Golf, Kissing and John Daly... in Autumnal Ireland

Back in the waning years of the 20th century I was an intrepid young traveler with a backpack, a railpass, very little money... and not the slightest interest in golf.

One of the most enchanting places I visited on my year long odyssey was Ireland, and I've often longed to go back. Since
taking upbecoming obsessed with golf, that longing has only gotten stronger, as beautiful Irish courses are so often featured in the golf media.

So this morning when I ran into a neighborhood friend of mine just back from a week on the Emerald Isle, I couldn't wait to hear about it. It turns out that she... a beginning golfer... and husband who's played forever, stayed on the east coast, in and around the city of Cork, and though it was originally planned as a golf-free week of sightseeing and relaxation, in the end, her low handicap hubby had turned it into a full-on golf trip.

I remembered Cork as old fashioned and charming with its Georgian buildings, ornate cathedrals and winding canals, but I didn't associate the area with golf. For some reason I'd always (somewhat pretentiously) pictured myself playing on the ragged, windswept coast of Western Ireland, at Ballybunion or Old Head.

However, my neighbor managed to change my mind on this. She described the east coast courses they played at as visually stunning and very challenging, but without the fierce gales of the Atlantic. The highlight it seems, was their two nights (and two rounds)at Blarney Golf Resort. The course was designed by none other than John Daly which at first intimidated my novice golfer neighbor but she reported that the multiple tee locations allowed her to enjoy the winding woodland track as much as her better-half did. They raved about the resort and it's amenities too.

I must warn you though if you do decide spend time in the area around Cork your stay will almost certainly include a trip to Blarney Castle where you'll be urged to kiss the Blarney Stone and you'll probably accept like I did, because after all, kissing the mystical stone is supposed to make you an articulate and eloquent speaker. What they don't tell you is that in order to accomplish this magic kiss you'll need climb to the top of the castle and wait in a sometimes lengthy kissing line. Then you'll have to bend backwards over the ledge of a soaring stone tower while
some random dudea trained "Stone Kissing Assistant" holds onto you in disarmingly intimate way. Then you're in position kiss the cold, ancient grey stone... that's already been kissed by millions of strangers and has been named one of the world's most unhygienic tourist attractions.

You may wish to stick to golf.