Category Archives: Sports and Leisure

Sports and Leisure

Ireland’s dream links course

Imagine you could create your ideal golf course, bringing together the best and most challenging holes from any of Ireland’s links courses.

Just narrowing the choice down to 18 holes would be a mammoth task, and would probably lead to numerous arguments.

That’s why Richard Phinney and Scott Whitely have done the hard work for you, with the aim to “start as many arguments as they resolved.”

Their book ‘Links of Heaven’ is the result of 20 years exploring links courses from all across Ireland. They then put their dream course together “scientifically – over several pints of Guinness.”

The only rule they had was that only one hole was allowed from each course.

‘Links of Heaven’ is a lot more than just a list. There is a catalogue of every 18-hole links course in Ireland. Nearby attractions, accommodation, restaurants and pubs are also suggested, making it a vital guide to anyone new to golf in Ireland.

Experienced golfers will enjoy the histories of Ireland’s leading golf courses, as well as debating what should or shouldn’t be on the top 18 list.

According to Phinney and Whitely, the best links holes in Ireland are:

1st – Portstewart No.1 (Tubber Patrick) 425 yards, Par 4

An exciting opening to the dream course, with one of the best first holes in links golf. This is made famous by the dramatic descent from the splendid elevated tee.

2nd – Tralee No.2 590 yards, Par 5

This is a sweeping dog leg hole, with the beach providing a constant hazard to those that slice the ball. The tee allows a view of the entire course.

3rd – Portsalon No.2 (Strand) 430 yards, Par 4

A challenging hole that has been recently lengthened and altered. The tee shot has to skirt some impressive rock formations and there are some stunning views over the lough.

4th – Royal County Down No.4 217 yards, Par 3

This hole is at its best in June, when the gorse is in bloom. At any time of year, it is a very difficult hole. The tee shot has to carry over the gorse and avoid eight bunkers. The green is also hard and narrow, making putting a worthy challenge for any golfer.

5th – Lahinch No.5 (The Dell) 156 yards, Par 3

The shortest hole in the dream links is also one of the most difficult. Completely blind from the tee, this requires a bit of hit-and-hope, making it a unique challenge. This is the reason is made it onto the Best 18 and also why it is included in many people’s Worst 18 Holes list.

6th – Rosapenna Sandy Hills No.6 390 yards, Par 4

This is a picturesque hole, with views of the beach, sea and nearby hills. But don’t forget to concentrate on the golf – a natural chasm narrows the fairway and could cost a few shots if you don’t keep your mind on the game.

7th – Ballybunion Old No.11 453 yards, Par 4

An awkward left-swinging hole that has hazards surrounding the green.

8th – Ballybunion Cashen No.15 487 yards, Par 5

This hole has an atmosphere of real solitude. The tee shot takes you over the crest of a hill into a fairway surrounded by the some of the steepest sand hills on any golf course.

9th – Cruit Island No.6 160 yards, Par 3

The final hole in the out 9 of the dream links; this makes all the effort it takes to even find the Cruit Island Golf Club worthwhile. The hole is perched at the edge of a cliff with pounding white surf below.

Out: 3308 yards, Par 35

10th – Enniscrone No.13 (The Burrows) 338 yards, Par 4

This is a great links hole and, if you get the tee shot right, there is a real chance of a birdie. One wayward shot will mean making pair is a real challenge. The rough is formidable and the green is well protected.

11th – Waterville No.11 (Tranquility) 496 yards, Par 5

This hole certainly suits its name. Playing the long fairway is very relaxing, giving you the opportunity to enjoy the scenery around this hole.

12th – The European Club No.17 (Tom Watson) 392 yards, Par 4

More challenging than it first appears, this hole is a masterpiece of links design. The generous fairway means that the tee shot doesn’t have to be too exact. This can lure you into a false sense of security. A second shot to the green demands pin-point accuracy.

13th – The Island No.13 (Broadmeadow) 215 yards, Par 3

This is a classic short hole, with the option to play safe down the left for par, or go for the riskier right side for the chance of a birdie. The view of Malahide provides a lovely backdrop beyond the green.

14th – Portmarnock No.14 (Ireland’s Eye) 395 yards, Par 4

An elegantly designed dogleg left, this is a very challenging hole that needs very precise play. It was one of the great Henry Cotton’s favourite holes.

15th – Royal Portrush No.14 (Calamity) 213 yards, Par 3

Another hole that suits its name, there is a huge rough waiting to swallow any shot that is short of the green.

16th – Carne No.17 (An Murineach) 390 yards, Par 4

An Murineach is risky and exhilarating in equal measures. The hole is played on a narrow plateau surrounded by some of the best duneland available to golfers anywhere in the world.

17th – County Sligo No.17 (Gallery) 455 yards, Par 4

Easily one of the toughest holes in Ireland, this is a severe uphill dogleg left. There is a large green to aim for but hitting par is still a real trial.

18th – Laytown and Bettystown No.18 475 yards, Par 5

Finishing the links from heaven is a particularly fun and challenging hole. Two blind shots and a green surrounded by dunes will test any player.

In: 3369 yards, Par 36

Total: 6677 yards, Par 71

Richard Phinney and Scott Whitely are confident that even the best players would find it difficult to match the par of 71 at their dream course.

And of course, we all hope you enjoy creating your own ‘Links From Heaven’ as much as the two authors did.

Links From Heaven by Richard Phinney and Scott Whitely is on sale now.

Bonner honoured in Donegal

It was a moment no one in Ireland will ever forget. With the quarter finals of the 1990 World Cup within touching distance, legendary goalkeeper Packie Bonner faced off against Romanian striker Daniel Timofte.

The save by Bonner won the penalty shoot-out, and sent Ireland into the World Cup quarter finals.

For that, and the many other achievements during his football career, Packie Bonner was honoured with the Freedom of the County in Donegal, the area’s highest accolade.

He became only the second person to receive the honour, after fellow goalkeeper Shay Given was awarded it last year.

An emotional Packie Bonner paid tribute to his family, friends, coaches and fellow players who influenced him.

He said: “Without them I would not be where I am today. As you go through this, you need special people and I had it in my family. They are the people that helped me get where I am.”

Mayor of Donegal Enda Bonner thanked his cousin Packie for the great memories he had given every Irishman.

He said: “This award will adequately reflect the great esteem in which Packie is held by the people of the counties for the wonderful memories he has given us and the work he continues to do.”

Packie Bonner came from very humble beginnings. Aged 10, he and his twin brother Denis were able to get their pair of football boots after a good herring season in Donegal.

He became Jock Stein’s last signing for Celtic, when he moved to Glasgow in 1978.

His Ireland debut came in May 1981, on his 21st birthday. He went on to play 642 times for Celtic, and won 80 caps for Ireland.

But it was that famous save and Ireland’s run during the 1990 World Cup that turned Bonner into a national hero.

He said: “Everybody, young and old enjoyed it. I was privileged to be part of such a great team.”

He can also now enjoy the privilege of walking his cattle through Dungloe.

Final section of Royal Canal Way

The seventh and final section of the Royal Canal Way takes walkers on a peaceful trek through the beautiful natural surroundings lying between Riverstown Bridge and Moran’s Bridge in Mullingar. This section of the walking route is located in County Westmeath in the Leinster province. Walkers will have to cover a considerable distance of fourteen kilometres in order to finish walking on this walking trail. There is little climbing to be done here so most walkers shouldn’t need more than four hours to get to the end of this trail. The surface terrain of this walking route is mostly composed of grassy bank. The harbour at Mullingar is notable for the fact that it is divided into two parts by Scanlan’s Bridge.

Sixth section of Royal Canal Way

Hill of down is the place walkers need to be at to start the sixth section of the Royal Canal Way. This section ends at Riverstown Bridge. For this section of the walking trail, walkers will take in the delightful views of County Meath in the Leinster province. This section of the walking route is also easy like the previous sections and doesn’t any difficult climbing. Walkers will have to cover a distance of a little over ten kilometres. Three and a half hours should prove to be enough time for them to get from start to finish of this section. The surface terrain of this section of the Royal Canal Way consists of road and track. There is a wooded demesne called Hyde Park near D’Arcy’s wood. The old canal boats on D’Arcy’s bridge remind newcomers of the Leech family who were the last traders to work on the canal before its closure. Walkers will be able to view a fine harbour at Thomastown that owes its existence to the widening of the canal here. From this point onwards, there are two towpaths to follow on both sides of the canal. The southern path is even good enough for driving vehicles.

Fifth section of the Royal Canal Way

The fifth section of the Royal Canal Way stretches from Enfield Bridge to Hill of down. This section is located in County Kildare in the Leinster province. This section is also easy to complete for most walkers and extends over a long distance of fifteen kilometres. There isn’t much climbing involved on this section. Walking at a normal pace, walkers should be able to complete this section of the walking trail in less than four and a half hours. The walking terrain of this route is comprised mostly of grassy bank and to a lesser extent, track and road. Those with a passion for angling will want to check out the fishing competitions at Enfield Harbour. Stretching from here to Moyvalley, walkers will be thrilled with the attractive line of trees that is unmatched in its beauty on the whole canal.