Prior to traveling to Ireland the only leprechaun I have ever encountered was the one on the front of my Lucky Charms cereal box. The definition describes them as: “a type of fairy in Irish folklore, usually taking the form of an old man, clad in a red or green coat, who enjoys partaking in mischief. The Leprechauns spend all their time busily making shoes, and store away all their coins in a hidden pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If ever captured by a human, the Leprechaun has the magical power to grant three wishes in exchange for their release.” My first thought is this guy sounds like my kind of guy. What kind of shoes is he making anyway, Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin?
What I am about to tell you is a true story, similar to the one your friend told you who said he shot par at Royal County Down. While in Ireland at the famous Lough Erne golf resort I was invited to the “bar in the woods”. When asked if I would like to go I figured it was a nice little log cabin somewhere off of the ninth hole in the woods. Instead we got in the car and followed a few neon signs that were in the shape of a pizza with no writing on them until we came upon a house in the woods. Inside was the most magical bar filled with antiques, golf memorabilia and photos of those visitors that had come before me including Nick Faldo. Next thing I know I was handed a small glass of clear liquid from an unmarked bottle, never a good sign. It was Poitín, a traditional Irish beverage around 90 proof. Poitín was traditionally distilled in a small pot from malted barley grain or potatoes. It is one of the strongest alcoholic beverages in the world, and for centuries was illegal in Ireland. However to say “the alcohol made me do it” and to blame kissing a leprechaun on a wee bit of alcohol is the oldest trick in the book. No, that part was premeditated as I was determined to get my three wishes. He quickly acquiesced and requested my three wishes:
1- Live and play like royalty
2- Witness the creation of the nectar of Ireland
3- Golf the fairest courses of them all
The next day I was off to Mount Falcon in County Mayo on the western side of Ireland, a Manor house built on a 2,200 acre estate on the west bank of the River Moy in 1876. The Maloney Family purchased and restored this house to its former glory and throughout the property are constant reminders of the exquisite history including housing plans, receipts for purchases including fireplaces and furnishings that are still present in the house. Here I was schooled in fly fishing or angling. Mount Falcon owns two miles of the River Moy where you can find some of the finest salmon fishing in the world with deep and shallow pools making it ideal for fly, bait and spinning. I dined in the cozy bar and sipped fine malbec wine and slept in the same bed Tiger Woods did when he visited. Golf luminaries that have also enjoyed Mt. Falcon include Nick Faldo, Mark O’Meara and John Cooke.
My next stop was to Ashford Castle founded in 1228 and purchased in 1852 by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, the family of brewers that make the world famous Guinness beer. This 350 acre estate includes its own 9 hole golf course. The 83 room castle is all you expect in opulence and grandeur. Here I was able to practice the 4,000 year old sport of falconry. The sensation of having a majestic hawk with amazing speed and agility fly through the forest and land on your arm is breathtaking.
The Guinness Storehouse was where I was to learn how the nectar, so well known to Ireland, is made and the incredible history of the Guinness family and the brand. At the Guinness factory in Dublin, Ireland you have the opportunity to experience an interactive beer museum that includes learning to correctly pour your own Guinness, a 360 panoramic glass bar on the top floor and an exclusive private beer tasting room for 14.
Now it was time to play golf on some of the fairest courses in the land. Ardglass Golf Club in County Down has the most amazing views. It is also very challenging as the course has numerous holes along steep ocean cliffs. The golf course at Royal County Down is known as one of the best in Ireland and while I was unable to play the day I was there I had the distinct pleasure of having tea with some members. The ladies have their own clubhouse adjacent to the main clubhouse and are a very impressive group.
Lough Erne is a serine picturesque course with elevations and holes running alongside the more tranquil loughs in the area of County Fermanagh. This Nick Faldo designed course challenges and delights golfers of all levels.
Finally, Trandragee Golf Club in County Armagh is a charming course with elevated tee boxes and rolling hills. The views are spectacular and the area is rich in history including the course being built in 1911 by the Duke of Manchester. The Irish hospitality of the members’ at all four courses was the best I have ever experienced and what we all hope for on any golf trip.
“Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter. Lullabies, dreams and love ever after. Poems and songs with pipes and drums. A thousand welcomes when anyone comes… That’s the Irish for you!” Irish Saying