February 10, 2017 by departures.com
As golfers make their way to Ireland for a new season on the links, they will discover that the country’s ma-jor drawing cards have been rapidly evolving in recent years—and for the better. There’s a qualitative difference from the country’s last boom, during the Celtic Tiger years, from the mid-’90s through the mid-aughts. “During that period, we went from 280 courses to well over 400,” says Marty Carr of Carr Golf, one of Ireland’s leading golf tour operators. “Most of the developments were championship parkland designs—the likes of Mount Juliet, the K Club, and Druids Glen. But American demand is synonymous with links golf.” With these new courses in place, the current run of development has seen the seaside icons stepping up their game both on and off the course.
Clubs have made a concerted effort to upgrade the overall experience. A few years ago, people took note when Wilma Erskine, Royal Portrush’s influential manager, enlisted members to come out in their club blazers to greet visiting golfers. Small welcoming touches the valuables pouch and yardage book, the lunch included with green fees began to spread. “Our customers are paying 200 euro for a day’s golf—they’re not average Joes,” Carr adds. “They can go to Los Cabos or one of Mike Keiser’s places in America. We’re competing on a world stage.” Of course, the locals have much to gain by rolling out the red carpet—overseas visitors subsidize annual dues, rendering membership at some of the finest links in the world at a cost that would make most American private club golfers envious.
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