LINKSOUL EXPEDITION: LAHINCH TO WATERVILLE, IRELAND

The golf apparel founders find their kind of people on the Emerald Isle

by John Ashworth and Geoff Cunningham
Photos by Geoff Cunningham

Our latest Linksoul Expedition follows Linksoul founders John Ashworth and Geoff Cunningham and Golf Channel travel insider and Linksouldier Matt Ginella across the pond to the west coast of Ireland, en route to the 27th Annual World Invitational Father & Son Golf Tournament.

John, Geoff and Matt met up in the Shannon Airport and made their way across Ireland, stopping to play Lahinch Golf Club, Dooks Golf Links and Waterville Golf Links. Upon return home, further review of the epic trip was mandatory.

 

 

John Ashworth (JA): When Matt invited me to be his partner in the tournament I asked, “Who’s the dad?" to which he replied, “No man, they have an Adopted Division… It used to be called the Bastard Division but they cleaned it up.” Of course I said “Hell yeah! I’m in.” So I told Geoff, and we were off.

Geoff Cunningham (GC): With Linksoul, our mission is always to "reconnect people to the soul of the game". And we mean it, but the irony is that sometimes we are working so hard at it that we can lose that connection too. These kind of trips help remind us what we are all about.

JA: Especially these trips to real links golf, where the land meets the sea... These are the roots of it all. So, we meet Matt in Shannon Airport and it’s an easy trek out to Lahinch. A few pints of Guinness and lunch at O’Looney’s Surf Bar and we are ready to tee it for the afternoon.

GC: All we hear is how it has rained for the last two months and this is the first day of sun all summer. The colors are electric and it feels like the photos are taking themselves, which helps because I’m trying to balance a camera, my golf game and my jet lag all at once.

JA: I don’t mind that after 125 years they decided to name all the holes at Lahinch, but I think I liked it better when they only named “The Klondike" and “The Dell" for holes #4 & #5…a couple of character holes unlike any other.

GC: Lahinch is otherworldly. I remember learning how, when sculpting, Michelangelo felt as if the statue was in the marble waiting to be released. This is what good golf courses feel like to me. When I walk these courses in Ireland, it doesn’t feel like the architects made them as much as they just revealed them.

JA: That night we stayed at the Moy House in Lahinch, one of the coolest spots I’ve ever stayed with incredible food to match. In the morning, Matt managed to ask former Lahinch Men’s Captain Denis Creedon, "Where would you play on the way to Waterville?". Which is a great question because the locals always have their favorites. Same in surfing, same in golf. He tells us to go play Dooks Golf Club, which turns out to be another one of those hidden gems... off the beaten path, but totally worth the effort.

GC: Dooks was awesome. A pure golf experience and a reminder of how great the game is on so many basic levels when done right. Right off, on our way to the first tee we pass a mom just finishing her round with her nine year old son. Both with big smiles. Four men in their 70s play in front of us (none in carts), all laughing like they were kids, all in this stunningly beautiful valley.

JA: We then made it to Waterville for an epic four days of shotmaking and socializing between 82 teams from 13 different countries. Sixty-two of the teams were Father and Son teams, with another 20 teams in the our "Adopted Division.” This event is the essence of Linksoul: a friendly competition, a links course with a two-club wind, 18 holes per day, mix in a few pints of Guinness and a couple of shots of Jameson and you have a recipe for bonding like no other … a testament to how this game can link souls in powerful and positive way.

The competition is held annually at the Waterville Golf Links, a course built in 1889 but renovated into a masterpiece by Tom Fazio in 2004. The tournament, travel and entertainment are organized and run seamlessly by Carr Travel, lead by the one and only Marty Carr, son of perhaps the most famous amatuer golfer in Irish history to this point, JB Carr.

Know your history, kids. JB Carr won the British Amateur three times, played in the Masters tournament in 1961, made the cut and was low amateur. In 1991, he was the first Irishman to be named as Captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews. He was, for all intents and purposes, a badass.

GC: As breathtaking the golf is here, those memories are all interrupted and outdone by the infectious laughter, the dirty jokes, the endless “true stories” and spontaneous full volume singing that make the Irish like no other people on earth.

JA: If I could only take one more golf trip the rest of my life with friends and my boys it would be without hesitation to the stunning links land of the west coast of Ireland…yes because of the quality of golf but more so because of the people. The Irish should be in charge of teaching the rest of humanity how to behave to each other and to strangers. My favorite quote, which I over heard a few times and I get the feeling that it’s burned into the subconscious of every child: “It doesn’t cost anything to be nice.”

GC: I was trying to unravel the mystery of what makes the Irish so unique in a crack of dawn conversation with my cab driver on the way to the airport to fly home. “You all just seem happier than everyone else,” I said.

“No,” he replied quickly. “No, we aren’t any happier than anyone else. We’re just more relaxed."

Be sure to visit linksoul.com to see more of Geoff’s pics from the trip and keep up with the latest expeditions.

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