The thing about an Ireland trip is that if you are obsessed with getting to certain courses, and I am, then you have to be prepared to spend a certain amount of time in a car.
I’m comfortable with that, but you might not be. And that’s why the itinerary for this epic dash around the top half of Ireland must come with a warning.
This was such an ambitious, nay foolhardy, expedition that I am going to stop referring to it as a trip and upgrade it to the status of ‘tilt’. I can’t even pin my tilt down to a region. I can only tell you that it started and ended in Belfast, involved several crossings of the Irish border and that the majority of golf, with some significant exceptions, was played within sight of the Atlantic Ocean.
I doubt there are many of you out there who would have taken this one on.
I trust the rest of you will pick out the elements that most appeal and perhaps break my tilt back into the two or three trips that it really comprises.
For me though, the mis- sion was simple. I would arrive in Belfast one Friday morning and depart the following Friday evening. I had a car, I had my clubs and I was more than willing to travel to get to a selection of distant playgrounds.
I wanted to return to Donegal and re-visit a few places I hadn’t seen in years. And there was a 9-holer I’d heard great things about that wasn’t near anywhere.
Dropping down into Sligo, I reckoned I could look at the recent improvements at Rosses Point and pop inland to Lough Erne, which I’d only once previously visited, shortly after its opening.
There was a new nine at Carne, on the western Mayo coast. And then there was Connemara, in Co Galway, which had up to now con- founded me – it was really the only links in Ireland that I hadn’t played.
The reason was that it simply didn’t t on to any itinerary I’ve ever devised. It’s way north of Lahinch and Trump Ireland (Doonbeg to you and me) and when you’re in the north-west you tend to get no further than Ennis- crone, or Carne if you’re really going for it.
Finally, I felt contractually obliged to arrange a game at Royal County Down on account of it being the best course I have ever played and within spitting distance of Belfast airport.
So there you had it – the trip was to follow a roughly anti-clockwise sweep around Donegal, Sligo, Mayo and Galway, starting and finishing at Belfast. Via Fermanagh. And Down.