After several days of near-perfect weather, the dense fog had settled upon Ballybunion Golf Club that morning, and the damp mist brought along that stiff wind that insisted on extra concentration during each shot. Teeing it up on the Old Course, which was established in 1893, this internationally recognized golf course proved to have all the elements at play on this day.
A rather large clubhouse, the restaurant and bar upstairs provided picture-perfect views overlooking number 18 of the Old Course. Looking out to the left, the Cashen Course that was established in 1984 provides Ballybunion with a second course for guests looking for more “enjoyable abuse” on the courses. With Vari as the General Manager, along with Brian and the entire golf staff, they obviously have the perfect equation for providing a priceless golf experience to guests.
This course was full of contrasts: teeing off on the first hole, while feeling full of life and promise, you’re overlooking an eerily intriguing cemetery dating back to the mid-1800’s; and while playing one of the most prestigious golf courses in the world, several of the holes provided views of the ocean in the distance to the left and views out over a trailer park with double-wide trailer homes to the right. I wanted to sneak over to look at the names in the graveyard, but the locals had warned that it was very bad luck to enter that graveyard. Not wanting to disrupt local traditions, I snapped a photo and moved on my way.
My suggestion is to use those first few holes to get comfortable with the course (and with your game), since once you arrive to number seven, the course is ruthless with tall grasses and tight fairways. After giving everyone about seven holes of the Ireland-style golf we read about with rain and wind; the clouds did finally allow a hint of blue sky to appear for the back nine. Overall, a challenging, yet very fair course when you keep the ball in the fairways; and one that leaves you walking off of number 18 while already plotting a time in the future for a re-match.
With another great variation of fish and chips enjoyed in the restaurant, it was time to tee it up at the Cashen Course for the late afternoon round. The skies were clear, but the wind was in full effect, and made for thrilling round of golf. It seemed that in no time at all, it was back to the clubhouse for dinner and drinks with the team members from the course.
To cap-off this Ballybunion Golf Club experience, we stayed just a solid 3-wood shot away from the clubhouse at the 19th Lodge Guesthouse, where you feel like family instantly, thanks to the warm welcome received by owners, James and Mary Beasley. With an impressive list of “regulars” here, including Tom Watson, it’s easy to understand the appeal to enjoy the hospitality and convenient location that comes with calling the 19th Lodge home for several days while fully embracing the Ballybunion experience.