Couples golf trips to Ireland make perfect sense.
The golf is fantastic, especially on the links, but the no. 1 reason I love Ireland is its people and places.
There might not be a more magical connection between the two anywhere in the world.
Chris Gauss of Indiana tweeted me a question inquiring about the ideal itinerary for four middle-age couples visiting the Emerald Isle for the first time.
He specifically asked where to stay -- "Dublin centric" or a "SW (southwest) sweep" -- while the boys play golf and the ladies find fun elsewhere.
@WorldGolfer working on couples trip to Ireland, golf for the boys only. Stay Dublin centric or SW sweep? All 1st timers— cg (@cdgauss1203) July 6, 2016
I figured researching this story would serve me well whenever I pull the trigger on getting my wife across the pond. She has been after me for years to take her to Ireland. After she reads this story, I'm guessing I better start saving my Euros. The timeline probably just accelerated.
Southwest Ireland, as most savvy golfers know, is the land of bucket-list links. Ballybunion's Old Course and Cashen Course explore some of the best dunes in the world. Lahinch Golf Club and Tralee Golf Club both sell castle ruins and scenery galore. Waterville Golf Links is a favorite of Matt Ginella from the Golf Channel's Morning Drive and most everybody else who plays it. Politics aside, Donald Trump, the new owner of Trump International Golf Links and Hotel Ireland, has done well to rebuild the storm-battered Doonbeg links, thanks to a renovation by Martin Hawtree.
Dublin's links might not be as grandiose as the southwest, but they're closer together with fewer miles logged on narrow, winding Irish roads. Golfers could digest a trio of Irish Open venues north of the city -- Royal Dublin Golf Club, County Louth Golf Club and Portmarnock Golf Club -- and sprinkle in the monstrous dunes of The Island Golf Club and The European Club (a bit farther south in County Wicklow) for a full week of fun. Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links, Seapoint Golf Links and Laytown & Bettystown add variety and value if you choose that route.
The tourist attractions
Southwest Ireland is home to the famed "Ring of Kerry," a scenic byway around the Iveragh Peninsula. The 180-kilometer circular route tours quaint villages, spine-tingling coastal seascapes and cruises right past Waterville in County Kerry. Another favorite of mine near Tralee is the colorful seaside town of Dingle, which seems to have more pubs than people. The stunning 700-foot sea cliffs called the Cliffs of Moher are located near the charming village of Lahinch and Trump's beautiful lodge.
Dublin, a historic city on the River Liffey, provides tourists a pulsing nightlife. It's best to ride The D.A.R.T. (Dublin Area Rapid Transport) around town to avoid the hassles of traffic and parking. Bars and restaurants line narrow cobblestone, medieval streets in The Temple Bar. The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin continues to be popular for the free pint in the Gravity Bar at the end of the tour. The bar, at the "head" of the pint-shaped building, provides panoramic views of the city.
There are all sorts of tours for all sorts of tourists -- drinkers (pub crawls), religious buffs (St. Patrick's Cathedral) and literacy geeks (visit the home of Oscar Wilde, and learn more about James Joyce). Since 1653, Trinity College Dublin has been the safehouse for the Book of Kells, a lavishly illustrated manuscript written by Irish monks in 800 A.D. You will run out of time before you run out of things to see.
Top couples golf destination in Ireland: The verdict
As good as the golf is in southwest Ireland, I'm going with the "happy wife/happy life" cliche and picking Dublin.
With less driving, there's less wear and tear on a jet-lagged body, and the city is just so full of energy at all hours of the day and night. The ladies will have more options choosing what to do, and the guys will still cherish the chance to play a handful of world-class links or even heading inland to play the K Club's Palmer Course, which hosted the 2006 Ryder Cup.
After the original tweet, "cg" mentioned he might also spend a day in Belfast and tee it up on Royal County Down, the no. 1 course in the world, according to Golf Digest. That's a great addition to any golf itinerary. Belfast, where the Titanic was constructed, is a fascinating city in Northern Ireland still scarred by its struggles during "The Troubles." It's several hours by car from Dublin, but well worth the effort to see. With Brexit hurting the exchange rate on the pound, Northern Ireland will be more affordable than ever.