It is a grey morning. I am in a motorhome on a caravan park at Tramore in Ireland. Yesterday I played golf at Old Head, which Links magazine described as the most spectacular golf course in the world. It sits on a headland in Kinsale with a lighthouse at one end, a clubhouse built into the dune face overlooking the 18th green while the distractingly beautiful Atlantic Ocean thrashes against the 300 foot cliffs. Oh, and there is a helipad to taxi people from Shannon and Dublin international airports.
The contrast between the challenges and privations of motorhome life and the opulent luxury of the club is stark. This caravan park has mobile homes, pitches for motorhomes and places where campers may pitch their tents. It costs E20 a night. The membership entry fee to Old Head is E20,000 and a round of golf costs E260
The course was built by John and Patrick O’ Connor, Irish property developers with their business lives in London and their hearts in Ireland. It opened twenty years ago. The law prohibits private golf clubs in Ireland. Old Head attracts a large international membership (around 400) and accommodates a small local membership (around 40). It is run for the international rich mimicking American golf club style. Think of a famous person who plays golf and probably they have played there. Bill Clinton (surrounded by 100 security officers), Dan Quayle, Sergio Garcia and Hugh Grant are just a few.
By November each year the 15 suites are booked for most of the coming season from April to October. So are the tee times. I was lucky playing at Old Head it is a sought after unique experience.
Staying in Tramore caravan park is unique and extraordinary too!. It is a well run carefully mown site with play areas for children, a TV room, a laundry and a camper’s kitchen. At Tramore, extraordinary describes cold walks to the shower in the morning, standing under steaming water before walking back rain or shine when the coin time expires. It describes hooking up for electricity and fresh water in any weather and enjoying the comfort of relaxing in your own few feet of space.
Playing golf at Old Head is where your wish is granted before it is articulated. Protected on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean with a guarded gate on the fourth, only those who have inherited or created great wealth, power, or who are members of local golf clubs with reciprocal rights, or journalists or business men offering a marketing possibility, may land on the helipad or pass through the gate.
Old Head members pay for the luxury of living supported by waiters, caddies, chambermaids and other servants. Their daily experience is safe, predictable, comfortable, cocooned and distanced from the jarring demands of the unexpected.
Tramore motor homer owners do everything for themselves guarding continually against little disasters and alert to unexpected problems demanding often complex solutions. How delightful to be able to move from one lifestyle to the other.
As a day golfer the Old Head experience begins at the gate. The, card which accompanies the guard’s greeting, tells you everything you need to know including that once you park up, a buggy will arrive to carry your bag to your caddie and you to the clubhouse.
Your caddie. In my case he was of medium height, stocky as a wrestler with well rounded short tanned legs below his capacious blue caddie’s apron with three deep pockets for balls, tees, cleaning cloths and for carrying my camera, iPhone and tissues! Senior Caddy, Sean Carty wore a baseball hat on his head and solid shoes. He hefted my bag and led me to the first tee where with a winning smile he eased, insinuated himself into my game.
He carried my clubs- what heaven! I walked free. He sweated. He handed me my clubs, guided my line of shot, presented the club he thought best, hunted for my ball in the rough by a fairway. I enjoyed it all. When on the third hole, a rotten bounce of a ball carried my tee shot from green to sea, he took the picture. With the sun shining on perfect well watered fairways and greens, with sky larks dipping and diving around us, kestrels and sparrow hawks hunting and the blue, blue sea crashing on rocks 300 feet below the edges of the fairways, it was a dreamy and fun filled morning.
After lunch with two friends from Wexford in the granite walled, stone flagged club bar overlooking the course, I climbed back into the motorhome and resumed my quest to play 25 Irish golf clubs this year.