Welcome to South Fork.

I half expected to be greeted by JR or at least see the name Sue Ellen up there in gold lettering among the list of lady captains on the honours board as we were taken on a guided tour of the magnificent building.

But this wasn’t Dallas, this was Ireland - this was the new Dun Laoghaire Golf Club clubhouse conveying opulence with a capital O.

Jaws dropped in amazement as our minibus pulled up outside the clubhouse on the final day of our annual tour of Irish golf courses. This has to be among the finest clubhouses I have ever seen and once inside my initial impressions were confirmed - the place is palatial.

We received a wonderfully warm Irish welcome on our arrival and were then shown around the expansive, exclusive building - but still managed to get lost when trying to find the locker room.

The club moved to this new site after selling off the land housing the original course for building development.

The relocated Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leary) course sits dramatically between mountains and the sea in Ballyman Glen, above Bray, a uniquely beautiful valley on the borders of counties Dublin and Wicklow.

Revered as one of the best courses for golfing in Ireland, the 27 hole championship track has been designed to allow different combinations of the three nine hole courses to be played. For the professional and club golfer alike, a thrilling golfing experience awaits with the wonderfully inspiring backdrop of the Wicklow mountains.

The course is complemented by a state-of-the-art golf academy, an extensive practice facility allowing golfers to hone their skills before putting them to the test on the course.

Wide panoramic views can be enjoyed from the clubhouse which offers an exceptional level of comfort. A buggy garage is housed in the basement of the building with dozens of vehicles parked in neat rows. We had hired buggies for the day and they were driven out by a friendly club official. We then drove in pairs to the first tee where yer man from the garage doubled as the starter for our round. The dedicated service and friendly club atmosphere, ensured that we had a memorable visit.

After our round we enjoyed a appetising evening meal in the clubhouse restaurant, followed by the prize presentation.

Alas, I was not called upon.

Footnote: To confirm the measure of respect with which the course is regarded, Dun Loaghaire has been chosen to host the 2016 Curtis Cup international match between Great Britain & Ireland against the USA.

Back in the late 1980s our team of itinerant Yorkshire hackers stayed in bed and breakfast accommodation in the market town of Tullamore in County Offaly, where we had a most enjoyable time, but foolishly did not get to savour the delights of the town’s acclaimed golf course. Fortunately, thanks to Tourism Ireland, Welcome Ireland and Irish Ferries I have now played the course twice and can confirm that it is up there with the best of them.

On the first day of our visit to Ireland this year we revisited Tullamore Golf Club, a mature 18-hole parkland championship course situated on the outskirts of the town. Located there since 1926 the James Braid course was re-designed in 1995 by course architect, Patrick Merrigan. The result is a magnificent course which is enjoyed by members and visitors alike. It has been the venue of many major amateur and professional championships over the years and in 2009 hosted the All-Ireland Cups and Shields finals.

Dun Laoghaire golf club Contact Steve Catchpool at scatchpool@icloud.com
 

Tullamore is a championship golf course located in a traditional parkland setting. It has many picturesque views, which are enhanced by clusters of mature oak, beech and chestnut trees with the Slieve Bloom Mountains in the background. It is rated among the top-25 parkland courses in Ireland in BACKSPIN’s 2014 Irish Golf Course Rankings Poll, which involved a panel of 75 influential personalities.

The course has been located at Brookfield since 1926 and in 1938 the club invited James Braid, a five times British Open winner, to visit Tullamore to inspect the course and recommend what changes should be made to improve the overall standard. This was of significant benefit as Braid suggested 4 complete new holes among other changes which included a bunkering plan and a new 18th hole which was not completed until 1945. The bulk of the work on the course was carried out over three years. In the mid 1990’s course architect, Patrick Merrigan was engaged to re-design the course. The result which was unveiled in the club’s centenary year -1996, This really is a magnificent course which combines the best of the James Braid design with three new lakes along with seven new greens, 11 new tees and 30 new bunkers. Drainage and irrigation were upgraded and 5,000 trees planted to augment the mature oak, beech and chestnut trees that had been there for a century and more.

The 5th, 13th, 14th, 16th and 18th holes, in particular, provide the visitor with an unforgettable challenge and a course of championship standard to the discerning golfer as a result of which many major competitions have been hosted at Tullamore.

Three times South of Ireland champion Eddie Power summed up the merits of Tullamore when he wrote to the club committee telling them:

“You have a fantastic parkland course in super condition with unique features. It has maturity that a lot of the new courses don’t have. The texture and roll on the greens is excellent. You can see that there is great emphasis on attention to detail. I hope that the members are very proud of their course and their staff.”

Well earned praise indeed.

On the final full day of our stay in Ireland we were taken to Dunmurry Springs golf club in Kildare which proved to be s a great option for anyone looking for a championship golf course near Dublin.

All the great golf courses offer a challenge that the golf community label ‘must play’ and Dunmurry is one such example.

Golf courses in Ireland include links, parkland, resort courses or beautiful ‘hidden gems’. Dunmurry Springs falls into the latter category and offers value-for-money golf rates, online golf tee times and individual tee-times.

Whether you are learning how to golf, taking lessons in golf to improve your handicap or winning all the golf open competitions, Dunmurry Springs has something to offer. You can book your golf online and combine a visit to Dunmurry Springs with a visit to the renown K Club - a home of the Irish Open Championship - or other golf courses in Kildare or Dublin for a memorable golf experience.

Dunmurry Springs golf club in Kildare is a great option for anyone looking for a championship golf course near Dublin. In golf, all the great golf courses offer a challenge that the golf community ‘must play’. Golf courses in Ireland include links golf courses, parkland golf courses, resort golf courses or beautiful ‘hidden gems’. Dunmurry Springs falls into the latter and offers great golf rates, online golf tee times and individual tee-times Dublin clubs don’t have available.

We met up at Holyhead, off Anglesey, to board Irish Ferries’ luxury cruise ship bound for Dublin. We took the golf clubs, cases, bags and assorted extra belongings.

You can take most things across the sea courtesy of Irish Ferries - including the kitchen sink - if you feel that way inclined.

One adventurous chap even took a fridge with him, strapped it on his back and then walked his way across the Emerald acres.

Crazy?

Please don’t ask me why.

He then wrote a book about it - a good read - and made himself a small fortune.

Our group’s golfing trip was courtesy of Tourism Ireland, Welcome Ireland and Irish Ferries.

For details of golfing and general holiday packages in Ireland go online at: www.Ireland.com

For update details and prices and golfing package and playing offers at the three featured golf courses, go to:

www.tullamoregolfclub.ie

www.dunmurrysprings.ie

www.dunlaoghairegolfclub.ie

Irish Ferries carries more people across the Irish Sea than any other ferry company, with crossing times from as little as 1 hour 49 minutes on the Dublin Swift.

Cruise-ferry fares start at £79 each-way for a car and driver, with no extra charges for carrying clubs or other baggage in the boot of the car. Irish Ferries Holidays can also package hotels, B&Bs or cottages for self-drive golf holidays.

For further information visit www.irishferries.com or call 08717 300 400

They operate three ships on the Irish Sea: luxury cruise ferry Ulysses, fast catamaran Dublin Swift, cruise ferry Isle of Inishmore

Routes: Holyhead to Dublin; Pembroke to Rosslare

Drive time: Holyhead from Huddersfield - just over 3 hours. Shortest crossing times 1 hour 49 minutes on Dublin Swift; Ulysses 3 hours 15 minutes. Club Class (priority boarding, reserved seating, free refreshments etc) available. Ship-wide free WiFi.