Doonbeg’s caddies will often give the time-honoured advice; “Keep it on the fairway and out of the thick stuff.” Depending on the ocean breezes, a caddie may suggest taking anything from a 4-iron to a sand wedge for Doonbeg’s signature hole - the spectacular 98-yard par-3 14th, arguably the best one-shotter in Irish golf. The par-4, 18th is a fitting finale to a memorable course, with the ocean stretching the length of the 440-yard hole. Don’t bail-out too far left or your second may prove extremely difficult, and the wonderful though deceptive putting surface is a real test for players of all abilities.
Beyond the green is Doonbeg’s magnificent granite Lodge, offering elegant accommodation with ocean, river and courtyard views from its one-to-four-bedroom suites, individually furnished with antiques and each with its own private living space and kitchen area. The Links Cottages are even larger residences located alongside the course and offer a self-catering option for families and golfing groups. Amenities at Doonbeg include 5-star dining, spa (with steam rooms, sauna, whirlpool), fitness area, Darby’s bar, golf shop and concierge service.
Normandy’s Pays d’Auge region is where some of France’s best cheeses such as Camembert are made alongside highly-prized drinks such as the fiery apple brandy Calvados. This slice of France is also blessed with a selection of fine golf courses; and for the gourmet golfer an excellent base is the Hôtel du Golf Barrière, a luxurious golf hotel situated on the slopes of Mount Canisy, just five minutes from the coastal town of Deauville.
Many famous guests have enjoyed the old-world charms of the Hôtel du Golf Barrière since it opened its doors in 1929, including Errol Flynn, Harrison Ford and Yves St Laurent, who smile across from their autographed photos inside the foyer. Just opposite, is the cool Le Green Bar, where you can sink into the red velvet armchairs and choose from a selection of thirty types of Calvados.
Only a long putt from the hotel is Golf Barrière de Deauville, rated among France’s top 20 prettiest layouts. The three loops of 9 holes are in excellent condition throughout the year, with beautifully manicured fairways and greens. The original 18 holes (red & white tees), built by Tom Simpson in 1929, is a lovely parkland layout, with a nice mix of undulating fairways and varied holes with panoramic views over Deauville and Pays d’Auge country. The other nine-holes (blue tees) designed in 1964 by Henry Cotton have a more wooded character.
Another excellent 27 holes (connected to the hotel) are located 15 kms south of Deauville at Pont L’Évêque, famous for the Normandy cheese of the same name. Golf Barrière de Saint-Julien’s main 18-hole layout, called Le Vallon is hilly in sections and winds through lush Normandy pastureland. The higher part of the course encourages some open-shouldered driving, and the lower section features several testing water hazards.
Look out for holes 9 and 18, two par-4s where you must play your second shots over water to reach heavily bunkered and undulating greens, with the marvellous chateau-style clubhouse as a backdrop. If you have time, stop by the restaurant for some fine French cuisine before taking on the 9-hole Le Bocage course.
Turnberry, an icon of Scottish hospitality and the home of four Open Championships, has been treasured for over a hundred years and the hotel has recently been reborn as part of Starwood’s acclaimed Luxury Collection following a multi-million pound renovation. The five-star resort boasts fine Scottish cuisine, a wide range of outdoor activities, an award-winning spa, two championship golf courses, the Ailsa and the Kintyre, the nine hole Arran beginners course and the acclaimed Colin Montgomerie Links Academy.
Turnberry’s famous Ailsa course came to international prominence with the infamous ‘Duel in the Sun’ between Tom Watson (champion) and Jack Nicklaus over four sweltering days during July 77. Since then, Greg Norman (1986), Nick Price (1994) and most recently Stewart Cink (2009) have made up the quartet of golfers to lift the Claret Jug at Turnberry.
The 2009 Open championship was particularly memorable, with 59-year-old Tom Watson only a whisker away from arguably the greatest sporting achievement in history. When Watson walked up to the final hole at Turnberry needing par for victory, the world held its breath while it waited for a new hero. But, the ball slipped past the hole when Watson wavered over his 10-foot victory putt and Stewart Cink took victory after a four-hole play-off.
Polls regularly acknowledge the Ailsa as one of Britain’s top three courses with regular rankings within the world’s top 20. The ninth (Bruce’s Castle) is a contender for Turnberry’s trademark hole. Adjacent to the famous lighthouse and the remains of Robert the Bruce’s Castle (Scottish King from 1306-1329), this 452-yard par-4 has no bunkers, yet is a daunting par-4 especially from the Championship tee which is perched on a rocky premonitory on the edge of the sea.