Ireland Revisited – 2010

Playing Golf at Cheann Sibeal

May 2 – 12, 2010

 

Part 1: Flights from Memphis to Shannon

Part 7:  Shopping in Town of Dingle

Part 2: Drive to Dingle on Southwest Coast

Part 8:  Beautiful Sights near Slea Head

Part 3: Holden Leather, Dingle Golf Links

Part 9:  Drive Over Connor Pass to Shannon

Part 4: Ballydavid, Historic Brandon’s Creek

Part 10: Shopping in Shannon, Flights Home

Part 5: Playing Golf at Cheann Sibeal

Link to 2003 Trip to Dingle and Vicinity

Part 6: Slea Head Drive, Mulcahy Pottery

Link to 2002 Trip to Dingle and Vicinity

 

- Updated June 14, 2010

 

Ten photos mainly taken by Betty Nolan are posted at www.kodakgallery.com in an album entitled “Ireland – 2010” under the account of Lewis “Buzz” Nolan’s email address. Email lewis_nolan@yahoo.com for instructions on how to access.

 

By LEWIS NOLAN

 

May 7, 2010 – Friday - Drive to Ballyferriter and Fabulous Cheann Sibeal Golf Course on Dingle Peninsula

 

After nearly a week into this trip with my wonderful and loving wife, Betty, our return to my favorite spots in Ireland is shaping up to be among our best vacations ever.

 


 

Betty Nolan in display boat made of stone on Promenade at Dingle Harbor

 

I was reminded of a pithy saying about a lucky man like me who is firmly and totally committed to a successful marriage like our 41 years together.

 

“The man gives a little sperm. The woman gives him a wonderful child and raises the son or daughter to be outstanding.

 

“The man brings home common plant foods and animal meat. The woman uses it to make memorable meals.

 

“The man buys a house. The woman turns it into a beautiful and comfortable home.

 

“If the man gives the woman a little shit, she gives it back to him by the truckload.”

 

As always, our breakfast buffet this morning was outstanding in terms of quantity and quality of foods. I again had slices of Irish bacon, two poached eggs, brown bread with Irish butter, a few slices of cantaloupe, a banana, small glass of tomato juice and three, dried prunes. With the help of hotel desk clerk Breda, we made a tee time for me at Cheann Sibeal Golf Club (also known as Dingle Links) for 10:30 a.m. That gave us time to enjoy breakfast, make a leisurely drive to the club. Also known as Dingle Links, it is near Ballyferriter and on the Irish coast, I wanted to practice my very rusty putting before teeing off my first ball.

 

It was a promising day, unusually nice for this time of year on the Irish coast. Despite a generous gathering of clouds near the horizon, it was sunny around Dingle and the temperature was expected to reach 60 degrees or so. The expected  wind were gentle to moderate. Worth noting is the fairly simple mathematic formula to convert the Irish use of temperatures reported in Celsius/centigrade to the American-style Fahrenheit: First multiply the reported C. number times 9 and divide that total by 5. Then add 32 to that sum to get the temperature in F. degrees. Remember the disparity in numbers is due to the enormous changes in the C versus F freezing points for water of zero for C versus 32 degrees F and the boiling points of 100 C versus 212 F. Put simply, a reasonably comfortable day would have a C temp of about 17 versus an F temp of about 60.

 

The current manager of the Cheann Sibeal Golf Club is Irishman Richard Fahey, who has held the position for about six years. The previous manager, John ‘Dionny’ O’Connor, whom we remembered as being typically warm and just as professional as his successor, was a member of the vast O’Connor clan on the Dingle Peninsula.

 

The club describes itself as “the most westerly golf course in Europe.” It is 120 miles, or 193 kilometers from Shannon and 220 miles, or 352 kilometers from Dublin. But it was a fairly short drive of only 1 ½ miles or 2.4 kilometers from the village of Ballyferriter.

 

A club brochure says that at 6,737 yards, the 18-hole, Par-72 course off the Blue Tees is “one of the truly traditional links. Each hole is full of tricky undulations and swales, the very building blocks of pure links, with hazards laid down long before the game of golf was dreamt of, including a winding “burn” (local term for small stream) that twists and turns through the entire course. Known as the St. Andrew of the south west, and situated in one of the most spectacular locations in Europe, it’s magical and mystical qualities will make your round of golf one you will never forget. . .As you play, the whole panorama of the Dingle Peninsula is revealed – hills, mountains and the Blasket Islands out there in the wild Atlantic.”

 

The only negative that I detected – other than the course distance and the sometimes hidden burn dug out beneath the playing level to be winding all over the course with steep-sided banks made of timber or stone – was a somewhat offensive smell. It turned out to be livestock and manure odor from nearby sheep and diary cattle farms next to distant portions of the course.

 

A hole-by-hole guide to the course is reproduced in an earlier travelogue about our 2003 visit to the Dingle area. It is at http://www.lewisnolan.com/nolantravels2/3ding6.html. The playing tips are taken from a pocket guide I purchased that included hole maps and distances.

 

Of course, I’m almost 67 years old now and not nearly as proficient at golf as I was when I was a young man. This was the first full, 18-hole round of golf I’ve played in more than 4 years because of health reasons. But I was feeling pretty good and had rented what appeared to be a very decent set of clubs from the pro shop. Plus, Betty had agreed to drive the motorized cart so I could concentrate on somehow recovering as much of my game as I could. It was a wonderful day, with beautiful sights, a few pretty good shots and a fair amount of walking to look for my ball hit by mistake into the rough and hazards.

 

I mainly played off the blue tees, only going forward to the white tees on a few extra-long holes. It surprised me that I actually hit some fairly good shots. Nevertheless, I miss-hit any number of balls that would have been lost had it not been for Betty’s sharp eyes and physical ability to scramble around the rough and sometimes steep stream beds.

 

My round was totally missing even a single par. Birdies and better were just simply way beyond my dormant golf game at this period of my life. But it was a lot of fun, especially because I was with Betty, who in her own quiet way was encouraging and supportive. Luckily, we had nobody in front of us slowing us down or nobody behind us pushing me to speed up my deliberative game.

 

I found myself getting angry at times with my own lousy shot-making (squirting the ball off the clubface at a sharp angle on several drives and topping the ball on several fairway shots). But I managed to avoid throwing clubs or other acts of a much younger man’s temper tantrum – probably with much of the calming credit due to Betty’s steady encouragement.

 

Golf shop manager Fahey was nice enough to provide some slightly used golf balls in my rental bag. In all, I lost 9 balls, including 3 brought from home. While there were no trees on the links course, the steep-banked stream “ate” several balls and others were lost in the high rough of long turf and yellow-blooming, wild gorse shrubs.

 

Thanks in part to some putting before the round and several remedial sessions at the Galloway practice green near my home, my putting was fairly decent. I took 20 putts on the front half of the course and the same number on the back side for a total of 40. I only hit a very few greens in regulation and ended up with a total score of 52 on the front and 52 on the back for a grand total of a miserable 104. My score was boosted considerably by a 10 I took on Par 5 No. 13. But had it not been for Betty’s great ball-finding (and propensity to toss found balls from high rough onto the short rough or fairway), my score could have been much higher.

 

But it was an enjoyable round and I very much hope our future travel will bring me back to Cheann Sibeal.

 

I learned that I really must spend a good chunk of time at and near Galloway at home to practice my short game and putting. I must also regularly take advantage of the Putt-Putt Practice Range’s special prices for seniors to hit a lot of drives and mid-irons and up if I’m ever to get my score near where it was in the 1990s and early 2000s. (Actually, I did practice some immediately upon our return and somehow managed a 43 on the back 9 holes of the much easier Galloway Golf Course in Memphis, with several pars and one lucky birdie.)

 

At the conclusion of my round at Cheann Sibeal, Betty and I repaired to the upstairs clubhouse lounge where I enjoyed two cold drafts of the German Heineken Beer, served by a bartender  named John. Betty had a pot of hot tea.  We watched a few players walk the course from the big windows overlooking the opening holes and closing holes.

 

After a hot shower and a short nap back at the Dingle Skellig Hotel, we enjoyed another great dinner in the Coast Guard Restaurant. I had a dish of broiled Monkfish served in a tropical fruit sauce and shared with Betty a small platter of steamed broccoli and snow peas plus a bit of baked sweet potatoes and Irish brown bread. She also had fish, mainly due to her fear that the cattle rounded up near the hotel might have been slaughtered and served in the restaurant. Due to my thirst from the 3 ½ hours on the golf course, I also enjoyed glasses of Harp Lager and Guinness Stout plus a small glass of Australian Chardonnay.

 

(Continue with Part 6, Return to Slea Head Drive, Mulcahy Pottery  /  Return to Nolan Travels Home Page)