Monday, April 19, 2010

A Long Trip

I’m writing these words travelling on a ferry between Dublin and England. My plan was to spend two days in Ireland on work. The volcano ash struck. I was sitting in a Ryanair plane on Thursday ready to return to Brussels when we were suddenly disembarked. I rescheduled for Saturday, but that plane was cancelled.

I couldn’t even get a ferry out yesterday – so I took the train south of the Irish capital to a seaside town of Bray. The weather was perfect, crisp, with sharp blue skies. The train passed along the seaside, with lush vegetation framing rocky beaches. Along the way, I spotted golf course after golf course.

When I debarked, I took a walk along the coast, enjoyed lunch in the sunshine – and then strolled over to the municipal course called the Dargle View Golf CourseThe clubhouse was a ramshackle affair manned by two elderly, unshaved men speaking in a thick Irish accent.

“Play a round?,” I asked.

“Sure,” they answered.

“I don’t have shoes, clubs and balls,” I warned.

“No problem.”

I paid 25 euros, about 35 dollars, and soon enough shoes missing spikes and a bag full of ancient clubs arrived. The driver had a wooden head.

Before the first tee, I chatted with some fellow local duffers. They asked about golf in Belgium. I explained how the game had an elitest image there. No Dargle View public walk on golf courses exist; only private clubs do. But they reminded me that Ireland has been forced to work hard to overcome its own golfing social divide. Not long ago, the game was the stronghold of the Protestant; only recently has it been opened to Irish of all religions.

The course itself was a nine-hole, somewhat ragged affair, shoehorned against the train tracks. But four of the holes had generous views of the sea. On this sunny day, perfect for golf, the stroll was refreshing. I hit some great shots and finished only three over par for nine holes.

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