Picture gallery of the Ireland/Scotland trip (finally…)

25 06 2010

So we’ve been back nearly a month now – time to produce a selection of piccies that capture, I think, the essence of the trip. Many thanks to my friend Martin for his patience in turning me into a technowhiz (or, at least, not a total Luddite). If you think this trip might be your cup of tea, and you have the constitution to survive literally gallons of Guinness and Scotch whisky, not to mention the full Irish and Scottish breakfast eleven days in a row, you might want to contact our good friend Jeff Flynn at Hidden Links.

As I wrote in an email to Jeff soon after our return, “It wasn’t a cheap trip, but it was worth every penny!”

Robin makes a new friend, early in our first round of the trip, at Lahinch. It’s also his first acquaintance with the love grass…

Now that’s what I call a bunker… the 11th at Lahinch. I did manage to get out at the first attempt (which is more than can be said for later efforts).

Glennie prepares to launch a tee shot into the River Liffey.

First hole at Doonbeg. You want luxury? Doonbeg does luxury…

Ballybunion Old Course, 10:00 a.m.

Ballybunion Old Course, 10:15 a.m.

Your average every day bunker at Kingsbarns. Glennie’s third shot from this monster was memorable: think Stanley Cup type poke check to prevent the ball rolling back into the trap – again!

On the first tee at St Andrews Old Course, May 28th 2010. You can cut the tension with a knife. We tee off in six minutes.

Glennie on the edge of Hell Bunker, 14th hole, St Andrews Old Course.

You know the expression ‘hit a house!’? Well, Adrian hit the hotel on the famous 17th Road Hole. (Note the blue skies, compared to the rain and hail we’d been playing in 20 minutes earlier).

‘Setting the Record Straight’ at the Swilcan Bridge, 18th hole at St Andrews Old Course.

The Great Robinski, proud and undisputed winner of the Celtic Challenge.

Glennie (whose picture you’ll find in the dictionary under the definition of ‘debonair’).

The Chief, probably thinking of something nasty to say about my putting…

Me in stunning sky blue sweater, specially selected for the trip by Scottish Wife.

Probably my favourite hole of the entire trip – the infamous short 14th at Doonbeg. Misread the yardage, so used the wrong club, mishit the tee shot, got a lucky bounce to within eight feet and sank the putt for birdie. Gotta love golf, eh?

And finally, the picture that sums it all up: Robin, back in the love grass at Lahinch. Are we having fun yet?            Yes we are!


Legends of the links (part 1)

23 05 2010

O.K., lets be perfectly clear about one thing. When I use the expression ‘legends’ in relation to the golfing exploits of Glenny, Robin, Adrian or myself thus far on the trip I am using the word in the sense of ‘legends in our own minds’. To be honest, our golf to this point has not been stellar. The courses –  Lahinch and Doonbeg – have been fantastic; the weather – wonderful. Ireland is in the grip of a heatwave right now and Robin has the sunburn to prove it. Our play, however,  has not really come up to scratch – in fact, if anybody asked me what my handicap is right now my answer would be that I’m an 11 at Glacier Greens and about a 21 on a links course. Blind tee shots to tiny fairways, par 3 holes where you can’t even see the green from the tee (#6 at Lahinch), tricky sidehill lies everywhere and massive greens (#12 at Doonbeg even has a bunker in the middle of it!). There’s golf and then there’s links golf…

With the honourable exception of Robin, no one has yet broken 90 – and this in conditions that are so benign that the starter today said “Gentlemen, da course is at your mercy. Do with her what you will”. After three holes  I was seven over par (yup, seven) and trying to find a pot bunker to bury myself in. Obviously I have excuses. In hindsight, the consumption of six Guinness last night followed by an extremely generous measure of  Balvinie whiskey may not have been ideal preparation. Possibly, too, the choice of the full Irish breakfast (black pudding included) on both mornings may have been a tad unwise. In the end, though, my inability to steer the little white thing  over the mounds of marram grass and onto a safe haven has to be my responsibility and mine alone. (By the way, the course marshall told us today that the marram is known locally as ‘love grass’ – once you’re in it, you’re f*cked…)

Not that there hasn’t been the occasional moment of success: Robin has had a birdie in each round so far, Glenny finished with a sixty foot par saving putt on #18 at Doonbeg today and I myself made a birdie on #14, the par three signature hole perched on the dunes a hundred feet above  the Atlantic Ocean. The Chief has not been at his best to this point but, hopefully, better days are yet to come. Although he did finish with an eye catching 300 yard drive at Doonbeg today, the rest of us appreciated it more for the fact that for once it finished on the fairway and not some distant spot in the love grass. He’s my partner tomorrow, so I’m hoping that this a harbinger of good things. Less impressive, though, were Adrian’s efforts to extricate himself from a cunningly placed pot bunker on #2 today: five attempts with his sand wedge failed to do the trick and he only stopped flailing away when we agreed to give him a berger double. I’d only just finished laughing at his misfortune when I sliced my approach shot on the very next hole and hit a picturesque whitewashed cottage. I mean, really, what were they thinking building it right alongside the golf course? (Actually the cottage looked about 500 years old and the course was opened in 2002). Robin’s ball finished up alongside the dry stone boundary wall and his attempt to play a carom onto the green was spectacularly unsuccessful. Glenny, in the meantime, was waiting patiently to hit a fifteen foot birdie putt which he duly converted and then lectured the rest of us about our pace of play.

A quick word about the accommodation so far. Doonbeg was five star all the way. Glenny fit in as we knew he would – totally at ease, dispensing generous tips (on our behalf) wherever he went; Adrian, the seasoned traveller, was also very comfortable in a pretty luxurious environment and full of laughs and jokes along the way. The surprise package has been Robin – his Clem Kadiddlehopper persona is already changing and I fear that Sandy may not recognise the debonair figure he cut around the hotel. Now we’ve arrived at Ballybunion, a short drive and a twenty minute ferry ride across the Shannon estuary. This is more obviously a golf town. We have 36 holes to play tomorrow and Glen and I have decided to hire caddies, in an attempt to gain an advantage and cut into Robin’s lead in our nine round competition, the Celtic Challenge. I’ve decided upon an alcohol free evening – desperate measures, I know – but I’ll not be abandoning the full Irish breakfast just yet. Will the tactic work? I’ll keep you posted…

All da best.

Dave B.

We’re off!

19 05 2010

There’s a tricky balance that I’m trying to achieve in this week’s blog. On the one hand, I want to let folks know about our schedule and give some links to the courses (pun intended) that we’ll be playing in Ireland and Scotland. On the other hand, I want to do this in a sensitive manner so that it doesn’t look like I’m gloating. Much.

The four of us – Glenny, Robin, the Chief and I – leave tomorrow for our much anticipated pilgrimage to the home of golf. In our usual dysfunctional fashion we are leaving from the same airport (Vancouver) but at different times, landing in the same city (London) but at different airports (Heathrow and Gatwick) and then flying to Ireland with different airlines. Potential for a cock up of monumental proportions? Pretty high, I would say. It has to do with a) Glenny’s obsession with air miles and b) my need to be back by June 2nd to caddy for B B at the Times Colonist Open in Victoria. The others, fairly sensibly, are extending their stays to do a bit of tourism – the Chief getting extra points for involving his wife in his visit. The rest of us will have to hope that expensive gifts for our spouses will do the trick, although Bandito Juan is on record as saying that the likelihood of this ploy working is about the same as our chances of breaking 80 on any of the courses we’ll be playing – slim to none.

Volcanic ash permitting, we land at Shannon airport (Ireland, for the geographically challenged) on Friday afternoon and tee off at Lahinch the following morning. On Sunday we play the Greg Norman designed Doonbeg before travelling to Ballybunion to play 36 holes at the Ballybunion Old Course and Cashen. (We’ll be staying at the gorgeous sounding Teach de Broc hotel. Don’t ask me how to pronounce it – Gaelic isn’t one of my languages). By this stage we should have discovered whether the Chief being teetotal has given him an unfair advantage. If it has, clearly the committee (Robin, Glen and I) will have to make the appropriate handicap adjustments for the remainder of the trip.

On Tuesday we leave the west coast of Ireland to fly to Edinburgh. Unfortunately, the trip organiser (that would be me) failed to realise that there are no direct flights from Shannon to Edinburgh on that date, so that instead of nipping across the Irish Channel we’ll be flying south to London in the morning and then catching a flight up to Scotland in the afternoon. Guess who’ll be paying for supper that night?

We’ll be staying at the Greyfriars Hotel in St Andrews, and over the next five days we’ll be playing Kingsbarns (twice), Carnoustie, the New Course (built in 1895) and finally, of course, the Mecca of golf, the Old Course itself. As I plan to make haggis and whisky my staple diet for those five days, this second part of the trip could be considered more a feat of endurance rather than an opportunity to show of my golfing skills to caddies who may or may not be impressed by my attempts to clear the Swilken Burn with my nine wood.

So to sum it all up: the trip’s been a long time in the planning, and we’re hoping to behave fairly respectably, score reasonably well and not bring shame on the name of Glacier Greens Golf Club (oh god, I’m feeling the pressure already). One of us will return to the Valley as the newly crowned King of the Celtic Challenge, but I hope all of us will be able to resist the temptation of giving you a blow by blow account of the nearly 1,000 shots each we’re likely to make over the course of the nine rounds. Unless you ask, that is, in which case you have been warned…

All da best.

Dave B.

P.S. My good friend Peter came round last night to share some good news about his battle with the Big C. He was bearing a ten pound note on which he’d written in felt tip “Four beers, please” and said it was to go towards our expenses. When I pointed out that it might not be quite enough to pay for a round he made it clear that Robin, Glen and the Chief took priority and I would have to go without. So when it happens, as it inevitably will, that I drive a ball into one of the scariest sand traps on that side of the Atlantic, I do solemnly swear that as I try to extricate myself from the bunker I will shout out ” This is for you, Dobbs!”

P.P.S. Many thanks to Ben Davies for his patience in showing me how to attach links. He’s created a monster! I can link anything now! With any luck, he’ll be able to show me how to attach photos when I get back. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but this week’s blog is only 812 words long…