19th Hole: Perfect pint of Guinness makes for perfect fit in Ireland

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19th Hole: Perfect pint of Guinness makes for perfect fit in Ireland

Golf

19th Hole: Perfect pint of Guinness makes for perfect fit in Ireland

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It seemed everyone in Ireland wanted me to take a tour of the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin to learn how the country’s most famous drink is brewed.

I declined.

Instead of spending half a day at what the brewer calls the most-visited tourist spot on the island, I opted to experience several pints of the dark stuff – maybe more than several, truth be told – in far more relaxed settings. I wanted my Guinness Draught in the clubhouses and pubs after nine rounds of golf in seven days that took me east to west across Ireland, from Dublin to Belmullet and back again.

Each glass – with the exception of a sloppy pour in a soapy glass in a tourist trap restaurant in Galway’s shopping district – was exceptional. Sure, having Guinness in Ireland almost sounds cliché. I didn’t care. Filling and dark as night yet somehow with a hint of sweetness, the taste of malt and a foamy head that lasts to the bottom of the pint glass, the beer is as much of a part of Ireland as quick rains and green vistas.

After parking my rental Skoda each afternoon after another long day of reminding myself to “Stay left, stay left, stay left,” I had earned a few samples.

Any beer is best in its home country. Guinness belongs to Ireland – the Americanized canned version with the little pressure ball inside is OK, but it’s not the same as sipping a creamy serving while listening to a thick Irish brogue in a proper pub. Bartenders would nod their approval when I ordered a pint, skipping the Coors Light and Heineken that somehow had snuck into too many Irish taps.

And all the better to tee up a Guinness as the second course after an ounce of Jameson or Bushmills. Both the whiskey and beer are best sipped, creating plenty of time to take in the surroundings.

This isn’t a volume game.

Two perfect Guinness settings stood out in my travels. The first was upstairs in the Ballyliffin clubhouse, which offered a long view across the club’s two links courses to Glashedy Island a mile or so out in the Atlantic Ocean. After a few damp holes early in my round, the sun was shining, the native grasses were golden and the beer felt well-earned as I laughed at stories told by my guides for the day.

The second perfect pour was away from the courses but in a serene hub for golfers playing western dunes masterpieces such as Carne and Enniscrone. Mount Falcon Estate near Ballina was commissioned in 1872 as a country home, and the main building is now a four-star hotel with a gourmet restaurant and comfortable pub that attracts well-heeled locals as well as international visitors.

The bartenders made sure I did not go thirsty. As a sidekick to one of the world’s best bread puddings, my pint of Guinness looked completely at ease on a table in a bay window overlooking the grounds in the extended summer twilight.

So sure, go see the Guinness Storehouse to see how it’s made. I simply was more concerned with how mine tasted and the settings in which I could enjoy it.

(Note: This story appears in the July 2019 issue of Golfweek.)

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