- Get on the road and head straight for Ballybunion. Driving focuses the mind; and if the cool, peat-soaked air rushing in through your window doesn’t make you feel alive, nothing will.
- Refuel. A full Irish and gallon of black coffee should do the trick, from experience. Opt for soda bread if you can – it’s slow burning and releases energy gradually throughout the day.
- Get out on the links for a morning round. The Cashen Course at Ballybunion GC for its sins is an ideal candidate, above all because it plays through some of the most spectacular dunes you’ll come across and down a stretch of coastline that’ll literally bring tears to your eyes (if not on account of emotion, then certainly on account of the wind). By the final blow your blood will be pumping, rest assured.
- Take a nap in the dunes. Wander out in search of a suitable spot – not too open, not too sheltered – and lie down in the long grass. We found a particularly agreeable spot on one of the dunes to the right of the Devil’s Elbow fairway on the Old Course. Close your eyes for approximately 2.5 hours which, in our case, by happy (and complete) coincidence, happened to fall five minutes before our companion for the afternoon round arrived from Kilkenny. Twenty four hours prior I’d been wandering the streets of Manhattan; now I was waking up on a windy afternoon in Ballybunion, Co. Kerry, lying on a grassy dune overlooking one of the world’s great links courses not ten feet away from a snoring wretch called Goldy – and I’m not quite sure what to say about that.
- Fill your bellies in the clubhouse bar, which is to be recommended for its fare and the quality of its Guinness. I may have been kidding myself by going for the healthy food option – a Cajun chicken wrap – and at the same time ordering a pint of stout, but the lie if it was one was white, and no harm no foul. “Fookit”, as they say in these parts.
- Hack it around the Old Course under afternoon skies, ideally with an Irish friend (to get you gently acclimated to the accent, and for a bit of craic). Make a point of pausing on the seventh, eighth, eleventh, seventeenth and eighteenth tees for quiet reflection. Eradicate any feelings of fatigue or self-pity by looking around and realising what a delight it is to be alive, and to be at Ballybunion.
- Reward yourself for your immense display of endurance. A couple of (warm up) pints – perhaps of some refreshing Irish cider, over ice, if you’re particularly thirsty – should suffice. If it’s still light, get a table near the window looking back down the eighteenth and out to the sparkling Atlantic beyond. Step 8: Nip a couple hundred yards over to Teach de Broc's (pronounced "Chock the Block's"!) for dinner, or to the Marine Hotel in town if you’re after some seafood. Leave no stone unturned in sampling the local cuisine – after all, you’ve come a long way to sit where you’re sitting, and no doubt hacked a lot of balls out of the dunes on your way.
- Your work’s not finished yet. It’s still not bed-time, and if you have any designs to be up having the craic in the institutions that make Ireland Great over the remaining nights of your trip, then you best get your body clock on track from day one. There’s time for a few more pints yet, and though there are maybe a dozen places in town that’ll serve you your black nectar, the natural choice is Mikey Joe’s at the top end of the street. This is a golfer’s and a local’s pub alike. Here you’ll come across weary, cheery souls from all over the globe and all around the town. Crucially, as well, you’ll find a pint befitting of a journeyman such as yourself. Slainte!
Follow our adventures on linksmagazine.com or, for a more comprehensive diary, check out our blog, jpandgoldyontheroadagain.tumblr.com.
By: Jamie Patton