Golfing on our national holiday is becoming more and more of a tradition, writes Kevin Markham. And there are plenty of innovative options this year.
In 2019, St Patrick’s Day falls beautifully on a Sunday.
As if we needed more of an excuse to celebrate our Irishness, we are presented with a long weekend to relax and enjoy ourselves.
And many of us will be doing that on the golf course. It’s the start of spring, when the fairweather golfer tentatively comes out of hibernation and golf clubs nationwide embrace the masses. That three-day weekend ensures it will be all the more embracing.
Golf clubs up and down the country are running Open events so there’s no shortage of choice. Your only challenge is choosing the course to play and the companions you want to bring with you. With luck, we won’t have to endure a snowstorm like the one that arrived last year and cancelled almost every St Patrick’s Day golf event. No, this year we deserve some cool sunshine and a light breeze.
Here is a selection of events at 26 courses (this is not an exhaustive list).
A parkland outside Limerick that continues to improve and return to its best, Ballyneety has many entertaining holes which are smartly routed around and over a gentle hill.
Mon 18: Champagne Scramble, teams of three, any combination, €15 pp. Entry: Book online or phone 061 351 881.
A sweet and exciting nine-hole links on the northern edges of the Dingle Peninsula. Several excellent holes give this course an unsurprisingly big reputation.
Mon 18: 18-hole Champagne Classic, teams of four, any combination, €20 pp.
Entry: Phone 066 713 9444.
Up in the hills, Clonmel has slopes sliding in every direction and a back nine of thoroughly entertaining holes.
Sat 16: Open 4-ball better ball, Stableford, €12;
Sun 17 & Mon 18: Open Singles, Stableford, €12pp.
Entry: Phone 052 612 4050.
A charismatic hillside course that has stood defiantly against recent storms with holes coursing between avenues of trees in a variety of shapes and thrills.
Sat 16: Gents Open Singles, €20;
Sun 17: Open two-ball Scramble, any combination, €20, including meal;
Mon 18: Champagne Scramble, any combination, €15 (magnums of champagne for winning team);
Entry: Phone 025 31472.
The Irish Open-hosting Fota Island is always a great place to play golf with its idyllic setting, its wildlife, its noisy neighbours (Fota Wildlife Park) and its thoroughly engaging layout.
Mon 18: Open Singles, Ladies & Gents, €40.
Entry: Book online at fotaisland.ie or phone 021 488 3700.
The upgrading work on Mahony’s Point continues and you can get to see it first hand with Killarney hosting an Open Day on the 18th. This has an old-school classic parkland feel and it glides across deer and tree-drenched terrain as it heads for the shores of Lough Leane.
Mon 18: Open Day, Singles Stableford, €30.
Entry: Call 064 6631034 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Newcastle West Golf Club, in Co Limerick, is running an Open Festival of Golf over St Patrick’s weekend.
Sat 16: Open 14-Hole team of three, any combination, one score to count, €20 pp (includes burger and fries);
Sun 17: Open Three Ball Scramble, any combination, €20 pp;
Mon 18: Open Three Ball Scramble, any combination, €20 pp.
Entry: Book online at newcastlewestgolf.com.
With some of the best views in Ireland and what is widely considered to be the best and most adventurous back nine in the country, Tralee’s reputation precedes it. This is a links of never-ending thrills.
Mon 18: Golf Classic, team of four, any combination (two score to count), €50 pp.
Entry: Book online at traleegolfclub.com.
One of Ireland’s most peaceful parkland courses, moving over an undulating terrain that opens up views of mountains and the calm serenity of coasting alongside the River Brickey.
Sat 16, Sun 17, Mon 18: Open Singles, Ladies & Gents, Stableford, €20.
Entry: Phone 058 43216 or book online at westwaterfordgolf.com.
The Alister MacKenzie designed Galway Golf Club slides down pine tree-drenched slopes, under a road and out onto a more open section before tumbling into the bay. It is smart and well maintained and it is renowned for its greens.
Mon 18: Stableford, Open team of four, any combination, €30 pp.
Entry: 091 522033 or email@example.com.
A brilliant parkland in the midst of a deep wood where deer roam and oak trees tumble across the landscape.
Sat 16, Sun 17, Mon 18: Gents Open Singles, Stableford, €20.
Entry: Phone 0909-741059 or book online at portumnagolfclub.ie.
One of Ireland’s youngest courses, Bunclody possesses two distinct nines: the more open holes which continue to mature rapidly; and the more shapely holes which glide through mature trees and alongside the River Slaney.
Sat 16 & Sun 17: Open Classic, team of four, any combination, €25 pp.
Mon 18: Open Singles, ladies & gents, €25.
Entry: Phone 053 937 4444 or book online at bunclodygfc.ie.
This Co Wexford parkland offers so much with its especially strong par threes and its location beside the sea. Accurate driving is required and there is a surprising amount of movement to holes.
Sun 17: Open Singles, €25
Mon 18: Open Scramble, team of four, any combination, €25 pp.
Entry: Book online at courtowngolfclub.com or phone 053 94 25860.
The perfect country parkland with entertaining holes and a peaceful and friendly atmosphere.
Sat 16, Sun 17: Open fourball, ladies and gents, €20 pp.
Entry: Book online at enniscorthygc.ie or phone 057 9233 191.
A wonderfully-entertaining parkland rollercoaster, flowing over endless eskers and keeping you guessing endlessly.
Sat 16, Sun 17, Mon 18: Open team of four, any combination, €25 pp
Entry: Phone 057 93 55999.
Not far from Dublin, Killeen (not Killeen Castle) is a smooth, level parkland with lots of water features protecting an open course.
Mon 18: Open scramble, team of four, any combination, €18 pp.
Entry: Book online at killeengolf.com or phone 045 866 003.
No introduction needed for this idyllic, lazy parkland designed by Jack Nicklaus. The facilities, however, are ever-improving with a new hotel and the Paul McGinley Academy.
Sun 17 & Mon 18: Shamrock Open singles, Stableford, €45 pp. Entry: Phone 056 7773000.
A sweet, under-appreciated parkland that rolls through woodland and alongside a river. Several exceptional holes raise this course up and keep an eye out for the red squirrels.
Sat 16 & Sun 17: Open 18 holes v par, €15pp
Mon 18: Scramble, Open Team of four, any combination, €15 pp.
Entry: Book online or phone 057 8623115.
A thoroughly-entertaining seaside course that is devious, often unfair but utterly absorbing. It’s not long but you’ll want to put your approaches close to pins on devilishly slippy greens.
Mon 18: Open Singles, €15 pp.
Entry: Book online at wicklowgolfclub.ie or phone 0404 67379.
A classic parkland designed by Harry Colt, Belvoir Park curls down to Belfast Lough via curvaceous holes and smart bunkering… and a very impressive clubhouse.
Mon 18: Ladies & Gents Open Singles Stableford, £10 pp
Entry: Phone 048 9049 1693.
The magical Concra Wood wraps around the shores of Lough Muckno in the Co. Monaghan countryside. Designed by Irish golfing legends, Christy O’Connor Junior and Senior, this is an experience to remember with some wonderful driving holes and cleverly sited greens next to the water.
Mon 18: Ladies & Gents Open Singles Stableford, €35 (includes €7 meal voucher).
Entry: Book online at concrawood.ie or phone 042 974 9485.
This youngish parkland moves over a mostly level landscape between endless trees and across a road. Where mature trees exist (e.g. the signature 15th) golfers will find the strongest holes.
Mon 18: Ladies & Gents Open Singles Stableford, £18 pp.
Entry: Book online (dunmurrygolfclub.com) or phone 048 9062 1314.
One of Northern Ireland’s premier parklands and it is such a gentle, elegant affair routed over smooth terrain with two rivers playing a key role.
Mon 18: Ladies & Gents Singles Stableford, £17 pp.
Entry: Book on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 048 256 46161.
Situated on the shores of Lough Neagh, this is a strong parkland where holes curve through the trees and over ridges, ensuring an accurate driver is required.
Mon 18: Ladies & Gents Singles Stableford, £18 pp.
Entry: Book online at massereenegc.co.uk or phone 048 9442 8096.
Paddy Merrigan’s most high profile and impressive design flows over heaving drumlins and around two lakes in a colourful explosion of parkland golf. One of Ireland’s best.
Sun 17: Open team of four, any combination, €30 pp.
Entry: 049 952 6444.
Few will have heard of it outside Ulster, but this is a gem of a parkland. Peaceful and elegant with a constantly cavorting landscape, Spa packs in a lot of beautiful holes.
Mon 18: Ladies & Gents Singles Stableford, £15pp.
Entry: Book online at spagolfclub.net or phone 048 9756 2365.