This summer Linda and I took a very quiet vacation. Some vacations don’t seem much like vacations- they are full of activity, travel stress, moving around from one hotel to another, getting up at dark-thirty to go on some cruise excursion. That’s not to say that those sorts of vacations can’t be wonderful- they can. They also wear you out.
But this year I really liked our plans. A week in a little cottage on a dairy farm on the Mullet Peninsula in far west County Mayo, followed by a week in a 16th century townhouse in the Loire Valley south of Paris in a small city called Saumur.
Anyone who has read much in this blog or who knows me is aware that I have an unnatural affection for this area of Ireland and am an overseas member at Carne Golf Links outside of the small village of Belmullet.
I have been lucky enough in the past to bring a number of my friends to Carne to play golf. Every few years, however, Linda and I go by ourselves to play a little golf and enjoy the very authentic rural life of this part of Ireland. It is stunningly beautiful and remarkably unspoiled. What do I mean by that? If you go to the Cliffs of Moher, for example, you head into a huge parking lot filled with cars and buses, pay your fee and wander around the cliffs with hundreds of other people. Don’t get me wrong- it’s beautiful and worth the stop. But out in west County Mayo, on the edge of miles of peat bogs, there aren’t very many people at all, let alone tourists. So when I drive a few miles out to the end of the peninsula at a place called Scotchport and hike up from the rocky shore onto a cliff above the wild Atlantic, I am usually the only one there. Not so good if you happen to slip and fall of the edge, maybe, but if you do that I doubt anyone can save you. True, there were way too many holiday homes built out here during the housing boom a few years back, but that just means that vacation rentals are easy to come by and inexpensive.
This year, we stayed at a renovated cottage on a dairy farm near Corclough a couple of miles outside of Belmullet. So we had turf fires in the chilly evenings (nothing better) and woke to the sound of either birds, talkative cows or milking machines starting up. The cottage was owned by Eamon Wilson, a solicitor from Dublin whose father, also Eamon Wilson, owned the farm. The elder Eamon and his wife Rose (Eamon Jr’s mother) where wonderful hosts, always sending grandchildren over to see if we wanted them to light a fire or if we needed anything else. This is the fourth self-catering property I have stayed in around Belmullet and they all have been terrific.
We played a few rounds at Carne and I still managed never to break 80 which has become a serious annoyance. The walk at Carne is so beautiful, though, I can’t say that score is ever really that important. I was very happy that before we left I got to play 18 holes with Eamon Mangan who was instrumental in getting Carne built, working with the great late Irish architect Eddie Hackett. I was sorry to hear that Eamon has stepped back from his duties with the non-profit tourism organization that owns Carne as he has dedicated a good part of his life to seeing this project through. I can only hope that the new directors can keep Carne financially strong while running it with the good-humor and modest grace always shown by Eamon.
This is a golf blog, mostly, so I won’t say much about the second week of our trip where we met friends from Blacksburg, Virginia in the small town of Saumur on the Loire River south of Paris. This is Chateau country and we did visit a couple and tasted the sparkling wine of the region where generous and free samples of even the most expensive wines were doled out enthusiastically, even to Americans! The theme of a trip to France usually doesn’t stray far from food and wine. The grocery store we walked to in Saumur had dozens of good choices of wine for $5 a bottle and the prices and variety at the cheese counter made you feel extremely deprived to be living in the United States. Many thanks to our friends John and Susan for hosting us!
OK, time for the latest (and belated) update on my experiences with my Cobra F7 single length irons. My index now rests uneasily at 5.2. That shows a slow, if not consistent, improvement since I started playing with the Cobras last winter. Lately I have put the sand and lob wedges from the set back in the bag. I didn’t like them when I first tried them and have carried conventional wedges most of the summer. The last couple of rounds, however, I have started making better friends with the single length wedges and will continue to use them until they start treating me badly again.
I didn’t use the Cobras in Ireland as I have an old conventional set that I keep there so I don’t have to schlep my clubs back and forth. I also deserted the Cobras this summer for a few rounds when I picked up a set of Curtis Strange VIP McGregor blades on Ebay for a great price and re-gripped them so I could try them out for a bit. Beautiful clubs- and I’ll write about them in a separate post.
I know a few of you have been following my posts on the Cobras and are trying them yourselves. Let me hear from you.