The K Club Golfing in Ireland

The K Club  Golfing in Ireland

By Joe Alexander

Justin Timberlake and Sean Connery are both fans of Ireland's K Club and its two championship golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer. The Smurfit Course, which hosted the European Open for three years, and The Palmer Course, which was Ireland's first Ryder Cup venue, are both among Europe's most challenging courses. President Clinton also hits the greens here with his friend Sir Michael Smurfit, an Irish billionaire who owns the exclusive K Club in Straffan, County Kildare.

This stately pile, modeled after a French château, was built in 1832 by Hugh Barton, the grandson of the legendary French winemaker Thomas Barton who also created the mansion's legendary wine cellars. In 1991, Sir Smurfit bought Straffan House and converted it into a luxury hotel and country club. The elegantly restored Georgian mansion is perched amidst 550-acres of parkland on the banks of the River Liffey. English football star David Beckham likes to arrive by helicopter from Dublin airport, which is 22 miles away. On one memorable visit, he filled the château's Great Room with hundreds of red roses for his wife Victoria, aka Posh Spice's birthday.

In addition to golf, there are lots of activities here including my personal favorite, Falconry, which is one of the country's oldest sports and can be learned in an hour. You can hunt pheasants and rabbits with Harris Hawks or the king of the sky, a golden eagle, with Barbara and Brian McCann from Newgrange Falconry. The K Club's remarkable River Restaurant will cook up the game you catch. Hire a Ghillee and go fly fishing; even if it's your first time out, you are all but guaranteed to bring home dinner from the River Liffey or the property's two lakes, which are heavily stocked with rainbow trout. For those of you who prefer to be pampered rather than pursue the long list of outdoor activities available, indulge yourself in the club's 20,000 square-foot spa, which is the best in Ireland. In addition to its oversize pool and secluded hot tub, tucked into an herb garden, they offer unique treatments utilizing indigenous Celtic and Irish ingredients designed to refresh and renew.

Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have stayed at this grand Irish country retreat that has 69 rooms and is one of only four 5-red-star hotels in Ireland. Rarely do you find this combination of old-world charm and service paired with state of the art technology. Each spacious guestroom and suite has its own foyer and is individually appointed with no two alike in terms of size or decor. Classical surroundings, sumptuous furnishings, and original art reflect Ireland's history. Although every room has views of either the gardens, the river or the fairways, I recommend staying in a suite on the main floor so that you can open the French windows and walk out onto your own patio and then into the impeccably landscaped grounds for a leisurely stroll. Discover Ireland this spring or summer, as this is an experience you will treasure forever.

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