Friday July 3, 2015

Day five of our Irish adventure finds us in Dublin this morning. We have experienced some of Ireland's big cities in Limerick and Cork, and we've stopped in small towns like Innistomen and Dungarvan along the way. We've seen the Cliffs of Moher and the River Shannon, and more pubs than I can count.

We've had strong coffee and good seafood. I've had a pint or two and Erin has been sampling different food options and some of the best hot chocolate she's ever had. We are doing what we can to be among the local people in each spot. It is true what they say about the Irish, they are a friendly people.

We've done a lot of the usual stuff people do on holiday here - sightseeing and visiting the pubs for food and drink. But on Wednesday, we did something really special for the three of us. We played golf at Ballybunion.

Ballybunion is along the southwest coast of Ireland, hard by the Atlantic Ocean, as they say. The course was founded in 1893 and it's a true links style course, rated in the top 20 in the world. There are pot bunkers everywhere and gorse where you can lose your ball quite easily (trust me). There are hills and mounds and you can find yourself hitting off a side hill lie where it's tough to keep your footing (trust me).

Caddies are for hire, and are almost a necessity to help you navigate with some local knowledge. Dan had a caddie named Willie Joe who insisted on calling him "Danny". Erin and I shared a caddie named Tom - a crusty old chain smoker whose skin was weathered by the weather.

Erin was nervous about having a caddie, but it didn't take her long to settle in. By hole 3, Tom had won Erin over. He was offering advice and reading the greens for her. By hole number 8, where she almost made a hole-in-one, Erin had proved that she's got game.

The caddies give you a target to aim for and tell you where you don't want to miss it. They talk to your ball, telling it to go or sit or get left. They also congratulate you on good shots and chide you a bit when you don't follow their instructions. Tom kept telling me to aim left and I kept going right. By the end, he threw up his hands and said, "I've done all I can." We laughed a lot, me, Erin and Tom...

We had perfect weather for the first 12 holes - no wind and comfortable temps. But over the last six holes, the Irish weather showed up. We put on our rain gear and played on through. Really, it just added to the experience. It felt like a British Open where the weather changes during the course of the round.

In the end, we shot decent scores and enjoyed every minute. Golfing together is something the three of us love to do. To do it in a place like Ballybunion is extra special. I am so grateful to be having this experience with the people I love.