Thursday, February 16, 2012

Clare Ultimate Golf Challenge

There are always innovative and – dare I say – cheap ways to play some of Ireland’s best courses. It’s hard to believe, given our profligate years, but the green fee structure has actually presented that opportunity for years, with the likes of Twilight and Early Bird rates being obvious examples, along with the ever popular Open Days.

[Photo: one of the best opening holes in Irish golf]

But the Clare Golf Challenge is something completely different and very, very special.

Now in its third year, it presents the opportunity for a team of four players to play ten golf courses in County Clare for a paltry €100 each, between April 1st and September 30th. That’s a tenner each and your team can play those ten courses at ANY time during those months (subject to availability obviously). And you don't have to play all ten courses.

But wait, it gets better! Among these ten courses are:

  • The dramatic Dromoland Castle crammed with huge trees, a Special Area of Conservation, perfectly shaped holes and water features, and the castle constantly appearing as a back drop.
  • The rhythmic Shannon streaking between dark trees, drifting around gentle doglegs and promising sweet shots at every turn.
  • The entertaining East Clare, with its chocolate filled ponds, its wildness and its peacefulness.

There’s also Lahinch’s second course (Castle), which, while not in the same league as its sibling, retains the same quality condition and is still a quaint links that’ll put manners on you if you try to be smart. And yet it's even better again, because one of those ten courses is the exceptional Doonbeg links on Doughmore Bay, which has one of the best opening holes in Irish golf and popped out of the imagination of Greg Norman.

[Photo: the short par four 15th at Dromoland Castle]

I could write about Doonbeg till the snails come home, but you’re thinking there’s a trick, aren’t you! €100 for ten courses seems just too whacky for words when a single round at Doonbeg can cost you over €150. It’s completely genuine and if you don’t believe me, click on this link for the Clare website... but there are conditions.


To play one of Ireland’s newest and finest links, tee times are ‘only’ available between Monday and Thursday, and after 2pm… which is not exactly onerous is it!

Think about it: regardless of whether you win or lose, or whether you play all ten courses, you can spend three days in gorgeous Clare and play a world renowned course, and a couple of other beauties for a mere €100.

The Challenge has a fairly lengthy list of terms and conditions but when you read them they actually make the whole thing look even better - assuming you're a GUI/ILGU member. For starters, there’s a gala final at Doonbeg, and your team of four can actually have a ringer or two if a couple of the group can’t make one of your rounds.

[Photo: the 6th hole at Lahinch (Castle)]

The Full List

Dromoland Castle
East Clare
Lahinch (Castle)
Spanish Point (9 hole)

Entry is limited to the first 100 teams prepared to pay up. Accommodation suggestions are also made on the website (including Doonbeg and Dromoland Castle), so it couldn’t be much easier to get involved.

And don’t forget the other non-golfing adventures in County Clare: Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, Loop Head and Lisdoonvarna, and that's just for starters.

The Bad News

There is some bad news, which is how the competition is regulated. It relies on golfers’ honesty when it comes to scoring/marking and submitting cards. In other words it is open to cheating, and the winners from last year had rumours swimming around them about dubious handicaps. In other words, you’re probably not going to win as there will always be some people prepared to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable.

And to qualify for the final your team has to submit a minimum of five cards (i.e. five rounds of golf).

[Photo: Doonbeg's 18th hole, with the Lodge behind]

But just keep telling yourself that you’re playing Doonbeg, Dromoland Castle etc., for €10 and you’ll realise that this is one of the greatest deals you're ever likely to encounter.

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