It’s almost time to build an ark here in southwest Virginia- it has been raining non-stop for two days. I’m not missing golf that much, however. I just returned from a week’s trip to my second home- Belmullet, Ireland- where I got in 8 rounds in 8 days. In his really good book, Ancestral Links, Sports Illustrated writer John Garrity notes that Ireland had the best weather in the world- at least for golf. Why doesn’t anyone understand this? If you play in the rain and wind, it is wild entertainment. If the wind happens to lie down or the sun happens to peek through, it’s heaven. It’s almost never too hot, so you can walk 18 even on a hilly links course like Carne without exhausting yourself and you can play all year. Are you convinced?
I played Carne for the first time in 2006 on a solo golf trip paid for by my lovely wife who had just inherited some unexpected money from an uncle who died with no children. Ever since my maiden voyage to Dornoch, I had been whining about wanting to go back and play more links golf. So after some money was set aside for useful things like our children’s education, she graciously kicked me out of the house for an incredible three weeks of Irish links golf. If you want to read a bit about that trip, click on the Ireland Journal link on my homepage. I played most of the links courses in the west of Ireland, but Carne was my favorite.
Carne is a very natural and very beautiful links course set in the far west of County Mayo, outside the friendly small town of Belmullet. It’s also very remote- you travel across miles of bog lands to get there. There is so much peat around these parts that there was actually a turf-fired power plant at Bellacorick for a number of years until it was torn down and replaced by a wind farm. Probably a good thing for the environment, but it employed a lot of local people and nothing smells better than burning turf- well maybe except for the smell of a good peated whiskey. Carne was the centerpiece of my first trip because of its compelling story. It was built by local people (many of who were out of work) under the direction of a local non-profit company (Turasoireacht Iorrais) established to develop tourism in this traditionally poor part of the Republic. They hired Eddie Hackett, an amazingly prolific Irish architect responsible for such renowned courses as Waterville, Murvagh (Donegal) and Enniscrone. The course was designed, built and continues to be run on a shoestring budget which fits the character of the course and the difficulty of attracting large numbers of golfers to such a remote location. Carne was Hackett’s last (and many argue his best) design before his death in 1996. Finished in the early 90s, the original “Hackett 18” has recently been supplemented by a spectacular new 9 holes (Kilmore 9), designed by American Jim Engh and Dublin architect Ally McIntosh. Imagine a world class links course where one can venture early on a blustery May morning and literally have the course to yourself. It was love at first sight and a few years later I became a proud senior overseas life member of The Belmullet Golf Club.