Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Irish Hotels With An Unexpected Golfing Twist

The launch of the new driving facility at Hayfield Manor.
When it comes to golf in Ireland and finding somewhere to stay, we're blessed with choices. 

Some golf courses are next to or part of a hotel resort - Fota Island, Portmarnock Links, Lough Erne, Mount Juliet, Rosapenna, Macreddin, Roe Park, Mount Wolseley, Rathsallagh, Slieve Russell... the list goes on and on...

... some courses are little more than a walk or a minute's drive away - Royal County Down (Slieve Donard Hotel), Killarney (several hotels), Headfort (Headfort Arms) and Enniscrone (Diamond Coast Hotel) among others (many of which offer combined deals with the courses)...

... and then there are hotels seriously lacking in the golf-course-access department that make up for it in other ways, by adding their own little golfing twist. Build it and they will come.

Three luxury hotels that hit that particular sweet spot are Hayfield Manor Hotel in Cork City, Mount Falcon in Co Mayo and The Cliff House Hotel in Co Waterford. (IGTOA Awards for 'golf' hotels are listed at the bottom of this blog.)

A driving range has just been opened on the front lawn (that's some lawn, eh) of this 5 star hotel, located in the centre of Cork City. Measuring a mere two acres, guests can enjoy the range using specially produced lightweight practice balls. There are other golfer amenities but the range will undoubtedly prove attractive to business guests looking to relieve some stress at the day's end, as well as high-end golfers who enjoy lapping up 5 star luxury. From here it is easy to reach the prestigious venuesof Fota Island, Cork Golf Club and Old Head of Kinsale.

The 5th hole at Cork Golf Club
Not only that, but every resident is encouraged to give golf a try as all of its 88 bedrooms include a putter (hidden between the kettle and the trouser press, perhaps). Visit the website here.

Mount Falcon, outside Ballina, Co. Mayo, is a very special 4 star hotel that has its ethos firmly embedded in the rural beauty of Ireland - it dates back to the 1870s and stretches over 100 acres of woodland on the banks of the River Moy. Fishing comes high on its list of activities, but golf is also a priority with 12 golf courses (including some of my favourites) within an hour's drive. 

The log cabin that forms part of the Mount Falcon Driving Range.
The hotel is beyond.
The hotel now boasts a 9-bay public driving range (4 housed indoor in a Canadian log cabin and 5 outdoor) which was opened earlier this year. There's a designated building for club drying, storage and battery charging, and the hotel is very much a 'full service' provider, arranging airport pick-ups and transfers to and from golf courses. Early breakfast and packed lunches are also available. It helps that Alan Maloney, the hotel's owner, has a bit of a thing for golf so, after a practice session or a day on the links, you might find yourself talking golf in the bar for much of the night.

In 2011, Mount Falcon won the IGTOA's (Ireland Golf Tour Operator AssociationBoutique Golf Hotel of the Year Award. Visit the website here.

Views back up the 16th at Enniscrone - not far from Mount Falcon.

The Cliff House Hotel is a few miles west of Youghal, in Ardmore. It is a 5 star boutique hotel, right on the ocean's edge... which makes its driving bay one of the most intriguing around. Situated in the gardens, golfers can hit environmentally-friendly golf balls towards a floating pontoon in Ardmore Bay. It's a unique touch and for once you'll get a little buzz when the ball splashes down. The hotel's location, food and spa make it a very popular destination but golfers might feel a bit bereft as the golf courses in the area, while perfectly solid, are not exactly top drawer stuff. West Waterford is the pick of the bunch.
Visit the website here.

Elsewhere, Kelly's Resort in Rosslare has a crazy-golf-course - it probably hasn't changed much since I played it almost 40 years ago - and I'm sure that there are other hotels that throw in some golfing ingenuity, such as practice greens, a couple of holes stretched across the grounds or even just a driving net... if you know of any, please drop me a line. 

Which leads me to the Ireland Golf Tour Operator Association Awards. Listed below are the awards for two categories, from 2009-2012, for: 

  • Boutique Golf Hotel of the Year 
  • Large Golf Hotel of the Year 

Now, call me crazy, but in order to win an award shouldn't the hotel have a specific focus on golf facilities, rather than just being a top hotel in a good location that can organise golf packages? From calls I made, there are two hotels that do nothing out of the ordinary for golfers (The Dylan Hotel and Hotel Europe, and even the Shelbourne has limited extras), so why they receive a prestigious 'golf' award is beyond me. Anyway, here's what you can expect at the winning hotels: 

Boutique Hotel of the Year: The Ice House Ballina (Dry Room/Wet Room for Clubs, Packed lunch, Polishing golf shoes, Golf umbrellas, ‘Early Bird’ breakfast. Special corporate golf packages, including tuition)
Large Hotel of the Year: Randles Hotel, Killarney (Discounted Tee Times at Local Clubs, Discounted Local Transport Rates, Golf Club Drying & Storage Room, Early Breakfast on Request, Golf Club Cleaning Service on Request, Private Dining for Golf Groups, Private Setting for Golf Prize Presentations)

Boutique Hotel of the Year: The Dylan Hotel, Dublin (Golf packages)
Large Hotel of the Year: The Trident Hotel, Kinsale (Storage for golf clubs and dryer, Transport Arranged, Golf Clinics with Golf Professional, Use of private room for Prize Presentations (on request), Dedicated golf exec/co-ordinator)

Boutique Hotel of the Year: Mount Falcon (see above)
Large Hotel of the Year: Hotel Europe, Killarney (nothing jumps out - packed lunches and early breakfast for group)

Boutique Hotel of the Year: Killarney Royal Hotel, Killarney (Early Breakfast, Early Check-in, Late Dinner, Packed Lunch, Drying Room and Storage Space, Transport Arranged, Private Dining/Presentation Space)
Large Hotel of the Year: The Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin (Club Storage, Cleaning Clubs/Shoes on Request, Transport)

1 comment:

  1. Picking an Irish place for visit is the most happy moment of all time, the beauty of nature and nice people makes me feel good. Golfing is no doubt is one of my favorite sport but managing time for some action is really hard sometimes. Post is looking great! thanks for sharing.