This trip to Ireland was dominated by the two very different, very beautiful and very beguiling courses at the Druids Glen Hotel and Golf Resort in Newtownmountkennedy Co Wicklow. With something for everyone – a full service spa, swimming pool and spill proof restaurant on-site, fishing, horseback riding, and hiking in the Wicklow hills near by, Druids Glen is well suited for those who enjoy the outdoors with a large helping of relaxed elegance.
My beloved brother and gracious host, Ted, discovered the Druids Glen when he and his family moved to near-by Greystones. With twin boys, Ted spends his days riding herd on two high energy three year olds. The swimming pool, on the Heath side of the resort, is one of Ted’s preferred play-time destinations. He was itching for the opportunity to play golf the iconic Druid Glen course.
Conor, the overseer of the fully stocked pro shop, collected our greens fees, sold us some extra balls and the course guide (essential – do not tee off without it) and sent us off to the first tee with a smile and suggestions on whiskeys to sample. He was particularly keen on two new releases by Jameson.
Our outing started innocently enough. The first two holes were manageable, but the slippery green on 2, the road hole, foreshadowed what was to come. What followed was a series of challenges – blind tee shots, sinister bunkers, variegated greens – long, uphill shots; steep downhill drives, and, then, water. On the 8th hole water comes dramatically into play (“I say, is that a swan in the water hazard?”). Crossing the swinging bridge on 9, I half expected a troll to emerge and challenge our crossing.
At the turn we stopped for lunch. Woodstock House, built in 1770 by a son of the Earl of Aldborough, is now the clubhouse for the Glen course, so the grill room came by it’s gentlemen’s club vibe naturally. Sitting in our wing chairs at a table by the window, we could just make out the Irish Sea on the horizon. Sandwiches, burgers and a full dinners were on the menu and the bar offered abundant options. We opted for short Smithwicks Red Ale, club sandwiches and chicken wings. The wings were served with finger bowls – that’s how fancy this place is. Thus refreshed, we pushed on.
The mystery deepens on the back half. Here, the game not as much played upon the grounds of the Woodstock Estate, as it is absorbed landscaping dating to the 1600s. It is mesmerizing and diabolically difficult, (so much so that Druids Glen hosted the Irish Open from 1996 through 1999.) Designed by Pat Ruddy and Tom Craddock, this classic parkland course pushes boundaries. A good bit of fantasy is very much in play in the hollows of Druids Glen.