Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wonderful Wicklow - 3 rounds of golf & 2 nights B&B

[Photo: the intimidating 4th at Arklow. Bunkers and railway line make this a tough driving hole]

We are still basking in the glow of two Major winners this year and there has never been a better time to get out and explore Ireland's golf courses. And Ireland's golf courses are making it easier and easier with reduced green fees, golfing 'passports' and combined promotions with local hotels.

I'll start with something close to home in Co. Wicklow. It's an excellent offer based at the Woodenbridge Hotel on the River Aughrim - indeed, 20 of the new rooms added by the hotel in 2004 have balconies overlooking the river, and it's a mere one minute's walk to reach the golf club. The offer is for two nights' B&B with three rounds of golf for a mere €145 per person. And if you thought it couldn't get better than that, your golf is at three of Wicklow's best-kept-secret courses.

[Photo: a pretty par three crosses the river in Woodenbridge]

Woodenbridge Golf Club rests quietly in a beautifully wooded valley, with two rivers (Aughrim & Avoca) slipping between holes and converging at one end of the course. Here you'll find Woodenbridge's signature hole - the short par four 14th - where the green sits above the two rivers' meeting. The course is flat and gentle and so relaxing that you can forget the challenges of hitting over water or tackling big, swinging greens. It's a big clubhouse and you enter the club by walking across a railway line and a bridge... it's a good way to start.
[Photo: the par five 16th (Index 7) at Arklow calls for two great shots to open up the green]

Arklow Golf Club is a links course that rarely gets talked about. It's a low-running links that slowly slips into parkland mode for the late holes, but you have to get there first. Like Woodenbridge, it sits alongside a railway line. At Arklow, it separates course from sea, and it makes the par four 4th one of the toughest holes as the railway line waits on your right. The early holes are perfect links where keeping the ball low and out of the rough will reap rich rewards, and the twisting greens are things of beauty. It's a 'hidden links gem' and well worth a visit although it's not the easiest to find in the maze that is Arklow town.

[Photo: the approach to Coollattin's par four 15th]

Coollattin Golf Club complements Woodenbridge and Arklow perfectly. It is a parkland track with the most diverse range of trees imaginable. Big and colourful, they accompany you everywhere on a course that is as challenging as it is attractive. Believe me, the trees get in the way on plenty of occasions. Gentle doglegs abound and the course is known for its pretty par three in a walled garden. Like Arklow, it is not given the respect it deserves and it is one of the most enjoyable parkland courses you can play.

In terms of the money, €145 is an excellent price. The golf alone would cost you as little as €95 and as much as €135. So throw in two nights of B&B and you get a good idea of the value on offer. The hotel has an excellent restaurant and a popular bar with live music on Thursday nights. Avoca - home to Ballykissangel - is a few minutes' drive away and has friendly pubs of its own, or you could try Arklow town. There's also Aughrim, some 20 minutes away, where you'll find the excellent Strawberry Tree restaurant at the Brooklodge Hotel in Macreddin Village, where all the food is locally sourced and organic, and they have more awards than you can shake a 7 iron at. There's also an excellent golf course here, Macreddin, designed by Paul McGinley, so you could easily stay an extra day and play here.

Regular Green Fees:
Woodenbridge Green Fees: €30 to €50
Arklow Green Fees: €30 to €40
Coollattin Green Fees: €35 to €45

Woodenbridge is about an hour south of Dublin city, and most easily reached by driving down the N11/M11 to Arklow, before heading inland. The distance between Woodenbridge and Arklow is only 10 km, and from Woodenbridge to Coollattin is 30 km and about 40 minutes away.

There are lots of great offers around at the moment and this is just one of them.

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