Category Archives: golf stories

An American Golfer in Ireland

Today’s post is written by guest author Jim O’Donnell, who fulfilled a lifetime goal earlier this year of traveling through Ireland with his golf clubs in hand.
This past spring I finally got to do what four previous trips to Ireland didn’t afford me: I played golf.

The first courses on our itinerary, Claremorris and Westport, both in County Mayo, were good tests and very affordable compared to their more famous links cousins. Several holes on the back nine at Westport provided fine views of salt water and Croagh Patrick, the holy mountain.
Each day of the trip I hit some good shots, but it was the shots between the good shots that did me in, particularly the ones that led me up into the badlands of marram grass that line many of the fairways on links courses. I essentially became one of the goats we occasionally saw. The bright side is that I attained many more vista viewpoints than my playing partners, and those views were terrific.

Par 3 at Westport

Sometimes on the tee we had first to determine the direction in which to hit our drives. It’s easy to get disoriented on a links course and overlook a directional sign to the next tee. My scouting helped in that regard.

At the Old Course at Ballybunion I recall at least four tees that called for us to drive over the preceding green. Good thing we weren’t being closely followed by any golfers that day.

The key thing was adapting to the next challenge. For example, the bunkering around a green might make a longer approach shot all the way to the green a poor option.  

Many of the courses, unlike American courses, had the grass next to the bunkers shaved so that any shot that didn’t land at the perfect spot at the front of the green would roll down into a bowl-shaped bunker which was essentially a one-stroke penalty for “average” bunker players like me.  

A better strategy if I were hitting a mid-iron or more would often be to leave the ball short of the bunkers and hope for an accurate pitch or chip for par.  

Another strategy I employed frequently after a few days was hitting less than a driver off the tee on par 4s and 5s. A caddy at Lahinch initially directed me to do this to avoid some unseen fairway bunkers, and I surprised myself by hitting the shots he envisioned for me.

Later, on other courses, I decided to do this often, pretending there was a bunker in the middle of the fairway some 250 yards out and I had to stop my ball just short of it. The results were quite satisfying.

As for the short game, yes, I did putt from the aprons and fairways often, as I had been told was wise, although when playing in the moist morning grass I would have been better off chipping with my usual 9-iron for chips I wanted to run and a wedge for chips I wanted to check up.

Wind and rain are staples of Irish golf, but we were fortunate with the weather except for one cold, windy morning at Murvagh in County Donegal. I remember that we all hit a driver on an upwind par 3. Playing the ball back in the stance to keep its flight low is, of course, the best policy.

And you need to take along a quality rain/wind suit and a stocking cap to stay comfortable in windy conditions, even if the rain is negligible. Adapting to conditions is how you will survive. It’s also how you will best enjoy Ireland, on or off the course.

Jim Awaits Drive at Ballybunion

In all, we played a lot of golf. Besides the courses mentioned above, we played at the Ballybunion Cashen Course, Strandhill, Rosses Point, Enniscrone, and Carne. Twelve rounds in ten days, all on foot, most while carrying my bag. It was too much, frankly, for a 66-year-old, but in retrospect I don’t regret a single day.
Thanks, Jim. Have any of you played golf in Ireland? Please Comment below about your trip.


Getting Arnold Palmer’s Autograph

I mentioned in an earlier post that I started playing golf when I was 10. That September, my Dad asked me if I wanted to see a golf tournament – see the professionals play. I said, “Sure,” so we went to the 1960 Portland Open Invitational at the Portland (Oregon) Golf Club.

When we got there, we went straight to the range to watch the players warming up. There were caddies downrange, one for each golfer, because they had to provide their own balls back then and the caddies were out there picking them up. I was worried the caddies would get hit, but their player hit shot after shot right to them. Unbelievable.

The third tee was right next to the range, so we started following some group, I forget who was in it, and on the next hole, the second hole of tournament golf that I had ever seen, one of the guys made a hole-in-one. No kidding. What fun!

Arnold Palmer was there. He had won the Masters the year before, but was a year away from becoming ARNOLD PALMER. I knew who he was, though, and on the eighteenth hole I walked into the fairway at Pop’s urging to get his autograph as he walked from the tee to his next shot.

There were no gallery ropes in those days; you just stayed a respectful distance away when the players were hitting and then followed them down the fairway.

He was walking to his tee ball and I went up to him and asked him for his autograph. He asked me kindly to wait until he was finished playing and he would sign for me. So I went up to the green and stood a good distance away to not get lost in the crowd. I waited, and waited.

I heard some commotion from the gallery around the green, so I guess something had happened. Some applause, and everything was quiet again. Not a few moments after that, here comes Arnold Palmer, alone, walking straight for me. He had said he would sign for me, he found me, and he signed.

You can’t imagine how happy I was to get his autograph, and it took me until I had grown up to realize what he had done. He had kept his promise and he had to find me to keep it. Instead of thinking that I had left, he went looking. That’s why he’s The King. You bet I still have that autograph.

Oh, yes. Palmer shot 270 to finish in fourth place, four strokes behind winner Billy Casper, Jr. Palmer won $1,150 and Casper’s first-place check was worth $2,800.

The capital “A” is 1-3/4″ high.

See also My Natalie Gulbis Story



I was going to blog today about an analysis of tournament strength in this week’s Golf World magazine. I’ll write about that tomorrow. Something else came up.

I got a hole-in-one today. My first in 49 years of playing golf. I’ve sunk irons from the fairway before, but never from the tee.
Auburn Golf Course, Salem, Oregon, 6th hole, 58 yards, pitching wedge.
Yes, I know. 58 yards. But that doesn’t make it any easier. And there’s still a 1 on the scorecard.
So. Along with my birdie on the Road Hole (I’ll tell you about that sometime), I have a few things to talk about when someone asks me what my best shot ever was.

My Natalie Gulbis Story

One of the favorite questions to ask your golfing buddies is, what is your dream foursome? For me, that’s an easy one — Natalie Gulbis and two guys who can’t make it. I know Natalie has sex appeal, but you might not have heard that she is one of the most genuine persons you will ever meet. I want to tell you this story about her because it is so out of character for the modern-day professional athlete.

My golfing buddy and I were at the LPGA’s Safeway Classic in Portland, Oregon about five years ago or so. We would pick up one group, follow them for a few holes, then wait at the green until another group of interest showed up, follow them for a while, and so on. So the group that Natalie was in showed up and that clearly struck us as a group of interest. We went to the next tee with them after they had all holed out. She hit first and went to the back of the tee box, where we were standing, to get some bottled water out of the cooler that was there for the players.

Now it was kind of hot that day, so my buddy and I had brought water with us. There were two guys standing next to us, I’d guess in their 60s, who didn’t have any. Natalie took out her water, looked at them, and said, “You guys look kind of hot. Want some water?” They said, “Sure,” so she reached in for two more bottles of chilled water and gave one to each of them. They said, “Thank you,” she smiled and said, “No problem,” and went back to the tournament.

If you’ve ever been to a professional golf tournament, you know the players are there to concentrate on their game and not on you, but my word, you can get looked at like you’re not even there. But here is a case of a player who by nature thinks enough of other people to step out of her golfing cocoon, read the situation, and perform an unexpected act of kindness.

I thought you should know.

My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at It will change everything about the way you play.