couldn’t take the pressure”. Instead he turned to design, creating 37 courses in Canada and Ireland, including the two at Druids Glen. Between assignments, he built his own 20-hole links on the magnificent sweep of Brittas Bay. Why 20? The terrain demanded it – and the card presents the course as a championship 18 with two bonus holes to cater for all eventualities. This is typical of the quirky Ruddy, who takes pride in giving value for money in his outstandingly friendly family enterprise. The European is a members’ club with a 128 maximum (the number who can get round on the shortest day of the year), but it also welcomes any and all visitors. The dalman, a traditional Irish granite stone at the gate (and also the club logo) may bring luck, but if it fails on the front nine, there’s always the cursing stone on the tenth to even things up. Tiger, a regular visitor on his helicopter jaunts, didn’t need it – well, not on the day he shot the course record of 67. Check out his card in the restaurant to see where he went right.

ADDRESS Brittas Bay, County Wicklow.

CONTACT details Tel +353 404 47415; [email protected]; theeuropeanclub.com.

PRICE April-October €180, second round within a calendar week €70; November-March €100, second round €50.

CLUB HIRE Lynx Predator €40.

PRO SHOP Open 7.30am-5.30pm.


FACILITIES 18-hole championship golf course, driving range (30 balls €5), pitching and putting greens.

AFTER THE GOLF The clubhouse restaurant and bar is open from 7.30am until the last golfer leaves. The full Irish breakfast is recommended, as is the small lunchtime menu which includes fish and chips, Irish stew and steak.


WHERE IS IT? 120km south of Dublin and 16km from Kilkenny.

WHAT'S IT LIKE? Mount Juliet House, built in the 18th century, is set in a 1,500-acre sporting estate with a stud farm and a cutting-edge equestrian centre (opened in June) in addition to the Jack Nicklaus golf course, where Tiger found a route between the ancient oaks and beeches, the formidable water hazards and the large fairway bunkers to win the US$1 million American Express Championship in 2002. While compatriots Davis Love III and David Duval fished in the River Nore in the evenings, fuelled by pints of Guinness from the Tetrarch Bar, Woods tested his reactions on a PlayStation in his suite in the 57-room Conrad hotel. While they ate posh nosh in the Lady Helen Restaurant, he ordered burgers from room service. While they bemoaned lost shots, he set the course record of 63. His card is on the wall in the Presidents Bar to prove it.

ADDRESS Thomastown, County Kilkenny, Ireland.

CONTACT DETAILS Tel +353 56 777 3064; mountjuliet.com.

PRICE May-July, Sept: weekdays €130-155, Sat €190; April, Aug, Oct: weekdays €105-135, Sat €155; Jan-March, weekdays €90, Sat €110.

CLUB HIRE Taylor Made €40.

PRO SHOP Open 7.30am-7pm.

MINIMUM HANDICAP 28 (men), 36 (women). Certificate required.

FACILITIES 18-hole course, par 72, 6,540m, covered driving range, three-hole academy course, 18-hole putting course, par 53, pitching and putting greens. Golf tuition €75 per hour, nine-hole playing lesson on the Academy Course €150.

AFTER THE GOLF Presidents Bar in Hunters Yard (near the pro shop), breakfast 7-11am, light snacks noon-9pm, bar service noon-11pm; Kendalls restaurant, informal meals throughout the day. There is also a leisure centre and spa.


WHERE IS IT? 70km west of Shannon.

WHAT'S IT LIKE? As far as Tiger is concerned, Doonbeg is the one that got away, but this links course, laid out by Greg Norman among the dunes which fringe the sands of Doonbeg Bay, is both stunning and challenging. It is the brainchild of Buddy Darby, who owns Kiawah Island, the 1991 Ryder Cup venue in South Carolina. The Lodge has deluxe accommodation, with more rooms in the cottages down the road. Visitors are welcome on the course, in the Long Room restaurant and the White Horse Spa, but the bar and snooker room are members-only.

ADDRESS Doonbeg, County Clare.

CONTACT DETAILS Tel +353 65 905 5600; visit doonbeggolfclub.com.

PRICE Weekdays €200, weekends €210.

CLUB HIRE Taylor Made €50.

PRO SHOP Open summer 7am-7pm, winter 8.30am-6pm.

MINIMUM HANDICAP 24 (men), 36 (women). No certificate required.

FACILITIES 18-hole course, par 72, 6,195m, driving range (free balls), pitching and putting greens.

AFTER THE GOLF Darby’s Pub opens for breakfast at 7.30am and takes last orders at 10.30pm. The menu is traditional Irish with an international twist. Open until midnight.


WHERE IS IT? On the Ring of Kerry around 150km west of Cork.

WHAT'S IT LIKE? Irishmen have been playing golf here since 1889, but Tom Fazio brought a touch of Americana to the links when he masterminded an extensive redesign. This is where Tiger’s love affair with Irish golf began, inspired by McManus, who invited him, along with his friends Mark O’Meara and the late Payne Stewart, to prepare for his early British Opens in the 1990s. On these non-competitive occasions, Tiger took time out to go salmon fishing with the dedicated O’Meara, but declined Stewart’s invitations to join him at the Butler Arms in the village.  

ADDRESS Waterville, County Kerry.

CONTACT DETAILS Tel +353 66 947 4102, watervillegolflinks.ie.

PRICE Weekdays €180, weekends €190, before 8am and after 4pm €115.

CLUB HIRE Taylor Made €40.

PRO SHOP Open 7am-dusk.

MINIMUM HANDICAP 28 (men), 36 (women). Checked verbally when golfers sign in, but no certificate required.

FACILITIES 18-hole course, par 72, 6,579m, driving range (complimentary balls), pitching and putting greens.

AFTER THE GOLF The upstairs restaurant, with great views of the course, opens for breakfast at 7am and closes after last orders at the end of the golfing day. The menu ranges from snacks and burgers to steaks, and early birds can order a full Irish breakfast the night before.

Further information

Tel +44 (0)800 039 7000; discoverireland.com

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