Ireland's Best 19th Holes
In Ireland, the two Gs (Guinness and Golf) have long gone hand-in-hand. Though the Black Stuff may still reign supreme, a burgeoning domestic craft beer movement is offering golfers a number of alternative 19th-hole drinks. With post-round opportunities and options growing and with St. Patty's day just around the corner, a pub and golf tour of the Emerald Isle is now more enticing than ever.
To The North
No longer racked by political troubles, Northern Ireland is the heart of Irish craft beer. In Belfast, the Hilden and Whitewater breweries are both pouring world-class cask ales. These delicate beers are served at approximately 55 degrees Fahrenheit—perfect after a cold and wet 18 holes. For the latter, head just south of the breweries to the private Royal County Down Golf Club, where, at select times each week, visiting golfers brave the gales and fog to tee up on one of the country's most legendary and historic courses.
To The West
In contrast to Royal County Down, which has more than 100 years of golfing history, Doonbeg Golf Club, on Ireland's southwestern coast, is a mere infant. Regardless of age, the Greg Norman-designed course is as exciting an Irish golf experience as can be had. After a round, head into the club's Darby's Pub and look out over the first tee box, just two yards outside, as the sun sets. The Guinness is poured and songs are sung until the wee hours of the night, so show up prepared with the booklet of pub songs and toasts from the Lodge at Doonbeg. In the nearby town of Ennis, the Biddy Early Brewery (Ireland's first pub brewery) serves an indulgent Blonde Biddy Lager with a light malt flavor and crisp hop finish.
To The South
South of Doonbeg, it helps to be carrying a golf ball from your home course, and not just because you're sure to lose a few off the 300-foot cliffs at Old Head Golf Links. At the Killeen House Hotel in County Kerry, a recommended pre-Old Head destination, logoed golf balls can be tendered as payment for a pint of Guinness (and then displayed on a wall with thousands more). From there, it's just an hour and a half's drive to Kinsale, where the Old Head course juts out into the Atlantic on a 220-acre promontory. After the round, drive north to Cork to the Franciscan Well Brewery for a chilled imperial pint of Rebel Red, a classic Irish red ale.
To The East
No visit to Ireland is complete without a walk through the St. James's Gate Brewery in Dublin where you can drink Guinness just feet from where it was brewed. Sure, the classic Irish stout is great in the States, but there is no comparing the freshness you get directly at the source, where the Guinness hasn't sat on a container ship or been subjected to any temperature changes that break down its flavor compounds. Dublin is where you'll find the true essence of this remarkable beer, After the tour, golfers can play 20 of Ireland's best links holes at The European Club—yep, the site is so good that owner and course designer Pat Ruddy added two extra holes to the layout. Ruddy, a well-respected golf writer and course architect, is building an apartment above the clubhouse. Though he doesn't drink, he routinely talks golf with guests as they enjoy post-round pints at the club's no-frills restaurant and pub. "Our clubhouse is unostentatious by design", he says, "the whole emphasis here is on building the best golf course one can just because one wants to do just that. And then, to enjoy it and enjoy seeing others enjoy it as well." Now that's true Irish hospitality—the perfect complement to a round of golf and a good pint.