Travel

Dublin's Pars and Bars

Is there a finer city in the world to indulge in liquid celebration after a day on the links? No, of course not. Dublin has it all – a selection of world-class golf courses matched only by the craic in a traditional pub.

By Andy Marshall

Dublin's Pars and Bars

Golf: a sport where grown men and women use several different bent sticks to hit a ball into an area with very short grass surrounding a hole in the ground. Yep, that’s pretty much the gist of it, and the inhabitants of the Emerald Isle love it – alongside a good drink, of course. And where in Ireland is perfect for both? Well, none other than the capital itself.

Just a short drive from Dublin’s city centre there are dozens of top quality courses waiting to be discovered. A few miles north of the city, golfing options include Royal Dublin, Portmarnock Links and the lesser-known St Anne’s Golf Club. To the west, are top-class parkland tracks like the K Club and Rathsallagh. To the south, quick road connections lead to County Wicklow and championship courses such as Druids Glen and The European Club.

And when it comes to enjoying a pint or two after your round, there’s no shortage of 19th holes in a city crammed full of iconic watering holes. “A good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub,” wrote James Joyce in Ulysses. Little has changed since Joyce penned his classic novel and Dublin’s approximately 800 pubs are still the hub of social life summed up in that famous Irish word, the “craic.”

So whether you are negotiating one of The European Club’s long par-fours through the dunes or sampling a few beers and traditional folk music in O’Neill’s back in Dublin, here are 18-holes of golf clubs and pubs.

Enjoy your, er, rounds...

Front Nine - The Golf Clubs

HOLE 1 – THE EUROPEAN CLUB

Crafted out of tumbling dunes by Pat Ruddy, The European Club features 18-holes (plus 2 bonus par-3s) of exciting links golf with dramatic views of the Irish Sea. This is seaside golf at its very best, with fast-running fairways, greens that invite the pitch-and-run approach, acres of tall, waving marram grass, strong winds and the taste of salt in the sea air. Look out for the 470 yards par-four 7th, voted one of the world’s greatest 100 golf holes. Tiger Woods set the links course record at 67, shot on July 12, 2002. On the tees of several of the par-fours he asked: “Is this a par-five? Wow…what great optical illusions!”

Ruddy marvellous! The 7th green at the must-play European Club, designed by the inimitable Pat Ruddy

HOLE 2 - DRUIDS GLEN & DRUIDS HEATH

Situated in a scenic location 30-minutes south of Dublin, this double-header venue boats two championship courses to test your golfing skills. Holder of the Irish Open four times in a row between 1996 and ’99, Druids Glen – often referred to as the ‘Augusta of Europe’ – is a challenging parkland layout that can be tough to negotiate with water being a threat on several holes. Elevation changes, historical landmarks, mature trees and vibrant floral displays add to the interest. The other course, Druids Heath runs through undulating and mainly open terrain with the mountains, sea and rolling Irish countryside providing stunning vistas throughout.

HOLE 3 – ST ANNE’S GOLF CLUB

While not as famous as some of the other courses on Dublin’s north coast, St Anne’s Golf Club is an impressive links layout that’s lucky enough to be situated on one of Ireland’s most important ecological attractions: Dublin Bay’s Bull Island Nature Reserve – a great spot to ensure at least a few birdies of the feathered variety.

HOLE 4 – MALAHIDE GOLF CLUB

Malahide Golf Club’s course features a 27-hole layout originally designed by Eddie Hackett. It rests in the scenic landscape between the coastal county Dublin villages of Portmarnock and Malahide. With woodland features such as copses, ponds and rivers thoughtfully woven throughout the course’s ample fairways, Malahide Golf Club offers a challenge to golfers of all handicaps. The course is arranged in three sets of nine holes each, which – as you might expect – can be played in any order.

HOLE 5 – THE ISLAND GOLF COURSE

The Island Golf Course has a proud history stretching back into the late 1800’s and was one of the very first golf courses founded in Ireland. This unique course can be found in the estuaries of Donabate in county Dublin. The coastal landscape of sweeping dunes plays host to a wide range of stunning flora and fauna. Players may find themselves distracted by the beauty on display, but the challenging mix of holes on this links course will soon demand their full attention.

HOLE 6 – POWERSCOURT GOLF CLUB

There are not many places in the world like Powerscourt Golf Club, only 30 minutes from Dublin airport, you feel like you have entered a different world. The two championship golf courses are situated among the truly magnificent Powerscourt Estate which is home to 1,000 acres upon which layouts by both Peter McEvoy and David McLay Kidd enjoy a gloriously unspoilt setting. The resort was voted Ireland’s Best Overall Parkland Venue 2014 while the quality of the two courses is such that both the Irish PGA Championship and Irish Senior Open have been staged here on several occasions. The conditioning of the layouts alone is worth the 30-minute drive out of Dublin!

The majestic setting at Powerscourt, just 30 minutes’ outside Dublin, where two fabulous parkland challenges await

HOLE 7 – ROYAL DUBLIN GOLF CLUB

On Dublin Bay’s Bull Island Nature Reserve you will discover a natural links fashioned in a classic style in the early part of the last century by the renowned golf architect Harry Colt. Over the years, many legends of the game have played here including Nicklaus, Trevino, Ballesteros, Langer, Norman and Faldo. Martin Hawtree has now enhanced this top-drawer links for the modern era; making one of Ireland’s greatest golfing tests, well, even greater.

HOLE 8 – THE K CLUB

West of Dublin is the K Club’s Palmer Course and the dramatic scenes of that famous European victory over the USA in the 2006 Ryder Cup. One of Ireland’s finest parkland courses, the closing stretch is a classic. The 16th is an all-or-nothing two-shotter, where an accurate drive must be followed by a long and precise approach over water to an island green. The 18th dares the golfer to drive over the top of a bunker-strewn hill and then tempts you to fire straight at the flag in search of that heroic Ryder Cup finish. The K Club’s other course the Smurfit, would best be described as an inland links, with dune-type mounding throughout.

HOLE 9 – PORTMARNOCK GOLF LINKS

Widely recognised as one of Ireland’s premier golf resorts with a golf course (designed by two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer), that combines all the charms of a traditional links layout with the challenge of the modern game. Gently-undulating fairways lead to large fast greens that must be negotiated through 98 strategically-placed bunkers; while hillocks, wild grasses and gorse await wayward shots. The 1st tee and 18th green are conveniently situated just a wedge shot from the hotel and clubhouse.

Two Bernhard Langer-designed courses make for a real treat at Portmarnock, a golf club that celebrates the purity of traditional links golf

Back Nine - The Pubs

HOLE 10 – THE PALACE BAR, 21 FLEET STREET, TEMPLE BAR

A short stroll from Temple Bar’s cobbled streets, the Palace Bar is often said to be the perfect example of an old Dublin pub. Established in 1823 victorian era décor dominates the interior and as you enter the snug, with its ornate mirrors and wooden niches, you can imagine the historic meetings that have taken place here, or the back room with its high ceiling and stained glass, where literary stock used to gather. Flann O’Brien and Harry Kernoff were regulars, and the Palace Bar became one of Dublin’s great literary pubs. An advertisement published in the “Where to drink Guide 1958” adorns the wall and says: “Internationally famous also for its intellectual refreshment.”

One of the great Dublin experiences off the course - The Palace Bar

HOLE 11 – JOHN MULLIGAN, 8 POOLBEG STREET

Once a working-class drinking man’s pub, this brilliant old boozer is another virtually unchanged over the years. Established in 1782, its main claim to fame is a perfectly poured pint of Guinness – it’s known as “the home of the pint” – and the colourful crew of regulars who are considered experts on the subject. Quirkiness pervades its atmosphere. Over the years Mulligan’s has attracted a mixed bag including former US President John F Kennedy and it also featured as the local in the film My Left Foot starring Daniel Day Lewis as Christy Brown.

HOLE 12 – GROGAN’S CASTLE LOUNGE, 15 SOUTH WILLIAM STREET

Known among regulars simply as Grogan’s, this city centre institution is a favourite haunt among painters, writers, bohemians and alternatives. From the street, not much can be seen through the lace curtains, but once you go through the door it’s like stepping into someone’s living room. The actor Brad Pitt became a local here to help him soak up the Irish atmosphere, while working on the movie Snatch.

HOLE 13 – O’NEILL’S, 36-37 PEARSE STREET

Granted the James Joyce award for being an authentic Dublin pub, O’Neill’s has existed as licensed premises for over 300 years. Featuring five bars and numerous alcoves and snugs all of which attract a different clientele and age group, from students and lecturers at nearby Trinity College, to busy city traders and lovers of the arts and theatre. As an added bonus, O’Neill’s has special beer-dispensing tap tables, where customers can pour their own Guinness without the interminable wait for the barman to put the shamrock in the froth. Taps on the tables are linked to kegs behind the bar and customers leave their credit card to pay for a given number of pints.

HOLE 14 – LONG HALL, 51 SOUTH GREAT GEORGE’S STREET

Backing onto Dublin Castle, the Long Hall is one of Dublin’s most beautiful and best-loved watering holes. Although very much a locals’ pub, many visitors come to experience the evocative atmosphere and full Victorian splendour with an ornately carved bar, elegant chandeliers and a pendulum clock more than 200 years old.

HOLE 15 – TEMPLE BAR, 47-48 TEMPLE BAR

Slap bang in the centre of the tourist area of the same name, on the South Bank of the River Liffey, vibrant red Temple Bar (also known as Flannery’s) has the most photographed pub façade in Dublin, if not the whole world. Not the kind of place to go for a quiet pint with the locals, as it’s usually wall-to-wall with visitors. But it’s still a good ‘craic’ and has all the right ingredients with traditional musicians and a lively atmosphere.

The Temple Bar – one of the city’s most photographed pub facades

HOLE 16 – RYAN’S, 28 PARKGATE STREET

Located just a few sips of the black stuff away from the Guinness Storehouse across the River Liffey, Ryan’s of Parkgate Street (established in the 1890s) is well worth a visit. It is one of only a handful of city pubs that has retained its Victorian décor virtually intact, and boasts an original oval-shaped mahogany bar, magnificent stained glass and walls decorated with an outstanding collection of antique gilt mirrors advertising various products sold at the turn of the 20th century.

HOLE 17 – DUBLIN LITERARY, PUB CRAWL

A great way to learn more about Dublin’s pub culture, history and its literary associations is to take the Literary Pub Crawl. It’s a guided tour by Colm Quilligan and other actors who perform humorous extracts from Dublin’s best-known writers in some of the city’s best-loved drinking establishments. “We were a band of unemployed actors doing entertainment in pubs,” says Quilligan. “It was a natural fusion of the two ideas and a great way of legitimising the pub lifestyle.”

HOLE 18 - GUINNESS STOREHOUSE & GRAVITY BAR, ST JAMES’S GATE

The famous Guinness Storehouse is a must-visit

No ‘Pubs and Golf Clubs’ visit to the Irish capital would be complete without a pilgrimage to the Guinness Storehouse at St. James’s Gate, where you’ll learn plenty about this world famous stout including the brewing process and the Arthur Guinness story. After you have seen how it’s made, it’s time to taste the famous product. Hovering above the roof of the Storehouse is the Gravity Bar, and with a pint of Guinness in hand and incredible 360-degree views over the streets of Dublin, it’s the perfect position to contemplate James Joyce’s puzzle…