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Sunday, May 28, 2017

2017 Blackhawk CC Ireland Bucket List Experience

Recently my wife Linda and I had the pleasure to return to Ireland for a memorable couples golf trip hosted by Blackhawk Director of Golf Tim Burr and his wife Amy.

We experienced the "Kind Irish Way" a few years ago when our Hall-of-Famer son MJ played in the Special Olympics World Games held for the first time outside the United States in Dublin, Ireland.  Irish travel expert Bud Garmany of Garmany Golf and Travel planned this fabulous trip for 7 lucky Blackhawk couples that included 5 rounds of golf at great Irish courses.

The anticipation began with an informative presentation by Bud Garmany and his able assistant Lauren Moy a few weeks before the trip. It was an opportunity to review the itinerary in detail and ask questions about the trip. Blackhawk Member Paul Zingg also autographed his informative book on Ireland titled "An Emerald Odyssey"  for each of us.

The itinerary  began in Shannon, Ireland with everyone arriving at the charming Killarney Park Hotel for an opening night "Guinness" enhanced dinner at the nearby Ross Hotel. Billy, our driver for the week, picked us up at the airport and was full of interesting information on the scenic 2 hour drive through charming movie set like towns. The heavenly green hills of Shannon were full with sheep, cows and horses happily grazing on this pastoral, peaceful playground of sensational and historic hills and golf courses.

Irish eyes were smiling with anticipation of great golf shots and joy as we enjoyed a group dinner with our knowledgeable and worldly Garmany travel host Lee who provided the details of our special week of golf, food and fun.  After a long day of travel, everyone retired early for some rest in preparation for our first day of golf.

After a hearty Irish breakfast, we began our "Irish Golfing" experience at Dooks Golf Club. We chose to have caddies each day that enhanced the golf experience listening to great stories and brilliant advice by guys who are proud of Ireland and love the game of golf. We were prepared for the Irish weather with layers of clothing for all conditions. The Irish golf Gods were very kind to us as we experienced "perfect Irish weather." Mild  temperatures, clouds, sun and mostly dry conditions made our golfing experience extra special.

Our caddie Mike told us that he has played all of the Irish courses and said, "Dooks, with its beautiful setting on the ocean and one of the oldest courses in Ireland(1889), is one of the best kept secrets in Irish Golf."

The next golfing experience was Waterville. Waterville was also established in 1889 and is ranked as one of the best courses in Ireland. No two holes are alike and it is the brain child of Irish American businessman John A. Mulcahy.

We had early tee times and the weather was dry but challenging with strong winds coming off the panoramic water views. An Irish Coffee after 9 holes helped us power through the windy and partly sunny skies to finish strong on the sensational par 5 18th hole along the bay.        

After golf, we enjoyed a driving tour of the Ring of Kerry.  The Ring of Kerry is a scenic drive around the Iveragh Peninsula in Southwest Ireland's County Kerry. We stopped at a charming diner for lunch located on the beach called O'Carroll's Cove. The seafood was very fresh as it is caught daily on the bay a few hundred yards from the restaurant.

The third course we played was famous Ballybunion. Tom Watson loved this course established in 1893 and Golf Digest has rated it the 7th best course in the world outside the United States. It has hosted the Irish Open and was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. It was again a dry day of mixed sunshine and calm skies that made for another fun and enjoyable round of golf.

We returned to the Killarney Park Hotel  and enjoyed a fun evening of pub crawling, Irish music and shopping in the vibrant downtown area close to the hotel. We then packed and prepared for our 4 hour private bus ride to Dublin.

After a hearty Irish breakfast,  we traveled to the vibrant city of Dublin. For the ride to Dublin we brought some Irish whiskey to add to our coffees to celebrate a couple of birthdays in our group. As the "Irish coffees" kicked into gear, the bus ride was full of chatter and laughter that helped speed up the 4 hour journey to Dublin.

We checked into the elegant K Club Hotel with 2 Arnold Palmer designed courses and home of the 2006 Ryder Cup and 2016 Irish Open.  Some of our group played golf and others decided to relax and enjoy the spectacular hotel and treatments at their sensational spa. Linda and I went to Dublin to shop and enjoy the many Irish pubs and grub filled with happy people.

Our group was fortunate to stay in the elegant 34,000 square foot 10 bedroom private residence Straffan House on the property. It is located in a heavenly setting on the golf course with a private concierge, pool, movie theater, hot tub, sauna, wine cellar, art collection and more.

The original Straffan House was built in 1832 by Hugh Barton of the world famous Barton and Guestier wines. In 2005 the new one was built at a cost of 15 million dollars. Many royalty and famous people have stayed here. A quote from famous writer Oscar Wilde is proudly displayed on the large marble patio on the 10th hole underneath the Irish Flag that says, "I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best."

The next day we had a choice of various activities in the vibrant city of Dublin. The entire group decided to take the Guinness factory tour.  This great beer known as "mothers milk" was discovered  by Arthur Guinness in 1759 and is popular all over the world. It was a fascinating tour that concluded with generous samples that brought eternal smiles to everyone's faces. 

After resting our golf clubs for a day, the golf Gods continued to bless us with sunny, dry, mild weather and the group played Royal Dublin Golf Club and then Portmarnock Golf Club for the final rounds.

Royal Dublin Golf club was founded in 1885 and is Ireland's second oldest club. It is located on Bull Island in Dublin Bay. Colorful golf television commentator David Feherty won his first professional tournament here.

From the web site, Portmarnock was described by Tiger Woods as "one the most enjoyable links courses I have had the opportunity to play."  It also brought back great memories for us as this is the course that Special Olympics used for the golf events in the Summer World Games. In addition, Linda and Tim both birdied number 12 along the deep blue sea that will create an eternal "Irish smile" in their golf memory banks. 

At our farewell to Ireland dinner, we shared our special golfing stories and memorable golf shots. Ireland is a beautiful place to golf and visit. The people are very friendly, generous, and warm hearted and have a great sense of humor, zest for life and love for golf. 

May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be at your back........We would definitely recommend that you put Ireland on the top of your "must do" bucket list.

For more information about Ireland and other great destinations go to: