Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dingle danger

Dingle is a long way along the coast, heading West, seemingly forever. Yet when I passed through there were tourists flocking about, heads twitching like the pigeons on St. Stephen’s Green. It was good to see the town so busy at a time when the number of American tourists is falling.

I carried on to Ceann Sibeal Golf Club which is even further West. For a links course it is not what you expect at all. Sitting under three peaks, known as the Three Sisters, on one side and Croaghmarhin on the other, and with Great Blasket Island silhouetted against the sky, it is a remarkable spot that feels truly Irish. But the course is slightly inland. [Photo: par 5 13th green. Off the tee, to the right, you can drive over the horse if you prefer!]

I bumped into a Ladies team from Ceann Sibeal when I was at Skibbereen last week – where I also met a team from Monkstown. I asked a group of three if anyone would be interested in playing a round of golf when I was due at their club the following week. I might as well have had three heads, the way they looked at me. A man from Cork told me later that Kerry folk are ‘cute’: they won’t give anything away until you lay your cards on the table. Fortunately, Joe, the team’s driver appeared and arrangements were made.

Due to a mix up (my fault) I ended up playing the first 9 on my own, starting at 6.45am. I was walking down the 5th when a buggy whizzed over. I thought I was in trouble for playing too early. Not at all. He was forewarning me that the irrigation system was about to kick in on the 5th green. Sure enough, it started as I approached. I was grateful for the heads-up as I was reminded of a less fortunate incident at Ballykisteen last year. I was standing in front of the pro shop, by the 9th green, when the sprinklers came on. It was about 8am on a gorgeous, sunny morning and in a matter of seconds I was soaked. My playing partners were still getting their clubs out of their car and were completely perplexed as I splashed by in a rather foul mood. [Photo: 5th green, with Three Sisters behind]

Back to Ceann Sibeal, or the ‘course at Dingle’ as many people prefer to call it – the Americans most notably. I hooked up with Joe for the second 9 and once again it proved how useful it is to play with someone who knows the course. From struggling to make bogey, I picked up a couple of birdies, and it was a useful lesson to watch someone well versed in the arts of bump and run. And at Dingle it is something you need to master if you want to do well. Joe plays off 9 (he’s in his 60s), which I imagine would be a 5 or 6 anywhere else.

Sadly I couldn’t hang around as I had to be in Tralee for 2pm, and as luck would have it, I ran into a slice of country life just after leaving the club…

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