Cleveland Irish offer advice on playing golf in the homeland

By Jason Stahl, Contributor

CLEVELAND -- Aye, some say that the Irish invented golf. In honor of St. Patrick's Day, let's tip back a pint and believe it to be true. Let's have another pint and swear that the most beautiful golf courses in the world can be found on the Emerald Isle. Aye! While we're at it, let's have a third pint so the sheep grazing on some of these courses start looking like sultry supermodels.

On second thought, let's stop drinking and get back to reality for a second. The truth is, Ireland does have some of the most amazing golf courses in the world. Ohio has some, too, but you can't get mist on your face from the Atlantic hacking it around here. That's why there are more than a few Clevelanders who have ventured to the Land of Green for golf gluttony.

Bill McCrone of Lyndhurst, Ohio, might be the foremost authority in Cleveland on golfing in Ireland. A semi-retired accountant, he claims to have traveled there more than 20 times for golf and Guinness. To him, no course in his great grandfather's homeland comes close to Ballybunion Golf Club in Kerry.

"The tradition is what I like about it, and the fact that it's a links course," McCrone says. "The members will fight you tooth and nail for two quid, then spend three to four times that in the bar afterward for the chance to tell someone they beat the Yanks!"

McCrone also had a memorable time with son, Bill Jr., at Connemara Golf Club in Galway. The two met a man during a round who invited them to his house and took them out fishing. "That boat was so full of fish - cod, mackerel, snapper -- that I felt like St. Peter," McCrone says. "And that's the thing about Ireland -- you go there to meet great people, and if you have time to play golf, it's a bonus."

Two places McCrone says not to miss are the Cliffs of Moor outside of Belfast and Bunratty Castle in Bunratty, County Clare. And if you visit the historic castle that overlooks the River Shannon, he says to be sure to stop in at Durty Nelly's. By name, you may think it's a brothel, or maybe hope it's a brothel, but it's actually a nice little pub where you can revitalize your taste buds with a cold Harp's.

If you're into celebrity spotting, the Ireland golf destination for you might be Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort. So says Tim and Nancy Powers of Avon, Ohio, who recently visited there at the same time Mel Gibson and his wife were taking a little R & R. The Powers report that Tiger Woods is also on the former guest list. An old 18th century castle that was converted from a private home to a resort, Adare Manor was rated the Number One European Resort by the Conde Nast Traveler magazine's "2002 Readers" Choice Awards.

As far as the golf goes, Tim Powers says that if you're looking to play a traditional links-style course, Adare isn't for you. "If you didn't see castles in the distance, you'd think you were playing an American course," he says of the Robert Trent Jones Sr. design.

But the resort itself is a nice play to stay for couples, he says, especially if your wife doesn't golf. Shopping galore can be had in the town of Adare as well as nearby towns of Dingle and Killarney, where you can indulge in a horse-and-buggy ride. Restaurants the Powers recommend are the Maigue Restaurant at the Dunraven Arms Hotel and the Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge, both in Adare. One other recommendation: save money by staying at the townhouses on the estate rather than the Manor House.

Powers, a 4.5 handicapper who works for Alcoa, says if you're hankering to play a traditional links course, check out Tralee Golf Club. "It's more of the kind of course you'd expect to play in Ireland," he says. "There's a lot of wind to contend with because you're on the ocean."

Pat Alexander, who owns Legend Lake Golf Club in Chardon, Ohio, has played a ton of golf in Scotland but not Ireland. Nevertheless, he has a famous friend and former television commentator who highly recommended Old Head Golf Links in Kinsale. The famous friend is Ben Wright, who offered a witty comment about Old Head's beauty.

"He said, staring at the Cliffs of Kinsale, you're just awestruck because you don't know whether you should jump off the cliff or play the next hole?" says Alexander.

And not be able to play more rounds in Ireland? Think again.

Jason StahlJason Stahl, Contributor

Jason Stahl currently works for Medquest Communications in Cleveland, Ohio, as Editorial Manager. Prior to joining Medquest, he spent five years with Advanstar Communications as Managing Editor of Landscape Management, a trade magazine covering the professional landscaping business. He graduated from St. Ignatius High School in 1989 and John Carroll University in 1993.

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