After my morning round at Dingle, I had to shift it to Tralee where I had a 1.50pm tee off time. I was meeting an old school pal of mine, Finbarr, who was driving up from Rosslare, and at about midday he phoned to say he'd been stuck in horrendous traffic all morning and wouldn't get there till 2.17pm - according to his sat nav. My 'sat nav' was on my wrist and I knew I was going to be cutting it close by looking at where the little hand and the big hand were pointing. [Photo: the beauty of Tralee - par 4 8th]
Tralee is an Arnold Palmer creation - his first venture in Europe - and a statue of him stands close to the 1st tee. Perhaps 'creation' is the wrong word for he has left much of the landscape in its natural form and it is a beautiful spot. Perhaps not as astounding as Dooks, but here you are right on top of the sea, the rocks and the beaches, with a castle ruin and an old tower (behind the 3rd green) thrown in for good measure. The water is many shades of blue, green and aquamarine and I can see why some golfers (American mostly) regard this as more spectacular than Ballybunion up the road. I play Ballybunion tomorrow and will see how they compare! [Photo: Fin plays the par 5 11th, badly]
I arrived in good time, thanks to Joe's (from Dingle) directions, which helped me avoid Tralee town altogether. I introduced myself to the manager, Anthony Byrne, and explained that my playing partner was going to be late as he was driving from Wexford. Anthony nodded knowingly. It was a route he knew well from visiting his brother in Ballycanew, which so happens to be 3 miles from where I live in Co. Wexford.
Fin arrived at 2.16 (fat lot of use his sat nav turned out to be) and we were given a tee time of 2.30... behind armies of fourballs and their caddies. Yes indeed, the Americans have arrived! It took five hours to get around and it was a re-education for me as I had not played there in almost 10 years. There are holes here that are simply stunning and the back 9 is one of the best around - 12 to 17 particularly. There are a few slow holes in the middle, but that only highlights how good the closing stretch is. Once again, looking at the photographs, I realise how a picture cannot do the holes justice. [Photo: par 3 13th]
After the round we were both exhausted - me from 36 holes of golf, Fin from 18 holes and the long drive - and he headed off to nearby Ardfert to explore his heritage before going to Ballybunion to find accommodation and then meet me at the golf club for some food. I returned to my camper van to find another parked next to me. The same make, but 10 years younger, and a large 'For Sale' sign in the window. A coincidence? I think not. I briefly wondered if my keys would work in the newer model. Sadly they didn't.
And so to Ballybunion. I arrived shortly after 8.30pm and the restaurant had just closed. Two Americans, Bob and Adam, were seated at the bar as I ordered a pint from the gorgeous Katie. She said that the Marina restaurant down the road would be serving until 9pm and phoned them to confirm. Bob and Adam reserved a table and we started talking about which courses we were playing. I slipped in a mention that I was writing a book and Bob, a man who knew all of the links courses from 10 years of visiting Ireland, started asking the usual questions about which was best. Truth is, I was far more interested to find out which courses he thought were best. Royal County Down, Waterville, Ballybunion and The Island were all mentioned. And that's a strong list.
Finbarr arrived (he was waiting outside for me - sorry, Fin) and the two of us headed off for dinner. The Marina is also a hotel and the rooms were fully booked, much to Finbarr's disappointment as he had not yet found a room for the night. After we ordered our food, he walked up the street and was back in five minutes having found suitable accommodation. Not long after, Bob and Adam arrived and were seated across the room. At the end of the meal we started talking and it turned out that Bob was a member of a golf club in Connecticut where a friend of Finbarr's was also a member - Finbarr spent a several years working in New York - and Bob knew him. Small world.
Having played in Ceann Sibeal & on the way to Tralee (I assume over the Connor Pass ?) I cannot believe that you didn't drop into Castlegregory GC ! Nestling amongst the dunes, between the mountains and the sea and bordered by Lough Gill, this is the home to the Natterjack toad (his cousins are in Royal Birkdale !). Here you will find another Scrabo i.e. "incredible views & a test of golf that will bring you to your knees" ! The friendly welcome will make up for the lost golf balls !ReplyDelete