You might know me as the fella who writes the articles, or rants for the sake of ranting in his columns. Well, I actually play a bit of golf mind you.
I enjoy hopping in the car and taking a weekend away somewhere and playing a collection of golf courses in the vicinity of the hotel I am staying in.
I decided to take a trip down to the South West of Ireland and see what Kerry and Limerick had to offer. While they are worlds apart in the GAA world, they both boast the best links and parklands course in the country if not the world.
I would set up camp in the wonderful Meadowlands Hotel in Tralee which I would highly recommend as your base for any golfing getaways you have planned over the winter.
Tralee Golf Links was my first port of call on Friday morning. The world famous links course was celebrating their 125th anniversary, so no better time to go and experience it.
A long way to travel, but totally worth it for the immaculate condition of the course and the breathtaking views.
On the way to the golf course for my 7:30am tee time, the weather looked grim. A damp, dour and murky day looked in store after torrential rain from the previous night but once the clouds parted over the mountains a day in heaven awaited.
Tralee Golf Links wouldn’t be what it is without the stewardship of General Manager, Anthony Byrne who makes the magic happen!
Anthony ensured I was able to secure a tee time despite the packed timesheet with the return of international members.
Anthony played the full 18 with me and was keen to talk about the history of each hole and any redesign work that had been carried out. I couldn't speak highly enough of his hospitality throughout the day and boy does he love a 2-iron!
Anthony is part of the furniture having moved down from Dublin over 20 years ago so he is a converted Kerryman some would say. Tralee Golf Links runs through him and he takes great pride in the course, the staff, the clubhouse staff and he has created a great atmosphere in the club, there are no sounder people than Kerry people!
Originally opened as a nine-hole course in Tralee Town where the present football ground now stands, a year later it was on the move to Fenit on the Southwest side of Barrow Harbour, again another nine-hole golf course.
Described as Arnold Palmer’s Jewel, his DNA is everywhere on the links. The rugged terrain features towering dunes, undulating fairways, while the rough can be a graveyard for even the slightest of wayward tee shots.
A true paradise awaited me and I would have to agree with Mr Palmer when he said “I may have designed the first nine, but surely God designed the back nine.”
Despite his unfortunate passing, Mr Palmer’s presence can be felt around the place with the Arnold Palmer Room in the clubhouse to the many pictures of the great man scattered throughout the reception, restaurant and corridors, the legacy of Mr Palmer can be felt in the heart of this club.
The golf course is exceptionally maintained with beautiful fescue grass greens that roll so well and look untouched despite the volume of traffic on them with over 13,000 rounds at Tralee Golf Club per year.
Colm Lawlor and his team take get pride in keeping the course in pristine condition all year round.
The fairways are like carpets and the undulations give every hole a sense of character while the tee boxes are often perched on top of the dunes which yield themselves to some of the most jaw-dropping views in the world.
We played the course on the most ideal day for links golf, beautiful sunshine and hardly a breath of wind which enabled us to enjoy Tralee in all of its beauty and magnificence.
The 18-hole course was everything I imagined it would be and more with each hole hugging the rugged coastline.
The par-3 course is a wonderful addition to this slice of paradise. The six-hole course caters to all levels of golfer.
The casual nature of the course has served the 200 junior members well where they can learn the game of golf in a safe environment without having to worry about disgruntled members behind them on the full 18-hole course.
The par-3 course is also great for the elderly members who can enjoy a relaxing round of golf where they can have plenty of birdie and par opportunities and the tee shots are not as intimidating as they would be on a normal golf course.
One of the great benefits of the par-3 course is it makes it easier for on course tuition so play on the 18-hole links is not disrupted.
The practice facilities are first class. David Power is the head professional in what can only be described as one of the best teaching facilities in the world.
The Academy as it is known has the latest technology used by tour professionals to improve their game and maintain consistency.
Power uses trackman with a side on camera, a front facing camera and an overhead camera as he leaves no stone unturned during his lessons.
The Sam Putt Lab is a fantastic piece of technology for those of us who would like to see the ball disappear more often on the putting greens while the Sam Balance Plate helps figure out weight distribution and the V1 video recording technology is ideal for students to bring their lessons home and have them available to view at the click of a button.
The Céad Míle Fáilte is something Kerry people take great pride in but the members and staff in Tralee Golf Club go the extra mile in their welcome. Greeted by the wonderful John Sugrue upon arrival I was made to feel like we had been members all our lives and I was given the same care and attention as the international members who were there on that day.
Captains John Murphy and Laura Rafferty embody the community spirit around the golf club and were both beaming with pride at being the club captains on such a special year, particularly Laura who has Tralee Golf Club running through her veins with her parents also members.
Tralee has between 1500 and 2000 members spanning from local members to international members and there is a strong community feel about the club.
I was made to feel like one of the family on the day which is what Tralee is all about, despite the obvious international appeal, it is the members that are the linchpin of this great club.
The caddies are all members and they are nothing short of a pleasure to be around and they help to make sure every round is as enjoyable as possible no matter what the weather with a few friendly kicks of a ball or two!
The caddies highlight the comradery around Tralee Golf Club, they care about their club so they will go the extra mile for the player they carry the bag for. These people really do become your friends for life and there is no better example than when Arnold Palmer came to Tralee and was caddied by the great Michael O’Connell, more fondly known as ‘Chucky’ who ended up striking up a deep bond and friendship with Palmer who would regularly write to Tralee and ask how his friend Chucky was getting on. Perhaps he was still starstruck from the time Chucky serenaded him in the locker room by singing the Rose of Tralee in his underwear!
I was also treated to a fantastic stay in the four-star Meadowlands Hotel, on the outskirts of Tralee town and only 20 minutes away from Tralee Golf Links, making it the ideal location for a stay and play trip.
Situated on beautiful private gardens, a hotel that combines both comfort and elegance. The bedrooms are immaculately furnished with fresh water and chocolates awaiting you once you open the door.
The Johnny Frank’s Bar creates an intimate contemporary setting while still holding on to its traditional old town house features like the open fire and the cascading staircase which leads to the library that overlooks the lounge area.
I was taken aback by the hospitality, the care that the staff take in making sure you are comfortable is great and they are very approachable and partial to a bit of craic!
The food was excellent and the staff were top class in providing a takeaway breakfast for me on Friday morning as I was in a rush to make it to Tralee Golf Links for my tee time!
Once again Arnold Palmer’s presence can be felt here as he stayed in this very hotel on his travels to Tralee.
Palmer's legacy runs deep here and guests and visiting golfers have the opportunity to stay in "The Arnold Palmer" guestroom.
The hotel is the ideal place to check in and see the stunning scenery along the Wild Atlantic Way. The hotel is currently doing special offers for the Autumn and Midterm breaks with a Stay & Dine Special From €80pps.
Still thinking of getting a last minute staycation in before the year is out? Why not take advantage of the Meadlowlands two night staycation From €120pps.
The Meadowlands Hotel is situated just over an hour away from Adare Manor, so I thought it would be rude to drive by the JP McManus owned golf course and not say hello!
What a treat Adare Manor is! I met with golf course superintendent, Alan McDonnell and he told me all about the famous redesign that the old golf course undertook under the stewardship of JP McManus and Tom Fazio.
I had lunch in the old manor house which overlooks the practice putting green. Who was sitting a mere 20 yards ahead of me? Only former Open champion Shane Lowry who was out at the crack of dawn getting a quick 18 in before jetting off to Whistling Straits.
The food was gorgeous, and the service was once again top notch, the staff treated me as if I was one of their own.
Once my belly was full it was time to get the game face on and prepare to tackle the course.
First off I was introduced to my caddie Mark Shanahan who made the experience for me so much more enjoyable, even if we did disagree over one or two putts!
It’s always a tense moment for a player and caddie who get to suss each other out on the driving range, thankfully I was striping the ball with the practice ProV-1s and we both knew we were in for a good day.
Mark was brilliant with me, he let me enjoy the full Adare experience, my clubs were cleaned to such glistening fashion I was almost afraid to get them dirty again.
For every shot, Mark had the yardage book out and was taking notes on where he wanted me to hit the ball to have the best chance of making a birdie. The confidence it gave me to trust him and hit the lines off the tee and into the greens is something we all lack in our regular weekend competitions, so I really enjoyed the experience of acting like a Tour pro for just a few hours.
Mark had also caddied for Lowry that morning and the Clara native went around in an easy five-under, I wasn’t quite up to that standard mind you.
I would highly recommend asking for Mark if you are going to play Adare, you are guaranteed great fun no matter how you play.
The golf course though. Wow.
The tee boxes are cut to perfection, so much so that some tees off the back sticks run like putting greens!
The fairways are like carpet with the most perfect lie guaranteed every time but it’s the greens and the runoff areas that are the signature to this piece of golfing heaven.
The runoff areas are so fine they run like most club’s putting surfaces. They send a fear of guilt through your body if you even dare take out a wedge to chip your ball. It feels like a cardinal sin to take even the slightest of divots and blot this green canvas.
At the end of a great day, I was handed a souvenir Adare Manor bag tag with my name on, which was a really nice touch.
I cannot think of a better stay and play getaway than staying in the Meadowlands hotel and playing the fantastic Tralee Golf Links and Adare Manor on your way home.
The whole experience is worth the trip from all four corners of the country, if not the world!