If the British Open Championship didn't get your motor running for a golf vacation, maybe the Irish Open will. There is still plenty of time left this summer to plan a golf trip to Ireland, so here are some tips to help get your trip started:
Revisit rates at Ireland's hotels and golf courses
If you looked at Ireland golf vacation prices a few years ago, it's time to look again.
In a lot of parts of the country, the golf and accommodations are much cheaper compared to 2006-2007 -- so there are some courses or hotels you may have originally priced yourself out of that you can play now. Look around Dublin or Ireland's Southwest for some of the best savings.
Northern Ireland, on the other hand, hasn't fallen off too hard, and northwest Ireland remains the cheapest place to stay and play, even if the savings isn't as dramatic as it used to be.
Upon arrival, check in to a luxurious golf resort and spa
If you're coming to Ireland from North America, chances are you're going to arrive at the crack of dawn after an overnight flight. If you want to start the trip off on the right foot, stay at a top golf resort near the airport.
Around Shannon Airport on the west coast, you can stay at Doonbeg Golf Club or Dromoland Castle, both an easy drive away and offer a spa, driving range and killer breakfasts. Then, if you're up to it, consider a late-afternoon round.
Pay someone else to do the driving
When you're booking your golf trip, the appeal of saving a little money by self-driving sounds pretty good. But you're going to be in Ireland, where the Guinness flows after golf, and the roads aren't always easy to get around on -- especially in Ireland's more rural northwest.
Paying a little more each day for a coach results in priceless peace of mind knowing you won't wreck your rental or end up in jail. If your group is eight or more, usually the surcharge for a driver isn't even much more than renting your own vans.
The Irish weatherman knows about as much as you do
We all check the extended weather forecast before packing our bags. Only in Ireland, the weatherman is more of a "guestimator."
It's not his fault. It could be calm and sunny in Lahinch and raining buckets just a few miles down the coast at Doonbeg or vice versa. There are just too many variables with isles weather, and you could see it all in one round.
Instead, pack for everything. Rain gear and gloves are essential, and you probably don't need to bring as many golf shirts as usual, because it'll be covered up by sweaters or windbreakers.
Right about now the umbrella debate pops up, and my recommendation is that it's usually too windy to use one on the links, and most hotels have umbrellas you can borrow if you're going for a walk. Leave it at home.
Stay in a smaller, family-owned Irish inn or bed & breakfast
This is contradictory to our previous tip about staying in a top resort on travel day, but if you're planning on staying in more than one area during the trip, make sure you spend a couple nights in a smaller, charming family-owned property. This is where Irish hospitality shines brightest.
A few of my favorites are the Season's Lodge near Enniscrone Golf Club in the northwest and the Killeen House Hotel near Killarney in the southwest.
Reconsider playing Pro-V1s for cheaper, low-spin balls
Playing into a stiff Irish breeze on the links, you want as little spin as possible, which is why I can't understand why you'd play a Pro-V1 or similar high-spin ball on links golf courses unless you're a real ace. Hit a high slice into the wind, and your ball could end up in England.
Low-spin is your friend (I prefer DT Solos and Noodles). The fescue can be high on these links, and you could go through a $50 box of pro-grade balls in no time. Also, balls in the U.S. are about half the cost as in Europe, so unless you want logo balls, bring plenty of your own ammo.
Don't play all household-name golf links
Some of the world's most well-known links are in Ireland: Ballybunion, Lahinch, Old Head, etc. But try a few a little more off the beaten path.
A few of my favorites: Dooks Golf Club, Castlerock and Ballyliffin.