After a five-day break and a trip across the pond, the blog is back.
I’ll have a football post a little bit later today, but since my trip to Ireland was sports-themed — it was all about golf — I thought I’d post something about it once I got back . So indulge me just a little bit. And if you don’t care, just skip this post altogether.
Here are the basics: one of my brothers turned 40 in January, so we decided to go somewhere special to celebrate. So my dad, my two older brothers and I decided on a golf trip to Ireland. It was a five-day trip, two of which were travel days, and involved three rounds of golf. And it was awesome, in every sense of the word.
You know the guy who comes back from a trip and annoyingly compares everything in life in the States to how they do things over in Ireland? Well I’m totally going to be that guy. I apologize in advance. (Did you know in Ireland they call french fries chips? … I’m so sorry.)
Anyway, here are a few takeaways from the trip …
– Links golf is hard. Incredibly hard, as in the hardest golf I’ve ever played. We played three courses — St. Anne’s, The Island and the Portmarnock Links (the photo above) — and they all pretty much kicked my butt. I managed to break 100 twice, which I consider a notable accomplishment.
The thing is, American courses that proclaim to be links courses aren’t anything like these. Maybe in setup, but certainly not in conditions. The ground is hard. The grass is long and unkempt. The wind is fierce and constant. I’ll never complain about a windy day on the golf course here again. It never stopped in Ireland. The second day at The Island, which happened to be the toughest course, was the worst. There were two par-3′s straight into a headwind that was probably blowing a 30 mph. They were listed as about 170 and 150. All of us hit driver or 3 wood off the tee and didn’t come close to the green.
The wind was so bad that we wondered how golf ever became popular in Ireland. Who would subject themselves to doing something like this over and over in these conditions? Perhaps it’s a testament to the Irish that the game flourished there.
– If you can swing it, get a caddie for at least one round. My brother got us caddies for the round at The Island, a pair of brothers who were from nearby Malahide. One, David, played golf at UNC Charlotte and nearly qualified for the British Open last year. Anyway, I can’t recommend the experience enough. A) It’s nice to not have to carry your bag, and B) I would have had no clue which direction to hit the ball on a couple holes if not for them.
– The roads are terrifying. They drive on the left, with the driver’s seat on the right. The roads are skinny as can be, and nobody seems to flinch when passing by an oncoming car by about six inches. Thankfully I didn’t have to drive.
– Dublin was a blast. We stayed in Portmarnock, northeast of Dublin, but took a couple trips into the city. We took the Jameson Distillery tour on our first day in — the Jimmy McNulty dream tour, I called it — and it was well worth it. I forget our tour guide’s name, but he was among the best I think I’ve had for a tour of a place. (Didn’t get to the Guinness brewery, unfortunately.) We got back into Dublin the last night, heading down to the Temple Bar area. I probably could have spent about four or five days in the city alone.
– Guinness in plentiful. I’m not sure if there’s a bar that’s not sponsored by Guinness and with good reason. I was never a big fan of it before the trip. Maybe I just swore it off after trying it a while ago. But I loved it and pretty much drank it exclusively on the trip, along with Smithwick’s and Jameson and Ginger.
A few things I like about the drinking culture in Ireland:
a) Everybody drinks constantly. How can you not get behind that.
b) Guinness is widely accepted as THE drink of the Ireland. I believe one bartender called it “The Real Deal” when serving it to us. I like this kind of national solidarity. The servers are also tremendously consistent about the amount of head on your drink.
c) Everything is served in pints and only pints. I like the uniformity. Bartenders don’t have to ask you for what size you want. If you want a beer, here it is, always in a glass that has the logo of the beer you’re drinking. It’s a nice simplicity.
d) This isn’t drinking-related, per se, but everybody calls each other “lad,” as in, “How we doing, lads?” I’m going to try to work this into my regular speech from now on.
So now I’m back and, after sleeping for about 12 hours last night, will get the Virginia Tech football posts back up and running. In the upcoming weeks, I plan to do a position-by-position spring recap like last year, just to finalize how the Hokies left things off in April.
Then I’ll try to get some opponent previews going, soliciting input from willing beat writers from others teams. I’ll also try to work in some of the ideas from readers in the blog post prior to this, while working on some larger project papers for the newspaper. So continue to check back every day.