My Golf Trip: Two nights Woodenbridge Hotel, play The European, Woodenbridge and Arklow

by Ronan MacNamara

A county not known for it’s GAA history, in fact it’s biggest achievement in football is Baltinglass winning the All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship in 1990.

Wicklow more than makes up for that with its golf courses. After my trip around the Southwest I decided to take a tour of the sunny South East and it did not disappoint.

I set up camp at Woodenbridge, more specifically the Woodenbridge Hotel and Lodge which is run by the wonderful Liz Bermingham, the Front Office Manager.

The hotel is a really popular spot for golfers and they run stay and play packages with numerous golf courses around Wicklow and cater to your every need!

I was given a room in the lodge situated across the road from the hotel. The lodge is a very intimate setting and my room was very comfortable to relax after a hard day on the golf course.

The room was in immaculate condition with not a wrinkle to be seen on the beds.

The main event is the bar in the hotel, full of golfers from Ireland and abroad it creates a buzzing atmosphere.

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Liz Bermingham center

The staff were brilliant, they made sure I was kept fed and watered when I was working away on my laptop during dinner and they made sure I was front and centre for the football on the television! Liverpool won that night so I couldn't have asked for anything more.

The hotel has a great relationship with the golf courses around it. Liz goes the extra mile in making sure that golf courses are not only available, but that they are in the best condition possible for guests who are booking a play and stay package.

Guests won’t be sent to courses that are undergoing renovation work ie. Sanding, pole forking, drainage work etc.

I have never seen a hotel with such a close and personal relationship with neighbouring golf courses.

Woodenbridge of course overlooks Woodenbridge Golf Club and it was during the breakfast that i was treated to some typical stunning Wicklow views.

Synonymous for its greenery and towering woodland, you can literally see the morning fog rising over the hills and the trees as the sun pierces through the gaps.

The European Club, Arklow Golf Club and Woodenbridge Golf Club were next on my hitlist.

Honestly, just to spend time in the company of Pat Ruddy, the iconic designer of the European Club is worth the trip.

Pat is a walking story book and when the Irish Amateur Open came to his course last month he was standing on the first tee, not with pride, but with a look of sheer devilment as the players try to tackle what he has in store for them.

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Pat Ruddy Center

Pat’s crafty nature is there for all to see around Brittas Bay and the quirky design of the 18th hole will catch even the best players out.

Fifty yards short of the final green is the European Club’s own Barry Burn, inspired by the famous 18th hole at Carnoustie where Jean Van DeVelde had his trousers rolled up to his knees in 1999.

Pat wouldn’t reveal his age but it was some sight to see a man who has lived through nine decades playing 18 holes and then carting around the course in the afternoon making sure things were in order.

Meet Pat Ruddy: An Irish golfing legend who is thrilled to see the Irish Amateur come to his house

The course was in pristine condition. There wasn’t a blade of grass out of place and given the dry weather we have had I was thoroughly impressed to see the fairways so green yet running hard and fast like a proper links course.

After a thoroughly enjoyable day on the links I sat down with Pat for an hour and if I wasn’t in such a rush to get back to Woodenbridge for dinner I could have stayed there all night!

After a few too many pints, I headed for the awakening giant, Arklow Golf Club in the morning.

Described as an affordable links course, it can have its advantages and disadvantages. Having never played the course I did not know what to expect.

But wow. I loved the place. I adored it. The greens were like lightning. You could literally set the ball off on its line and it wouldn’t dare deviate from that line. As a test of golf, I couldn’t ask for more.

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Pa Costello above with myself in the pro shop

Arklow, spearheaded by General Manager, Pa Costello has a great relationship with Woodenbridge Hotel and Lodge, and that has created a buzzing atmosphere between members and visitors who are all treated the same.

I played the full 18 with Pa and it was a joy, we were treated to a glorious late summer’s day and the last four holes are worth the entry fee alone.

Stunning views over the bay can be seen by the right of the 4th hole, go out of bounds there and you are into international waters!

Meet Pat Costello: A rising star that shines bright above Arklow Golf Club

Yachts can be seen racing during the evening and it makes for quite the spectacle.

The hospitality I was treated to at Arklow was second to none, I was made to feel like long time members and after a sweltering day on the criminally underrated links, I enjoyed some food and a couple of pints in the bar.

The clubhouse is superb, obviously, with Covid restrictions, the club have put a lot of money into an outdoor dining area, which they are going to renovate once more to stand the test of time over the winter months.

The food was glorious I had a BBQ base chicken pizza, which to pizza purists might not be to their fancy but trust me it hit the spot and then some.

Personally, I am dying to get back and play Arklow over the winter I cannot get over the experience. Yes, we all want to play the trophy links courses and the big hitters, but Arklow for me is right up there in terms of greens and a links test.

While Wicklow play their GAA in blue and gold, I always associate the county with green. Towering evergreens, multiple acre sized fields of green and stunning green valleys that make even driving through the aptly named Garden County a joy.

Woodenbridge is a special parkland course. The course is surrounded by mature woodland that creates a green screen blocking out the outside world. Woodenbridge Golf Club is like its own little world. When I played it felt like I was in a little green dome and nothing else outside it mattered.

A seriously good test of golf, the greens are tricky and you need to have your putting shoes on to choose the correct lines.

There is something special about hearing your golf ball echo off the huge evergreens that frame the course, particularly on the back nine.

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The beautiful Avoca and Aughrim Rivers bisect the golf course and are very much in play, coming into effect on ten holes.

The final five holes are one of the best finishes you’ll come across. There’s risk reward on 14 and 16 as short but devilishly tough par-4s where any wayward drive is severely punished and can ruin any card.

It’s not often you don’t play well and thoroughly enjoy a round of golf, but that was the case for me in Woodenbridge, the tranquillity of the surroundings kept me sane!

While we are often attracted to venture further south in Europe for warm weather golf in all these big-time resorts, sometimes we have to take a moment and realise we are spoiled for golf in this country and it doesn't have to be expensive!

Wicklow really is a hidden golfing phenomenon, a seriously underrated county for golf. I would highly recommend staying in Woodenbridge Hotel and Lodge and availing of one of their golf packages and playing some of the country’s best golf courses, especially when two are literally on the doorstep!

Wicklow, a golfing wonderland.

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