Monday, May 7, 2018
As we age, I think we’ve gotten pretty seasoned as travelers. Today’s plan is pure simplicity, just the way we like it. A simple ferry ride, and simple drive, a simple round of golf, then off to find good eats.
But first Hilary provides a scrumptious breakfast. The poached eggs are huge and tasty – no wonder – they’re duck eggs! Hilary is a picture of energy all the time, and we learn she used to be a lawyer. If I ever need one I’d hire her any day.
An hour to kill in the morning is, for me, an exercise in peace and projection. Linda blogs while I stroll the chilly harbor beach, trying to imagine what it’s like to live in this beautiful plain place.
Irish doors are too short. Irish doors are just fine.
The Spirit of Rathlin ferry is right on time. On board, Linda gives one big smile for the camera and then drops solidly off to sleep below decks. I decide to spend my time on deck in a trance watching one island grow smaller and another one larger.
Back in Ballycastle, we rearrange our luggage, change clothes, and are soon off on the coastal highway headed west. [Yes, we had to resist the urge to get another snackerel, but we just weren’t hungry enough.]
We head westward and arrive in Portrush shortly to find our quest, the Royal Portrush Golf Club and its Dunluce Links course. To those in the know, this is nothing short of hallowed ground in the golfing world, the only club in Ireland to have hosted the [British] Open Championships major. Many of the game’s greats have played here – e.g. Harry Vardon, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Ernie Els, Larry Mize, Phil Mickelson, Mark Calcavecchia, Jim Furyk, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw. Yes, hallowed ground.
In fact, this course will host the Open Championships again next July in 2019. So it’s even MORE of a huge treat that we’ll play here.
Since we’re early we take a spin into town, only to find it clogged with pedestrians and cars. Seems today, Monday, is a bank holiday, and everyone is out in the sunshine to enjoy it. Too much congestion for us – and zero parking. We backtrack to the golf club for a soup and sandwich, and an hour talking to a sweet local couple about nearby golf courses, including one called Masserrine.
After warm-up we soon meet our caddies Colin and William and step up to the 1st tee box. An assistant pro Sal from the TPC Stonebrae course in California will be playing with us as well. It’s of course nerve wracking to tee off in front of the starter, our caddies, the assistant pro, and the big clubhouse windows, but Linda and I manage just fine, starting off with a couple of respectable bogeys.
We play our usual games, although I struggle with a couple holes early on. We’re competing in net match play and have a lot of fun rooting against each other, in mock seriousness of course. Our caddies are lots of fun and are impressed with Linda’s steady game.
When we get to #16, they announce we’ve reached “Calamity Corner.” It’s a long par 3 treacherous for its forced carry over a chasm onto a small green protected by bunkers. With a couple of dandy shots (and we’re talking 160-195 yard carries for everyone) we and the assistant pro all walk off with pars, something the caddies say they rarely see.
I finish the par-4 #18 with an extremely unlikely 4 after getting up-and-down from the sand dunes 40 yards off track. Lucky way to finish the day.
Linda and I play the match very closely although we both find it difficult to handicap properly given the simplicity of the course rating system in UK (called an SSS). It’s something to research for future rounds.
Off into Portrush to find the Blackrock House, a luxury B&B specializing in hosting golfers. Nichola greets us warmly and shows us a great little room. She then zips us downtown in her own car to the restaurant scene by the harbor.
The town is still jammed, but the Harbor Inn Bistro offers us a ready seat for dinner at the bar. Bring on the cold Guinness! Linda is intrigued by the wide variety of gins and the wide varieties of tonics sold and so experiments a bit. Turns out way too sweet for her – no worries because I will drink it – so she orders a second. We both get tasty steaks, share some chips, and talk for a strange while to a friendly but intent order taker.
The capper for the day is a 3/4 mile stroll on the curved beachside promenade back to our room. The breezes are strong and chilly but I’ve got my girl to keep me warm.