Last week, I spent a magical five days in Northern Ireland with a group of golf media members from around the world. It was a wonderful experience.My first time in the U.K., and my first time playing links golf.
There will be a full write-up of my adventure in Fairways Magazine in the coming months (July, I believe).
Here are a couple of highlights:
- Visiting Holywood Golf Club, where Rory McIlroy started playing at age three, and seeing the shrine they have erected dedicated to him
- Arriving at Bushmills Inn – our accommodation for the week – and seeing the Canadian flag flying on the top of the hotel
- Going to a grocery store in town and ordering a donut from the Tim Horton’s kiosk
- Taking a caddie for the first time at Portstewart Golf Club, a 40-year member named Cyril who was a long-time journalist at the BBC
- Hitting driver-nine iron into a par-5, then driver-four wood into a par-4. That’s links golf
- Visiting the future site of Bushmills Dunes Golf Resort – set to be completed in 2015. An incredible piece of property
- Playing Royal Portrush – one of the top-20 golf courses in the world – in the rain, hail, and 35 MPH+ wind. A day that even the locals said was “one of the worst of the year”
- Seeing Darren Clarke on the putting green at Royal Portrush in the wind and the rain
- Touring The Giant’s Causeway – one of Northern Ireland’s top tourist destinations – at sunrise. Walking down to the ocean and taking it all in was one of the most inspiring moments of my life
- Going to the Bushmills whiskey distillery for the ‘breakfast’ tour, and getting handing a shot of 12-year-old ‘Distillery Reserve’ at 9:20am. Obviously I drank it. It was delicious.
- Learning about how inexpensive it actually was to join a golf club in Ireland, and finding out how many have reciprocal memberships with clubs in Canada
- Learning some fun curse words in Afrikaans thanks to a South African magazine editor
- Meeting a real life Anchorman from Washington, D.C.
- Spending a full day with a German writer who spoke little English, but bonding over golf. “Ich biu eiu sharfer golfer!”
- Visiting the oldest golf club in Ireland – Royal Belfast, established in 1881
- Staying awake for 23 hours on my journey home.
I could not have travelled without:
- Rain gear. An essential for any European golf vacation. Luckily, it was sunny for two of my three golfing days; however, I still wore my rain pants on top of my regular golf pants each day. I snagged a pair of Mike Weir rain pants for only $40 at SportChek prior to leaving. My only complaint about these pants is that they only had three pockets. I also wore an Under Armour shell. For my next trip I’d like to get a golf-specific rain jacket, but this seemed to do the trick (with extra layers underneath).
- Travel golf bag. This was the second time I’ve used my OGIO “Straight Jacket” bag (the other, when I went to Vancouver in 2010). It is incredible. Clubs were kept safe and secure. I wrapped a towel around the clubheads for extra coverage, but it’s unlikely I needed to.
- A sturdy pair of shoes. The thing about links golf is that there are no even lies. You’re constantly walking up a hill, down a hill, or alongside a hill. I was lucky enough to receive a pair of FootJoy’s new M:Project shoes at the beginning of the season, and their bright neon green colour accents were very appropriate for Ireland. They were honestly the best pair of golf shoes I’ve worn, and were the perfect pair of shoes for the Irish terrain.
- Buff. At first, bringing a buff was just something fun. I had seen Martin Kaymer wear one from BlackFly Outfitters at the WGC-Accenture World Match Play the last couple of years and thought it was a cool, but I soon realized that it was actually very practical. I wore it each of the three days I played and kept me warm and, my neck and face dry.
As mentioned, the full story will be up in a couple of months, but it truly was an amazing experience. Photos to come in the next few days as well.