IRELAND, GOLF, CAVING, MUSIC, BOXTY & GIN!! All is Explained.

Even the Irish know that you don´t go someplace in Ireland just to visit, you go to experience it and bring back stories. Wherever you find yourself on the island, you quickly realize you are on a path of discovery that can fill you with warmth (regardless of the weather), nourish you with its diversity, exhilarate all your senses and even give a feel of mysticism.

¨There are no strangers here.  Only friends you have not yet met¨.  WB Yeats

A Dolmen (megalithic tomb)

 

While this blog is to discuss alternatives to golfing when you and your companions are taking a golf trip or on a golf weekend in (especially in NW Ireland), we can say that the above holds true even if you only have time to play a favourite course. —

Think about it.  You know the people at the club always offer a friendly smile and probably a story or two; whether on a links, heathland or parkland course, the natural environment can surprise you with something different on each visit.  Light in Ireland for example, may bathe you in a glistening. misty-white by the coast, highlight droplets on dewy grass like tiny  Christmas tree baubles. or break like shards of glass through old oak trees.  Then add how the fragrances vary, nature´s sounds differ and drip in slowly  and even how the ground underfoot changes and spurs you forward at different speeds and you appreciate how such outside  stimuli wonderfully work in tandum for your benefit.

 

Ballinamore GC by The Shannon-Erne Waterway

So, you see how it can be a great experience on the course. Then  when you finish your game,        you´ll feel the slow release of fulfilled sensations while  coming back to a relaxed, warm state and you´ll probably dine on something lovely in the clubhouse that may include the very traditional and regional dish of Boxty ( For the culinary curious, see video on how to make boxty at the end of this blog post) and maybe some local beer.

Now you are refreshed and have a few golf`free hours to plan. If you want variation in your Irish Golfing Experience why not embrace local culture, arts, food and drink.
So……

 

Pair your golf game with some of these offerings in Ireland´s scenic Northwest –

Most visitors to Ireland like to pair Irish brewed or distilled libations with their golfing experience, and if not doing this in a local pub (or tea room – as the Irish are very particular about their tea too), then doing so by visiting some old reliables like – Guinness Brewery or Jameson´s Distillery while in Dublin ( the latter also in Cork),  or perhaps Old Bushmills which is just ´down the road´ from Portstewart Golf Club (host of the 2017 Irish Open) in County Antrim.  These have, for good reason, been popular stops for many years, but how about a visit to a couple of the newer kids on the block –

Carrig Beer

– Carrig Brewing Company, making fine craft beer and *The Shed Distillery,  makers of Gunpowder

Gunpowder

Gin.  Both of these companies are  located in, as The Shed´s website puts it,

¨In deepest rural Ireland, on the edge of a lake in Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim¨

* (Note: The Shed´s new visitor center will open in 2018)

 

     Drumshambo, Leitrim & Other NW Locations

Boats on Canal, Ballinamore

OK, many of you are wondering where Drumshambo is and what golf courses are nearby. I´ll answer the latter shortly but  let´s first begin by saying, Northwest Ireland, and indeed Drumshambo itself, boasts a natural untamed landscape, with great fishing,  hiking trails, boating, music &  most everything around has a poetry about it as confirmed by such writers and musicians as WB Yeats, John McGahern, Turlough O´Carolan & Mary McPartlan.  In this part of the world you may encounter turf being made or, at the very least, being burned in a hearth in your local pub or  B&B.  There are waterways, trailways, fish & fowl.  Drumlins and caves,  high waterfalls to sandy coast.

Cutting Turf

In Drumshambo, Co. Leitrim and it´s neighbouring counties, you can fish or boat in Lough Allen, venture through the tunnels of Arigna coal mines, search for ancient dolmens, discover the abundance of local artisans, take in a night of traditional Irish music or, for something different, attend a cattle mart where the auctioneer’s hollering melds with the tension within & without the sheds.

 

Just wanted to add a quick note regarding marts; internationally renowned writer, John McGahern who was from Leitrim, was a frequent visitor to and seeker of material from Mohill Mart and one local shared the following after the writer´s death:¨While visiting Mohill Cattle Mart as a youngster, I frequently noted a man with a cap sitting high up on the steps above one of the sales rings. When I asked my father, he said, “That’s McGahern the writer. Everybody else comes here to look at the cattle; he comes here to watch the people.”  Finbarr Kiernan

 

Yes, of course there are golf courses.

So, enjoy your golf but do take a little time and embrace new discoveries when you venture beyond the clubhouse.

Below are links to  websites of interest  and enjoy the video links to music  from Drumshambo and a boxty cooking lesson.

 

But, to answer your golfer´s enquiring mind, there are within an hour´s drive of Drumshambo, wonderful links and gems of parkland courses – namely:

Click on the pins for more information.

 

1. Strandhill Golf Club (18 Hole Links)  Co. Sligo – 55min

2. County Sligo Golf Club (Rosses Point)(18 & 9 hole Links Courses) Co. Sligo – 55 mins

3. Carrick on Shannon Golf Club (18 hole parkland) Co. Leitrim – 25 min

4. Ballinamore Golf Club (9 hole) Co. Leitrim – 25 min

5. Slieve Russell Hotel, Golf & Country Club (18 hole parkland) Co. Cavan – 45 min

 

Towns Nearby:
Carrick on Shannon – 15 min

 Shannon River Cruising
 Shopping
 Diverse Dining
 Artists Showcasing
 Theatre

Ballinamore – 20 min
 Canal Cruising
Geneology Centre
 Fishing
Folk Museum

Sligo – 45min
 All things Yeats (as in William Butler)
 Surfing
 Theatre
 Trad Music
 Shopping/Dining
 Wild Atlantic Way

 

 Helpful Links

Arigna Mining Experience – Co. Roscommon – 15min

¨This Energy Centre provides visitors with a unique insight into what coal mining life was like in the Arigna Valley, since its beginning in the 1700’s until closure in 1990.¨

 

Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark – Co. Fermanagh – 45min

If you want another and very different subterranian experience, visit the Marble Arch Caves set in an UNESCO Geopark with lots of other activities and above-ground sites, including The Cavan Burren.

 

John McGahern Library at Lough Rynn Castle Estate & Gardens – Leitrim

 

 

Leitrim Tourism

 

 

Sligo Tourism

 

 

Discover Ireland – information on Ireland, her Happenings, Accommodation, etc.

 

Irish Whiskey Museum– Co. Dublin

 

 

View this video if you want to make boxty at home .

 

A Little Golf Ball History

The Hairy – The Featherie – The Gutta Percha – The Bramble – The Haskell

Do any of these names sound familiar? They’re names you don’t hear too often any more but indeed they are golf related. If they are not familiar, let me introduce you to the history of the humble golf ball.

The make-up and design of the golf ball has changed somewhat in the last few hundred years and here’s a brief history of the development.

The first golf balls were wooden, right?

Skaters Playing Kolf – by Hendrick Avercamp c,1625

Well surprisingly, perhaps not; at least, probably not for the game we now accept as ‘golf’. Certainly, wooden balls were used for a myriad of other games and even the similar game of ‘colf’ (‘kolf’); played mostly in the Netherlands, would have used wooden balls initially. 

But if we accept Scotland as being the birthplace of golf, then there is little proof of wooden balls being used there.

Late 1500’s -: Things get ‘hairy’.

So, the next best material to shape into a golf ball was leather. The earliest leather ball  for golfing purposes was the ‘hairy’.  It was formed from three pieces of leather used for the exterior, and animal hair was the core of the ball:this construction may actually date from Roman times. For our focus though, these balls were probably initially imported to Scotland from the Netherlands where they had been in use for the game of kolf – a game similar to golf which was often played on ice. After it was accepted that leather balls had better handling properties and achieved longer distances than wooden balls, it was perhaps the first widely used ball in the new game of ‘golf’. Later of course, they began to make these balls in Scotland.

Early 1600’s: Is the ‘featherie’ aptly named

The Hairies led to the Featheries – the latter being first sold in the early 1600’s. Consisting of hewn animal hide on the outside, it did indeed have a core forcibly-stuffed with boiled feathers. The construction went like this: the leather was moistened to make it pliable and easier to sew; the feathers were stuffed into its core and it was sewn shut; when the leather dried, the feathers also dried and expanded inside and a pretty decent form was created. When in play, it could fly 175 yds fairly handily.

There were many downsides to this ball however:  (a) For one thing, they took quite a long time to produce;  (b) while you probably wouldn’t see the production of the ball as a perilous job, seemingly many a poor worker suffered and died prematurely due to inhaled feathers (asthma, etc.) & constant pressure on their chests from the rod used to stuff the balls; (c) Because they took so long to make, they were more costly than most golf clubs; (d) Once the golfer secured a featherie or two he had to contend with (i) their shape not always being uniform and thus a little unpredictable; (ii) distances shortened considerably when they got wet;(iii) they could split apart, and (iv) the irons could do them damage too by causing cuts to the exterior, thus limiting their effectiveness.  

  

Mid 1800’s: ‘Gutties’.    

Gutta Percha or Guttie golf balls

Gutties

The demise of the featherie started in the mid 1800’s with the introduction of the Gutta Percha Ball – no more feathers required for this new ball. Instead, these balls were made from sap from the Gutta tree and as this was like rubber, it meant the balls were easier to mould to a nice sphere. So now you have a rounder ball that was easier to control and wet conditions didn’t affect it’s performance. This ball initially had a smooth outside but later, as it was noticed that they performed better when they had a few nicks on them, they were designed with raised patterns (little bumps) like the ‘bramble’. So, now there was a ball that was faster, flew further, lasted longer and it was much cheaper and faster to produce. As a result, there was a marked increase in the number of people who could now afford to play golf and, in turn, new courses popped up to cater to this demand. You can understand why the featherie’s demise was swift.

 

1898’ish: The ‘Haskel’ – a rubber band ball? Really?

A look inside a Haskel

On the eve of the 1900’s, we were to be introduced to another update of the golf ball courtesy of Coburn Haskell in the US. While still using gutta parcha for the shell, it had a rubber core surrounded by what was basically tightly wound rubber bands (spun rubber). This ball, The Haskell, could achieve longer distances than it’s younger gutty counterpart and in 1901, the year of its release, it gained instant attention due to Walter Travis winning the US Amateur by using this new ball. Now in mass production meant cheaper balls for everyone.

The Haskell initially retained a bramble pattern but experimentation with patterns was ongoing until the first dimple pattern was added by William Taylor in 1908 leading to a ball that could gain even more distance – and dimples are still what we have on the golf balls of today.  (We’ll discuss further golf ball dimples a little more in a later post)

1960’s: We are Modern now:

The idea to change to a more solid core was introduced by James R. Bartsch in the 1960’s. Spalding introduced its own one-piece ball – the Unicore – and in 1972 its Top Flight was really the future of golf balls. Now the balls were highly durable, could travel great distances on the course and they were much easier to control.

Today there are golf balls for all levels of players. Whether the shell is balata, urethane, or Surlyn, or the core consists of 2, 3 or more layers of rubber-like material at varying compression’s, players have choices to suit their needs and wallets.

On the Inside:

Before our current, somewhat indestructible golf balls, it was easy to get a glimpse of the the inner makeup of a ball. We may not have had a hairy, or a featherie in our possession to probe, but how many of us are old enough to have watched the rubber ribbons inside a Haskell unfurl?

But, to view the innards of golf balls today, you need good hardware to slice through one. However, to save you the trouble of fulfilling your curiosity by doing this yourself, just take a look at this lovely piece of work by James Friedman (www.jamesfriedmanphotographer.com) that cleverly shows golf ball interiors in an artistic way.

Golf Ball Interiors – courtesy www.jamesfriedmanphotographer.com

Standarization:

We can’t but mention that there are rules about the size and weight of golf balls. R&A and the USGA initially introduced such standards in 1921 and today the R&A standard is:

The Ball: Has a dimpled surface to reduce aerodynamic drag and can be made from a variety of materials designed to make the ball fly further, or to generate more spin. It must have a diameter of not less than 42.67millimetres and must not weigh more than 45.93 grammes. There are no limits on maximum size or minimum weight .

Down through the years, there have been some interesting events and anecdotes relating to golfing and the evolution of the golf ball and I will relate a few of these stories in another blog edition.  

Until then, just be grateful that golf balls are so cheap to purchase these days and make sure to choose the right one for your game – little differences matter.

Visit & Play the Canary Islands

The Land of Eternal Spring – aka, The Canary Islands (Canarias)

Historically, the Canary Islands endured and entertained a few conquests, some pirates and lots of adventurers but the Islands now host and happily embrace an average of 12 million tourists each year.  And why not, considering the myriad of offerings on these wonderfully diverse islands.

This archipelago sits 108km off the NW African coast and it’s location explains why it is bathed in an ideal subtropical climate.  The islands are constantly caressed by trade winds that help give the islands ideal temperatures and help clear the night skies of clouds so you can endlessly gaze at the glistening stars.

The natural offerings on the islands are as varied as they are enticing.  They vary from forest to desert, from lush tropical gardens to majestic volcanoes, and from golden beaches to black lava landscapes.  It is no wonder then that there are six UNESCO Biosphere Reserves on the islands.

 

Water Canary Islands Cave Reflections Lanzarote

So, with the abundance of landscapes, the lovely local culture and the numerous activities to partake in (including 23 golf courses), there is something to meet everyone’s requirements – even if it is a sun-worshipping ‘activity’ on the beach during the day and exploring the urban nightlife after dark.

Buenavista Golf Course, Tenerife

Matching demand with environment, it therefore stands to reason that there is a wonderful assortment of golf courses on offer. Five of the islands, (Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, La Gomera, Lanzaote & Tenerife) share out the 23 courses between them, and yes, many were designed by some of the best known architects, e.g. Seve Ballesteros, Mackenzie Ross, Ron Kirby.  We will take a closer look at 3 of these courses that exhibit distinct features from one another shortly, but lets look at a few interesting facts about the Islands first.

 

Flag of the Canary Islands.

No, they are not named after the bird.
However, no one knows for sure what the origination of the name was but there are theories of course:   (1) It is often mentioned that they are named after Canariae Insulae or the ‘Island of dogs’ (as Gran Canaria was known); But then, (2) Canis Marinus is the Latin term for the seals (known as sea dogs) which were in abundance years ago; Or, did the name stem from (3) the fact that the peoples who inhabited the islands (Guanches) worshipped dogs?; And one more theory, (4) The aborigines of Grand Canaria may have called themselves Canarii.

Whatever the true reason for the name, their flag has 2 dogs on it which may intimate that they are embracing the dog connection.

 

The Christopher Columbus connection:
This famous navigator stopped here for his last preparations en route to ‘The New World’. Many locals were brought on board to sail with him on his historic voyage that even saw the introduction of sugar and bananas to the New World.  As it turns out, sharing the sugar may not have been the best idea, as later,  the economy of the Canaries suffered against the lower priced and better geographic location of the sugar business in that ‘New World’.  As a result, many inhabitants of the Canaries had to emigrate.

 

Nature at its Best

The Islands know how to show what nature has gifted them. To mention but a few:

Tenerife

– Tenerife has the highest mountain in Spain, Mt. Tiede, which is the 3rd highest volcano in the world.  It started its formation about 170,000 years ago and it is only fitting it should have its own national park now.  Of course, down the years it was steeped in mysticism and it  is still a little feared today – just as you would expect an imposing volcanic structure to be.
– Garajonay National Park on La Gomera Island was declared a World Heritage Site in 1986 due to its natural distinctiveness and biological diversity. This park has steep ravines, an evergreen forest, still hints of a subtropical jungle that includes endangered species (some endemic to the island) including the La Gomera’s giant lizard (Gallotia bravoana).   Add to this a few small, almost hidden hamlets and many farm terraces and you get a  wonderful glimpse of how life used to be.
– Fuerteventura’s Corralejo Natural Park brings you fabulous beaches and a truly volcanic landscape.  The vast, soft white sand lays out the pathway to the turquoise water of the Atlantic but you can also walk inland to meet the Red Mountain (Montana Roja) volcano.

 

And Now, GOLFING

Now, lets briefly visit 3 very distinctive golf courses: Real Club de Golf de Las Palmas on Gran Canaria, Golf de Sur on Tenerife, and Tecina Golf on La Gomera.

 

Real Club de Golf de Las Palmas

Designer: Mackenzie Ross

Website:   http://www.realclubdegolfdelaspalmas.com/index.php/en/

You probably wouldn’t expect this of a golf club on the islands, but Real Club de Golf de Las Palmas, is the oldest golf club in Spain having been founded in 1891.  Located on Gran Canaria, it was designed by the late and prolific, Mackenzie Ross.

What sets it apart from most other golf courses (apart from its age), is that it hugs the edge of a deep creator – that of Caldera de Bandama volcano.  Perched high and offering great views, this course has a great character, honed by its longevity, both within the clubhouse and without. This tight green course offers something different to the wider fairways closer to the ocean.

 

Golf del Sur

Designer: Pepe Ganccedo &
Manuel Pinero

Website: http://www.golfdelsur.es/language/en/

The Golf del Sur club has three golf courses and it just may give a lesson in how to highlight how to best use the resources you are given to show off what makes you different. How so? Well, what dominates the landscape of Tenife? Mount Tiede does, and as Mount Tiede is volcanic, it naturally has produced an abundance of lava, rich black lava.  So, to Golf del Sur’s credit, (or perhaps it’s course designers), it doesn’t have the usual golden bunkers: no indeed, instead it’s bunkers are full of volcanic black sand.  Amongst other features, including a number of giant cacti along the route,  you must admit  that it is not a usual sight in Europe.

Golf de Sur

Tecina Golf

Designer:  Donald Steel

Website:    http://www.jardin-tecina.com/en/golf/tecina-golf/

Tecina golf course is the only course located on the island of La Gomera.  Designed by Daniel Steel, the course is laid out atop a cliff that leads off from a diverse garden-like area and then it  brings you views of the Atlantic on almost every turn.

While the landscape may be diverse – running downhill initially from colourful flora, to a more minimalist section with a few tall trees – what all areas have in common are the views of the sea from each hole you play.  The course location also offers views of Mount Tiede and Tenerife island.

You may wish to play an 18 hole game here just so you can enjoy the lead down to hole 10 where the green lays in wait for you over 40m below the tee: have fun playing that, especially if the winds are blowing.

 

Whether you play by ocean, crater or garden, you’re guaranteed a lovely golfing experience on these islands.  So, relax, breathe in your surroundings and play well.

 

To Discover More –   

For additional information on the Islands and on island golfing, you may enjoy visiting the following sites:

http://www.hellocanaryislands.com/ – a tourism site for all the Islands.

http://www.webtenerife.com/# – whats happening in Tenerife and golf course information.

https://www.mydestinationtenerife.com/ – a great guide to events and destinations in Tenerife.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/spain/canary-islands/ – this paper has a few nice articles and links to accommodation.

http://grancanaria.com/patronato_turismo/283.0.html – Gran Canaria tourism site- includes accommodation info.

 

Your Game Is Too Slow – You Should Be Charged Extra!!

Rumours are circulating of the possibility of golf clubs introducing higher fees for slow play (eek!) – perhaps a ‘pay by the hour’ fee.  This idea is probably worth examining, no?

But first, it is no harm to take a quick look at how we can amp up the pace of our game a little by looking at a few time-savers (and indeed responsibilities) to keep a game moving along and making everyone happy.  And, then, we’ll examine why paying green fees by the hour may be something to embrace.

 

Even if paying a normal flat fee for a round of golf, there are still a few nice, considerate, and practical things that may be done to speed up our game:

1. Don’t leave your trolley/cart so far behind you when you are off slicing or putting the ball as you’ll have a long, time-consuming trip back to collect it.  Instead have it easily accessible for a quick getaway!

2. Do not block the pathways delaying others – be mindful that you are not in a supermarket now!

 

3. Jotting in your scorecard? – just step off the green to do your calculations  and those behind you can proceed with their game and better yet,  your private calculations can’t be spotted!!
4. Keep an eye on the ball after you hit the darn thing.  Searching for a ball is time consuming; so don your glasses, ask your companions to track it, or, if you have a wee drone, use that (check with the club first about this latter idea) – do whatever it takes to easily locate that spherical sucker quickly.

 

5. Play a ‘provisional ball’ if you deem it necessary and save everyone some grief looking for a lost ball.

6. No stopping for telephone chats. No, no, no.

7. Use your head (my mother loved saying that): If your pace is slower than that of other players, then advise the tee master and/or play at a time in lower demand. You’ll have a happier game with less pressure from those behind ya.

8. Show up & be ready on time – such a simple, courteous thing – right?

9. If you know you’re being closely followed on the course by some impatient-looking, polo shirt-wearing golfing-type dudes or dudettes, you’ll earn brownie points if you let them go ahead of you.

 

Now, to be fair, the club has responsibilities too:

1. Left or right? Signage to tees should be clearly visible and well located. 

2. A good pathway system in good repair is always beneficial. Zoom, zoom.

3. Help them help you:  the tee-time manager should ask or get to know who amongst us is not Mr. or Ms. Speedy.   And, we in turn, could do our part too by owning up to our slower pace.

4. Provision of a good map and nice yardage/meterage signs is always a plus.

 

 

Bye, Bye Flat Fees?

So, will this be the end of the flat-rate green fee? Will courses resort to ‘pay by the hour’ now?  Maybe it is better they do.

Think about it:

  • If you only want to play for an hour or so, you will no longer have to pay the full rate;
  • Your slower, chattier partner may move faster and chat less if the extra verbiage is costing money;
  • Carts may be in less demand and/or returned faster.
  • And, would you play more?
    • If you have the desire or need (or only have time) to play 3 to 6 holes, but you don’t wish to pay the  fees for the full 9 or 18 holes, then this would suit you.  And in turn, could this mean you can allot a little more time on the course by playing a few short games during the week?
    • Are you more likely to take a chance on playing even knowing the weather forecast is changeable? Probably.

 

Downsides?  They seem negligible really. Once in a while you may have a slower game due to getting stuck behind a large  group of players or maybe as a result of having to take shelter from bad weather for a while.   Another negative may be that you will go through more balls than usual as you may not wish to spend too much time looking for the lost ones any more??!! (And you know that that ‘ball searching’ time adds up when you’re a novice.)

So, all in all, not too bad really.

I’m sure the clubs themselves will do a lot of number crunching before they institute such a change.

Whatever happens, golfers are an easy-going lot that adjust fairly easily when things change ….. right?

Feel free to weigh in.  Send me your thoughts via the comment section.

Penha Longa Golf Course

Penha Longa Atlantico course is listed in the Top 100 golf resorts of Continental Europe and in the top 10 in Portugal.

The resort also offers a 9 hole course, the Monastery course.  The Monastery can be combined with the front nine or the back nine of the Atlantic course to form the North & South routes for play.

The Penha Longa Resort can be found 16 miles from downtown Lisbon (approx. 30min drive) and just 10 minutes from the lovely beaches and towns of Estoril and Cascais.

OK, First Impressions:

Huge, hidden expanse of surprises sitting on the edge of the Sintra Natural Preserve. Upon driving into this resort, the entrance seems to magically expand into an intimate, heavily ‘treed’ expanse of green with some jutting rocks and impressive stone structures of a former era; together they set up an atmosphere of expectation.

Even the grand building that houses the hotel and clubhouse, as large as it is, is mostly hidden in this natural environment or partially camouflaged by part of the 16th century Penha Longa monastery complex that has undergone some painstaking and worthy restoration.

The Courses:

That lovely feel of outdoor intimacy changes a little to present long, colourful, fairway corridors that lead to some of the highest grounds on the estate.

‘Going Up’ Fairway at Penha Longa

So, as you can guess, the courses here are hilly and have some rather long holes. Prepare for some fine breezes on the hills but also take a few moments to take in the wonderful views on offer too.  

As one golfer put it, ‘ The play is soft going but the design and terrain lend a tough enough play’. Certainly the grass condition was good (and even the flags were in perfect condition) when visited earlier this year. While the greens are attractive and well maintained, they exhibited toughness when heavily guarded by large, deep bunkers and/or some rather lovely water features.

The fourth hole of the Monastery Course is by the lovely old monastery built by St Jerome in 1355 and the reason for its name of course.

Both courses offer great views but there is a lovely view of the Penha Longa Palace by hole 9 on the Monastery course.  The Championship course also brings you a couple of reflective lakes by the 7th & 15th but hole 16 is probably the more difficult as it demands a long drive across a valley area and then up to a narrow green.

You are quite fit if you play 18 holes here without use of a buggy but no matter how you play, you will find the place, as expansive as it is, quite endearing.

Anytime is a good time to hang out and enjoy the club restaurant. It is a comfortable, modern setting overlooking the course and best of all, offers wonderful light fare by Sergio Arola.

Of Interest Nearby:

Sintra:

A UNESCO World Heritage Site as it was the first centre of European Romantic architecture.

Places of Interest: Pena Palace, Moorish Castle, Queluz Palace, Quinta da Regaleira.

http://cm-sintra.pt

Cascais & Estoril:

Cascais offers the wild Guincho beach (surfing etc), Cascais Cultural Centre, nightlife and much more.

http://cm-cascais.pt

Boca do Inferno – Cascais

Estoril’s coast is awash with beaches and tourist activities, eg. Fine dining, casino, day tours, etc.

http://estorilportugal.com/

Praia do Tamariz – Estoril

Lisbon:

Down the road … but won’t go into all to do there. Check out http://www.visitlisboa.com/

Exploring Off Course

 

When you or your non-golfing companions have an itch to explore and experience the offerings off the golf course, you may need a little guidance on where to go, what to see, or know when things are afoot.

So, for you, here are a few tourist links to aid your search for the best, the different and the necessary in Portugal and The Balearic Islands/Spain:

PORTUGAL:         https://www.visitportugal.com/en

Porto and North:

https://www.visitportugal.com/en/destinos/porto-e-nortettp://

www.visitporto.travel/Visitar/Paginas/default.aspx

Yes, Lisbon

Lisbon:           http://www.visitlisboa.com/

Cascais:          http://www.visitcascais.com/

Sintra:            http://www.sintra-portugal.com/index.html

Algarve:

http://www.visitalgarve.pt/?idioma=en

http://www.turismodoalgarve.pt/home.html

Azores:          http://www.destinazores.com/en/index.php

Madeira:      http://www.visitmadeira.pt/en-gb/homepage

 

 

Madrid street scene- Siesta Time

SPAIN:         http://www.spain.info/en/

Mallorca:    http://www.spain.info/en/que-quieres/ciudades-pueblos/provincias/mallorca.html

Balearic Islands:  http://www.illesbalears.es/ing/balearicislands/home.jsp

 

 

We will take a closer look as some of the wonderful things to see and do in these areas in the coming weeks.

Sure, play some great golf but you owe it to yourself to explore further afield.

 

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How to Play a Links Course

 

TIPS ON PLAYING A LINKS COURSE:

We established in our last post that a links game is to be had in Portugal, so how about remembering a few things when playing any links course.  Because there is often wind, deep bunkers, firm fairways  and sloping greens, lets try and improve our score and enjoyment by considering these few tips:-

  • wind-sculpted_trees_on_the_pembrokeshire_coast_-_geograph-org-uk_-_298264-2

    Wind can shape your game.

    Avoid high spinning balls and keep the ball low. Yes, there’ll be few or no trees but you will probably have a lovely wind to contend with and landing in the gorse or fescue is not what you want.

  • Practice and use your ‘knuckleball’ drives.

  • Remember, the fairways can run as fast as the greens. Put your low irons to use.
  • Be patient with yourself –  as well as the wind.

  • Dealing with those deep bunkers may mean having to hit backwards – and that is ok.

    dscn9089

    Remember, these greens are firm. Avoid bouncy approach shots. Gently roll your putts.

  • Putting well can be the key to motivating you on, so don’t be afraid to putt some balls from outside the green.

  • Remember greens on links courses do tend to be undulating and sloping (and more devoid of protective bunkers than other courses), so strong hitting or chipping onto them may lead to unwanted bounces. Go gently and let the ball roll.
  • If playing with a partner, watch their shots and their results.  (No, it’s not sneaky,

    it’s a ‘learning moment.’)

  • Not too much of one thing is a good mantra, so it is OK to be use various clubs.

    And finally,

  • Relax. You are where you want to be doing the thing you love to do, so enjoy it.

 

Portugal Has Links Courses Too

Royal County Down’s links course, Ireland. Voted No. 1 on Golf Digest’s World 100 – 2016/17

WHAT IS A LINKS COURSE ANYWAY?

The British Golf Museum provides the following definition:

A golf links is a stretch of land near the coast characterised by undulating terrain, often associated with dunes, infertile sandy soil and indigenous grasses such as marram, sea lyme and the fescues and bents which, when properly managed, produce the fine textured, tight turf for which links are famed”.

Now, we all know that just because a golf course sits by a vast expanse of water, a true links course it does not make. Criteria to be met should include most if not all of the following: the coast, sand/sandy soil, few or no trees, pop in some gorse or similar vegetation, naturally formed dunes and smooth (usually firm) undulating ground acting as a transition terrain to a different landscape and now you have a links.

Good links courses can’t be found in too many countries and most golfers are familiar with and want to play  the great links courses of Scotland and Ireland (and rightfully so) – no matter what the weather. Can’t say there is anything wrong with that but ….

IT’S COOL TO PLAY A LINKS WITHOUT A RAINCOAT & JUMPER TOO!

oitavosdunes_hole10_b_par4

Oitavos Dunes – hole 10. Portugal

But, playing a links course in the dead of winter without layering up until your arms are almost immobile sounds attractive, no? Well, how about considering playing some links courses in Portugal? Yes indeed, Portugal boasts a few nice links courses too.

I know when it comes to playing golf in Portugal we don’t automatically think ‘links.’ Our main thoughts roam more towards sunny weather in lovely areas close to enticing long beaches. Well, while Portugal can certainly deliver all that, lets just take a moment to consider some cool ‘links courses’ on offer there too.

SO, WHERE ARE THE PORTUGUESE LINKS COURSES?

The following are some of the courses in Portugal that meet the ‘links’ criteria – or at least most of them. Some may have a few more trees than you are used to, or the dunes are smaller, but hey, they are certainly not parkland courses.

Click on the names above to visit their websites.

So perhaps investigate these courses to enjoy the ambience and wonderful views and then compare to links you have played elsewhere.

AND OFF THE LINKS ?

As you can see from the map above, three of the courses are in the Lisbon (Lisboa) area, the Estela is north of Porto, Porto Santo is on the lovely island of Madeira and the Salgados is in the Algarve. So, to help you discover more to do in the surrounding areas, (local activities & attractions or source accommodation), check out these few interesting tourism sites:

Portugal,  Lisbon,  Cascais & SintraAlgarvePorto

Enjoy and thanks for visiting.

 

LOOK FOR OUR NEXT POST for A FEW HINTS ON PLAYING A LINKS COURSE