If you want to play a winning round of golf, then drink in some classic pubs afterwards, look no further than Dublin, says ANDREW MARSHALL, who offers his must-do “pubs and clubs.” Photography by PAUL MARSHALL.
Golf: a sport where grown men and women use several different bent sticks to hit a ball into an area with very short grass surrounding a hole in the ground. Yep, that’s pretty much the gist of it, and the inhabitants of the Emerald Isle love it – alongside a good drink of course. And where in Ireland is perfect for both? Well, none other than the capital itself.
Just a short drive away from Dublin’s city centre there are some amazingly high quality courses waiting to be discovered. A few miles north of the city, golfing options include Royal Dublin, Portmarnock Links and the lesser-known St Anne’s Golf Club. To the west, are top-class parkland tracks like the K Club and Rathsallagh. To the south, quick road connections lead to County Wicklow and championship courses such as Druid's Glen and The European Club.
And when it comes to enjoying a pint or two after your round, there’s no shortage of 19th holes in the city. “A good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub,” wrote James Joyce in Ulysses. Little has changed since Joyce penned his classic novel and Dublin’s approximately 800 pubs are still the hubs of social life summed up in that famous Irish word, the “craic.”
So whether you are negotiating one of The European Club’s long par-4s through the dunes or sampling a few beers in O’Neill’s back in Dublin, here are 18-holes of golf clubs and pubs. Enjoy your rounds!
FRONT NINE - The Golf Clubs
Hole 1 – The European Club
Crafted out of tumbling dunes by Pat Ruddy, The European Club features 18-holes (plus 2 bonus par-3s) of exciting links golf with dramatic views of the Irish Sea. This is seaside golf at its very best, with fast-running fairways, greens that invite the pitch-and-run approach, acres of tall, waving marram grass, strong winds and the taste of salt in the sea air. Look out for the 470 yards par-4 7th, voted one of the world’s greatest 100 golf holes. Tiger Woods still holds the course record of 67, shot on July 12, 2002. On the tees of several of the par-4s he said: “Is this a par-5? Wow…what great optical illusions!”
Hole 2 - Druids Glen & Druids Heath
Situated in a scenic location 30-minutes south of Dublin, this double-header venue boats two championship courses to test your golfing skills. Holder of the Irish Open four times in a row between 96 and 99, Druids Glen, often referred to as the ‘Augusta of Europe’, is a challenging parkland layout that can be tough to negotiate with water being a threat on several holes. Elevation changes, historical landmarks, mature trees and vibrant floral displays add to the interest. The other course, Druids Heath runs through undulating and mainly open terrain with the mountains, sea and rolling Irish countryside providing stunning vistas throughout.
Hole 3 - St Anne’s Golf Club
While not as famous as some of the other courses on Dublin’s north coast, St Anne’s Golf Club is an impressive links layout that’s lucky enough to be situated on one of Ireland’s most important ecological attractions: Dublin Bay’s Bull Island Nature Reserve – a great spot to ensure at least a few birdies of the feathered variety.
Hole 4 - Deer Park Golf Club
Set in 450 acres, Deer Park Golf Club is Ireland's largest golf complex offering a range of golf courses for players of all abilities. For starters, there’s an 18-hole pitching and putting range and two excellent 9-holers, the Grace O'Malley and St.Fintans, each having their own individuality. But the main course is Deer Park’s wonderful 18-hole parkland course with a stunning backdrop of the Irish Sea and panoramic views of Dublin and its suburbs.
Hole 5 - Corballis Golf Links
Offers an excellent opportunity to play a top quality links course at an affordable price. With playable conditions throughout the year and some of the most consistent greens in the country, Corballis Golf Links is a hidden gem located just 25 minutes drive north from the centre of Dublin. Well recommended for an introduction to the vagaries of links golf.
Hole 6 – Rathsallagh Country Club
A top-quality parkland track that has rapidly developed a reputation as one of the best courses in the Dublin region is Rathsallagh Country Club beautifully laid out by Christy O'Connor Jr and Peter McEvoy on 250 acres of superbly natural terrain dotted by mature oak and beech trees. It features several lakes and small streams that meander across the fairways with immaculate greens.
Hole 7 - Royal Dublin Golf Club
On Dublin Bay’s Bull Island Nature Reserve you will discover a natural links fashioned in a classic style in the early part of the last century by the renowned golf architect Harry Colt. Over the years, many legends of the game have played here including Nicklaus, Trevino, Ballesteros, Langer, Norman and Faldo. Martin Hawtree has now enhanced this top-drawer links for the modern era; making one of Ireland’s greatest golfing tests, well, even greater.
Hole 8 - The K Club
West of Dublin is the K Club’s Palmer Course and the dramatic scenes of that famous European victory over the USA in the 2006 Ryder Cup. One of Ireland’s finest parkland courses, the closing stretch is a classic. The 16th is an all-or-nothing two-shotter, where an accurate drive must be followed by a long and precise approach over water to an island green. The 18th dares the golfer to drive over the top of a bunker-strewn hill and then tempts you to fire straight at the flag in search of that heroic Ryder Cup finish. The K Club’s other course the Smurfit, would best be described as an inland links, with dune-type mounding throughout.
Hole 9 - Portmarnock Golf Links
Widely recognised as one of Ireland’s premier golf resorts with a golf course that combines all the charms of a traditional links layout with the challenge of the modern game. Gently undulating luxuriously sprung fairways leading to large fast greens must be negotiated through 98 strategically placed bunkers, while hillocks, wild grasses and gorse await wayward shots. The 1st tee and 18th green are conveniently situated just a wedge shot from the hotel and clubhouse.
BACK NINE – The Pubs
Hole 10 - Palace Bar
A short stroll from Temple Bar’s cobbled streets, the Palace Bar is often said to be the perfect example of an old Dublin pub. Step into the beautiful snug with its mirrors and wooden niches in which many a historic meeting has taken place, or the back room with its high ceiling and ornate stained glass, where literary stock used to gather. Flann O’Brien and Harry Kernoff were regulars, and the Palace Bar became one of Dublin’s great literary pubs. An advertisement published in the “Where to drink Guide 1958” adorns the wall and says: “Internationally famous also for its intellectual refreshment.”
Hole 11 - John Mulligan’s
Once a working-class drinking man’s pub, this brilliant old boozer is another virtually unchanged over the years. Established in 1782, its main claim to fame is a perfectly poured pint of Guinness and the colourful crew of regulars who are considered experts on the subject. Over the years Mulligan’s has attracted a mixed bag including former US President John F Kennedy and it also featured as the local in the film My Left Foot starring Daniel Day Lewis as Christy Brown.
Hole 12 - Grogan’s Castle Lounge
Known among regulars simply as Grogan’s, this city centre institution is a favourite haunt among painters, writers, bohemians and alternatives. From the street, not much can be seen through the lace curtains, but once you go through the door it’s like stepping into someone’s living room. The actor Brad Pitt became a local here to help him soak up the Irish atmosphere, while working on the movie Snatch.
Hole 13 - O’Neill’s
Granted the James Joyce award for being an authentic Dublin pub, O’Neill’s has existed as licensed premises for over 300 years. Featuring five bars and numerous alcoves and snugs all of which attract a different clientele and age group, from students and lecturers at nearby Trinity College, to busy city traders and lovers of the arts and theatre. As an added bonus, O’Neill’s is one of 220 Irish pubs with special beer-dispensing tap tables, where customers can pour their own Guinness without the interminable wait for the barman to put the shamrock in the froth. Taps on the tables are linked to kegs behind the bar and customers leave their credit card to pay for a given number of pints.
Hole 14 - Long Hall
Backing onto Dublin Castle, the Long Hall is one of Dublin’s most beautiful and best-loved watering holes. Although very much a locals’ pub, many visitors come to experience the evocative atmosphere and full Victorian splendour with an ornately carved bar, elegant chandeliers and a pendulum clock more than 200 years old.
Hole 15 – Temple Bar
Slap bang in the centre of the tourist area of the same name, vibrant red Temple Bar (also known as Flannery’s) has the most photographed pub façade in Dublin, if not the whole world. Not the kind of place to go for a quiet pint with the locals, as it’s usually wall-to-wall with visitors. But it’s still a good ‘craic’ and has all the right ingredients with traditional musicians and a lively atmosphere.
Hole 16 – Ryan’s
Located just a few sips of the black stuff away from the Guinness Storehouse across the River Liffey, Ryan’s of Parkgate Street (established in the 1890s) is well worth a visit. It is one of only a handful of city pubs that has retained its Victorian décor virtually intact, and boasts an original oval-shaped mahogany bar, magnificent stained glass and walls decorated with an outstanding collection of antique gilt mirrors advertising various products sold at the turn of the 20th century.
Hole 17 – Dublin Literary Pub Crawl
A great way to learn more about Dublin’s pub culture, history and its literary associations is to take the Literary Pub Crawl. It’s a guided tour by Colm Quilligan and other actors who perform humorous extracts from Dublin’s best-known writers in some of the city’s best-loved drinking establishments. “We were a band of unemployed actors doing entertainment in pubs,” says Quilligan. “It was a natural fusion of the two ideas and a great way of legitimising the pub lifestyle.”
Hole 18 - Guinness Storehouse & Gravity Bar
What would Dublin’s pubs be without Guinness stout? No ‘Pubs and Golf Clubs’ visit to the Irish capital would be complete without a pilgrimage to the Guinness Storehouse at St. James’s Gate, where you’ll learn plenty about the world famous beer including the brewing process and the Arthur Guinness story. After you have seen how it’s made, it’s time to taste the famous product. Hovering above the roof of the Storehouse is the Gravity Bar, and with a pint of Guinness in hand and incredible 360-degree views over the streets of Dublin, it’s the perfect position to contemplate James Joyce’s puzzle…
Where To Stay
Clontarf Castle Hotel: This luxurious and picturesque Dublin Castle Hotel is located just two miles from Dublin city centre and just five miles from Dublin Airport. It’s also ideally positioned for the golf courses on Dublin’s north coast such as Royal Dublin, St Anne’s, Deer Park and Corballis. www.clontarfcastle.ie
The Arlington Hotel/Temple Bar: Ideally located, affordable and comfortable Dublin city centre 3-star accommodation. This Temple Bar Hotel also features the unique Guinness Tap Tables, where customers can try their hand at pouring their own pint of Guinness. www.arlingtontemplebar.com
Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links: A luxurious 4-star hotel that combines modern elegance with the grandeur of a 19th century home once owned by members of the Jameson Whiskey dynasty. Located 15 minutes from Dublin airport and a 10-minutes’ walk to the train station for easy access to Dublin City centre. The excellent links course is right next door. www.portmarnock.com
Druids Glen Resort: Just 30 minutes driving distance from Dublin centre, this 5-star resort enjoys a wonderful rural setting in Co. Wicklow. Featuring 145 deluxe bedroom and suites, spa, choice of dining options and two Championship golf courses including the famous Druids Glen course and Druids Heath. www.druidsglen.ie
Where To Play
The European Club: www.theeuropeanclub.com
Druids Glen & Heath: www.druidsglen.ie
St Anne’s Golf Links: www.stanneslinksgolf.com
Deer Park Golf Club:
Corballis Golf Links: www.corballislinks.com
Rathsallagh Country Club: www.rathsallagh.com
Royal Dublin Golf Club: www.theroyaldublingolfclub.com
The K Club: www.kclub.ie
Portmarnock Golf Links: www.portmarnock.com
Where To Drink
Palace Bar (21 Fleet Street),
John Mulligan’s (8 Poolbeg Street)
Grogan’s Castle Lounge (15 South William Street)
O’Neill’s (2 Suffolk Street)
Long Hall: (51 South Great George’s Street)
Temple Bar (48 Temple Bar)
Ryan’s Bar (28 Parkgate Street)
Dublin Literary Pub Crawl: www.dublinpubcrawl.com
Guinness Storehouse /Gravity Bar
Further Information/Useful Contacts