Swinging Ireland for a roadside golf getaway that features three world-class courses (and no start with time-consuming Covid testing!)
- Northern Ireland is an easy trip and no quarantine or PCR testing required
- Dungannon Golf Course, Portrush and Lough Erne are all spectacular courses
- Everything can be enjoyed on a simple road trip to this beautiful part of the UK
The Dungannon golf course in County Tyrone was buzzing. In the clubhouse – beyond a photo of Darren Clarke, the former Open champion, who learned his trade here – the players chatted. All seats taken. Lots of jokes and Guinness consumed.
Wallace McCarroll, the hot secretary of the club, joined us. “Since the blockages the membership has gone from around 600 to 1,000. People are getting into the game because you can go out and move around. May it last a long time.
With football (in tears) on the sidelines and with the Open Championship just concluded at Royal St George’s in Sandwich, Kent (where Clarke won his title), a golf vacation is sure to be in order. And what better place than in Northern Ireland, home to dozens of wonderful, user-friendly courses with no quarantines and time-consuming and expensive PCR tests?
The fifth hole of the Royal Portrush Golf Course, which overlooks White Rocks Beach
You will quickly find that a road golf trip is a great way to explore the province. Dungannon, an hour’s drive west of Belfast, marked the start of a long weekend set to unfold in Lough Erne in County Fermanagh and Portrush in County Antrim. Three counties in four days, starting in the Tyrone Hills.
Eighteen rolling holes without too many obstacles were the perfect reintroduction to the game if you hadn’t (like me) played in a while. The highlight was the 9th, a Clarke-designed par three with a body of water near the green, a replica of the short 12th hole in Augusta, Georgia where the US Masters is held.
Up and down the hills, we went on a sunny Saturday, to get back to the chase. Then we take the superbly calm roads to Lough Erne. It is in this large hotel complex that the G8 was held in 2013 and it is a fabulous setting. Three-time Open winner Nick Faldo designed the challenging Lough Erne course, which boasts many spectacular holes.
Lough Erne Resort directly overlooks the golf course, designed by Nick Faldo
Reeds and water (lots) and what a delight it was to score a terrifying 10th with a dangerous sloping green on an island, before returning along the loch for the hotel side final.
From Lough Erne to Portrush it is a two and a half hour drive northeast to the ‘Giant’s Causeway Coast’ named after the Giant’s Causeway made up of 60 million year old hexagonal rock formations . We climbed the peculiar ancient stones, visited the medieval ruins of Dunluce Castle and stopped at the charming little harbor of Ballintoy.
Then it was the biggie: Royal Portrush Golf Club, theater of the last Open in 2019. This course crosses tumultuous dunes facing the sea, the holes rolling in all directions.
Perversely, Portrush was calm in a normal year, many summer visitors come from America.
Two pars and a birdie. You get a little better on a golf vacation, followed by a pint or two of the black stuff and a glass or two of Bushmills whiskey at the nearby Bushmills Inn that night.
What a great way to end a great golf getaway. We raised our glasses on our carefree golf adventure of travel, but a lot of good times, across the Irish Sea.
Gatwick-Belfast return flights from £ 85 in August (easyjet.com). Doubles from £ 229 B&B in Lough Erne, green fees from £ 39 (lougherneresort.com). Double from £ 210 B&B at Bushmills Inn (bushmillsinn.com). Dungannon green fees from £ 35. Royal Portrush green fees from £ 240. See Ireland.com/golf.