The following was contributed by LGA Director of Member Services Kyle Nagdeman. Kyle and a group of LGA Members traveled to Southwest Ireland for our 2018 Members Trip, August 22-29th. They enjoyed the sites and playing golf. Check out the photo album from the trip by clicking here

Day 1 (Tuesday, August 21st/Wednesday August 22nd)

I do apologize in advance. I am like most of the trip participants a bit jet lagged after a long 24-hour period, but I will press on like everyone else. 

The Louisiana Golf Association SW Ireland Member Trip began for most yesterday morning and afternoon in various parts of Louisiana.  For many of the 25 trip attendees, we left from east coast airports last night to arrive into Shannon, Ireland this morning.  Our group was greeted by Cathal O’Sullivan (owner and operator of Sullivan Golf Travel), our guide for the trip Derek, and the coach driver as soon as we received our bags. We were on our way to our host hotel in Killarney in no time once everyone was settled.  The group was met with what we hope is great weather for the week, low 60s, patchy sun, with occasional misty rain. Once we arrived in Killarney and checked into our rooms, the group was free to roam the city for the afternoon.  

The group came together this evening for a welcome reception and meal at our host hotel, The Randles Court Hotel.  The three-course meal and service were fantastic. I sat with LGA Board Member, Ellis Sampson, his wife Tessa, Rick Courville, and Jerlene McCall for dinner. Everyone’s entrée arrived in a prompt manner and was cooked to perfection. The dessert sampler plate was a perfect end to a wonderful meal. 

I will close todays log early to catch up on the lost sleep traveling since Tuesday morning. 

Day 2 (Thursday, August 23rd)

Today marked the first of six rounds for the group on our trip through the Southwest of Ireland. We began the journey at Dooks Golf Club, in the county Kerry.  The club has been in existence since 1889 and the western perimeter of the course boarders a cove off the North Atlantic Ocean. All fifteen of our golfers walked 18-holes today in dry, but very windy conditions.  The brutal wind was certainly a challenging factor, but it did not deter our members from having a great time. The backdrop for the round made everyone’s spirits perk up even after a difficult hole. It is hard to get completely frustrated with the game when you have mountains in the background and the look of whitecaps in the distance. 

The ten non-golfers that are part of our 25-person group enjoyed a day exploring by bus, parts of the Ring of Kerry.  

Overall, the group had positive things to say about their opening days and they look forward to tomorrow’s round. Mother Nature may throw us a good doze of “Irish mist” (i.e. light rain) based on the forecast for tomorrow, but the weather may change between Thursday night and Friday Morning. We will come prepared tomorrow with our rain gear to play Arnold Palmer’s first course designed in Ireland, Tralee Golf Club. 

Day 3 (Friday, August 24th)

There are days when you play golf in the rain and then there are days when you play golf in a torrential downpour. The golfers on this trip got the latter today at Tralee Golf Club. The golf course, which borders a cove off the Atlantic Ocean was designed by Arnold Palmer in the 1980s. It has some spectacular holes with castle ruins and sandy beaches. The round was challenging for all because of the brutal gusts and various levels of misty and pouring rain that golfers had to ensure.  The golf shop made a profit when the LGA group arrived as few people had winter hats and heavy enough waterproof gear. Few stayed warm, but none stayed dry by the end of the round.  Hopefully we draw a better weather day the next time we return to Tralee GC. 

Day 4 (Saturday, August 25th)

Today the group was off to Old Head Golf Links outside of Kinsale.  Old Head is one of the most picturesque golf courses you will ever find. I had the pleasure of playing today with Ellis Samspon, LGA Board Member from LaPlace, Randall Stafford, and Martin Crawford in a best ball competition. Every single hole on the golf course warranted someone in the group to their phone out and take pictures of the breathtaking scenery. Golf is secondary playing Old Head; the views and the layout relax your mind even if you are playing poorly. It sure did for me as I struggled to gage the speed of the greens properly.  The others in the group said they absolutely loved the course and played well today. It helped our group that we drew a perfect weather day for Ireland, low 60s, sunny, and minimal wind.  The photo accompanying this post does not do justice for the experience everyone had today.  I may be biased in this statement, but a round at Old Head GL is enough of a reason for a golfer to visit Southwest Ireland.

Day 5 (Sunday, August 26th)

Sunday brought the group to Waterville Golf Links, in the county Kerry.  The course has the distinction of being ranked the #1 golf course in the Republic of Ireland. Payne Stewart was named captain of the club in 1999 before his sudden death in a plane crash. The course, like many “links” style courses, borders the Atlantic coast on its far edges, while presenting equally difficult challenges on its inland holes. The weather was fair for the day, early sprinkles gave way to overcast skies with consistent 10-20 mph wind off the water. I have learned after four rounds here that one needs to take advantage of the down wind holes. The wind can be your friend on a par 5, but it can be your foe on the next hole when you turn in the opposite direction. There have been plenty of par 4s that felt like par 5s by the time you reach the green in three.  The round of golf was good, but the best part of the day was dinner that evening. I joined up with a small group of people from our travel contingent for dinner at Danny Mann’s Pub in Killarney. The food was great. An appetizer of mussels, pita with hummus, and prawns followed by entries of lamb shanks and traditional Irish meat or seafood pies was a great touch.  The group was serenaded by two fine gentlemen who were playing Irish Folk Music on the pub’s stage.  

Day 6 (Monday, August 27th)

The Old Course at Ballybunion GC is world renowned for having some of the finest golf holes.  After playing a round there, I can see why that is a true statement. The opening hole is a short par 4, but it has a cemetery bordering the right side of the landing zone. A bit of a slice or strong left to right wind, which we faced that day, and the dead receive a souvenir.  Our caddie mentioned that the current cemetery was built in the late 1880s on top of another cemetery that washed away in the 1850s. The back 9 is a fun, but challenging test for all. A par 35, with the total yardage under 3,000 yards sounds tempting for golfers to score on. It is far from that with three uniquely different par 3s that test your skill to hold the green, and of course wind played a factor. Couple that with two short par 5s that require precise placement of all shots and suddenly a chance to fire a good 9-hole score can blow up into a train wreck. The weather for our round was windy, but the group did not have to battle rain showers or mist. This was a welcome sight.  The greens were beautiful, green, and rolled true. Once the group completed its round, we loaded up on the coach and headed north to Lahinch in the county Clare for the final two nights of the trip. 

Day 7 (Tuesday, August 28th)

The final day of this week-long excursion brought the LGA Member Trip group to Lahinch Golf Club. The group was met with overcast skies and the threat of rain at the end of our round. Luckily, the rain held off and all 15 golfers completed their round in time. Before the golfers teed it up, the whole group visited the Cliffs of Moher, just north of Lahinch. The cliffs stand 702 feet at their highest point and stretch 5 miles. They are named after a promontory fort that was destroyed during the Napoleonic Wars. The views, both along the walkway and at the observation point, were stunning.  Despite it being an overcast day, you could still see the wonders of these cliffs and the waves crashing below.  

Lahinch Golf Club (Old Course) tested the mental fortitude of everyone throughout the round, more so than any other course on the trip. Holes #3 – 7 were daunting. On each hole, at least one shot was partially or completely blind for all golfers.  The two blind shots that stood out in that stretch were the second shot into Hole #4, a short par 5 and the tee shot on the short par 3, 5th Hole.  On Hole #4 the golfer must hit their second shot through a “V” in the “klondyke hill” that blocks your view at the green. A result of the blocked view of the green, you also must rely on the flag man on the hill to indicate if it is safe to hit your approach toward the green. The approach landing zone for Hole #4 is in the direct crossing line of golfers playing Hole #18. The flag man plays traffic cop all day.  Follow up the uniqueness of Hole #4 with a par 3, 5th where the caddie instructions are “aim at the white rock on the side of the hill” and you can see how this was a memorable day. The white rock indicates the general hole location, which was visible on this day. I can only imagine the challenge faced when the hole location is tucked beyond the sand dune with the white stone. 

Lahinch GC will host the Irish Open next year, and it was a cool experience for amateurs to play. I believe the European Tour professional golfers will be given a stern test next July in the county Clare.  

The group closed out its final evening with a cocktail hour and dinner thanks to our trip partner, Sullivan Golf Travel.  We were entertained during the cocktail hour by an Irish music trio.  The trio did a fantastic job and set the mood for our bon voyage the next day. I was pleasantly surprised by the dinner served in our hotel restaurant, the Vaughan Lodge.  The fine dining cuisine and presentation were a welcome surprise given the hotel’s remote location. The Vaughan family and their staff, much like the Randles Hotel (Killarney) staff made our group feel at home and welcomed every step of the way. 

Overall, I felt this initial LGA Members Golf Trip was a great success and wonderful experience for the 25 people that attended. Both golfers and non-golfers received first-class hospitality from the staffs of Sullivan Golf Travel, the bus driver – John, both hotels staffs, and the golf course staff at each facility. It was a seamless process for participants from the moment we received reservation agreements through the flight back home. Cathal O’Sullivan, Sullivan Golf Travel, was willing to go the extra mile for LGA Members. 

Based on this years’ experience, we plan to conduct another trip to Ireland next August. The final details are being finalized. Check your e-mails and social media in the coming weeks for promotional materials on our 2019 LGA Members Trip.