South East Ireland: Golf & Guinness

Experiencing the Dunmore East tournament - with the boys and the boyos!

Bob Warters's picture
Bob Warters
Tue, 15 May 2012

Heard the one about the millionaire businessman, the Welsh rugby legend and the celebrity chef boarding the Fishguard to Rosslare ferry?

They were on their way with a gang of mates from The Vale Golf Resort near Cardiff to compete in the week-long Dunmore East Classic tournament in Ireland and some were nervous of the waves
pounding the harbour wall.

But chef Dudley Newbery soon lightened the mood: “Looks like a bloody rough crossing ahead, lads; the great Sunday lunch could be making a comeback!”

It was the kind of dark but infectious humour that complimented the dark, delicious Guinness consumed by the Welsh contingent - none of whom were taking the golf too seriously, merely interacting with fellow golfers from around the world at this popular tournament.

Said Newbery, whose Welsh language TV programmes provide a regular feast of home cooking ideas for thousands in the Principality: “Some of us have been coming to this event for years just for the craic. We regularly play together at The Vale on Sundays  - they call us The Baptists - but it’s great to come here to meet other golfers and play some different courses.”

On this year’s golf menu, other than the spectacular cliff top Dunmore East, which overlooks the stunning beach and harbour a dozen miles from Waterford, were the parkland layouts of Tramor, Faithlegg and the estuary-encircled Waterford Castle.

Designed by Irish legend Des Smyth and celebrating its 20th anniversary year, the Castle is unique in demanding a three-minute ferry ride to reach the first tee.

I was part of an English and Scottish party of golf media invited to sample Irish hospitality courtesy of the regional tourist board, Borde Failte, and the tournament organisers. Our aim: to encourage more Britons to bolster the numbers in future years at this hidden gem of an event.

Since it was launched in the early 1990s, entries have dwindled through economic restraints, cheap flight alternatives to sunnier climes and a worldwide change of emphasis in golf travel from groups to individuals.

But now events in Ireland like the Dunmore East Classic are making a comeback, where camaraderie and entertainment value prove equally as important as the numbers you write on your scorecard.

And this tiny fishing community provides the perfect setting for the hub of the tournament. With passionate golfers in town, it comes to life through its pubs and restaurants ensuring its visitors take home a chunk of Irish hospitality. And with the Guinness served at a temperature that slips down like silk, to most that’s worth more than the local Waterford crystal prizes that separate them from pot-hunters on a midnight curfew. 

According to tournament organiser Tony Boland, the success of the Classic is the result of a combination of factors. 

“Over the last 20 years we have worked hard to ensure that the Dunmore East Golf Classic combines the best golf and tourism experience,” he told me.

“The courses are both challenging and impressive and while the village of Dunmore East retains a tranquil old world charm that’s hard to find anywhere else in south-east Ireland. It’s the perfect place to relax and unwind after a day on the golf course.”

Cardiff millionaire businessman Gerald Leeke OBE, owner of a chain of retail shops as well as The Vale resort, has been one of the Welsh contingent and reveals that no matter what his commitments, the Classic is inked into his busy calendar.

“We’ve been coming here for 14 years and we wouldn’t miss it. It’s more than just the golf, it’s the friendships of the people we meet and play golf with as well as having a great time with the lads.”

Even when it was too wet to venture out at Faithlegg one morning, bottles of champagne were opened by mid-morning and the party moved to the Waterford bowling alley! 

“It’s a cracking place to come,” says Lyndon Thomas, former Wales B centre and Bridgend captain in the halcyon 1970s, when he played alongside Welsh legends Steve Fenwick and JPR Williams.

“I can honestly recommend this event to anyone who wants to experience a golf break in Ireland. It’s excellent value,” he said, wiping a hint of Guinness froth from his moustache.

Apart from transportation to the event and transfers to each venue, each player pays £399 euro which includes self-catering accommodation, four rounds of golf and four meals at a different hostelry in the village each night.

Article continues. Click here to find out more about the event’s Classic courses.



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