Chad Conine is a sportswriter from Texas who spent the summer in Scotland and the town of St. Andrews. He chronicled his golf adventures before this year's British Open, held at the Old Course July 15-18.
The Irish Independent newspaper included a front-page refer and full spread inside on Graeme McDowell's U.S. Open victory on Tuesday, two days after McDowell tapped in for par on the 18th green and raised his arms skyward at Pebble Beach.
I read most of it while riding in a cab from the Dublin airport to a city centre hotel where I would be staying for two nights. I'd like to say that I spontaneously hopped on a plane on Tuesday, set on arriving in Ireland to help celebrate the ongoing Golden Age of Irish Golf.
And by the way, maybe that's what we're seeing at the moment. Padraig Harrington claimed the second major championship for a golfer from the Emerald Isle (the first since Fred Daly, of Northern Ireland, won the 1947 Open Championship) when Harrington won the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie. Then he won two of the next four including a PGA Championship and a second-consecutive Open. With McDowell's victory at the U.S. Open, golfers from either Ireland or Northern Ireland have now won four of the last 12 majors and it's logical to expect that between McDowell, Harrington and rising star Rory McIlroy, there are several more to come in the near future.
However, that's not what brought me to Ireland. My agenda upon embarking on temporary residence in St. Andrews, Scotland, included a potential trip to the neighboring isle. When I finally booked it, a Pearl Jam concert in Dublin, not golf, proved to be the catalyst.
But I brought my sticks and chose Dublin over Belfast because it offered the opportunity to play The K Club Palmer Course, host of the 2006 Ryder Cup.
Playing The K Club, designed by Arnold Palmer and founded in 1991, as my first experience of Irish golf was sort of like learning to drive behind the wheel of a Bentley — it's fantastic but hard to use as the starting point for any comparisons.
Anyway, if lush, rolling fairways and greens are on your list, which I have to assume they are, you'll love The K Club. But be warned, the course isn't tricky but it's still extremely challenging. For example, the par-4 11th is the No. 10 handicap hole — at 415 yards from the back tees, it's not super long but it's a dogleg left, so it requires a right-to-left shot off the tee to a fairway that rises for 250 yards, then feeds downhill to the green, where a pond waits for errant shots on the left side. That's an average hole.
But The K Club Palmer Course still manages to be great fun, even as it kicks your butt. And it's distinctly Palmer-esque, a thought I had even before reading this in the course guide:
"If ever a golf course reflected the personality of its architect it is surely the course that Arnold Palmer designed at The K Club at Straffan, near Dublin. It may seem odd to describe a golf course as charismatic and cavalier but from the instant you arrive at the first tee you are enveloped by a unique atmosphere."
Actually, for some reason I can't really identify. The K Club reminded me of golf courses I'd seen in movies from the 1960's. Maybe it was the clubhouse's laid-back, old-school comfort. Also, if I hadn't been watching the England vs. Slovenia World Cup match with vested interest in the bar, I could've spent hours perusing the picture board from the 2006 Ryder Cup, a mural that stretches for 20 yards between the pro shop and guest locker room.
So, having returned to Scotland on Thursday, The K Club is all I know of Irish golf at the moment. Naturally, I'm impressed and I'll go back at some stage. Also, Pearl Jam rocked.
(Photo: John Biever/SI)