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The Brother-in-law Who Bled Golf Balls

Tom Coyne at Rosapenna, Ireland
Escaping a bunker on the 3rd at Rosapenna in Ireland

Having recently graduated from Loyola College in Baltimore, my brother-in-law Brian scratched together his graduation cash and hopped on a plane, joining me in Letterkenny, County Donegal, last week. He arrived with a sack of provisions from home: contact lens solution, sun block, energy eats, and, most importantly, a dozen fresh Titleists. As any of you know who have ever played in Ireland, the golf balls here are a lousy bunch of runaways. They leave you fast.

If there's anything I've found maddening about links golf in Ireland — which otherwise I consider to be golf in its greatest, truest expression — is that good golf shots can quickly become gone golf shots. Considering a shot with sound judgment and executing that shot with absolute precision, that's pretty much as good as you can do in this game. Such a feat should always be rewarded. But as I've made my way around Ireland, I've had to bite my tongue from time to time, grin and bear it when a perfect sweet-spot effort runs through the green and into the hungry weeds. Gone. It happens all the time. It wouldn't hurt so much if Titleist ProV1's here didn't run a debit card-destroying 18 Euro for a sleeve of three. That's eight dollars per ball! So you can see why I was eager to dig into young Brian's goodie bag and replenish my supply.

Along with a dozen ProV1's for me, Brian had brought a box of 30 Dunlops for himself. He held up his booty of golf balls, laughing, a little cocky, "Think I brought enough for two weeks?"

And as all such proud proclamations turn out, they didn't quite last him two days. By the time he reached the 13th hole at Sandy Hills in Rosapenna, Brian was already playing the souvenir logo ball I'd bought in the pro shop — the last ball between us. I knew this stretch of the trip was going to be expensive in an unexpected way.

Aside from the expensive golf balls, I found Rosapenna to be one of the best values on this trip. Granted, the Rosapenna Hotel was a bit of a splurge for me, but compared to its luxury resort peers, it's quite a good deal, particularly with the reduced greens fees for guests. And the Sandy Hills links is not to be missed — tough as nails, and a total joy. I've played Irish courses where I've felt enveloped by the countryside, but at Sandy Hills, I literally felt lost in it, just rolling landscape and the sea, each hole entirely to itself. The hotel is unassuming from outside, but real class within. Attracting a slightly older crowd, it would be the first place I'd recommend for my parents. And the manager, Terry, was the warmest host I've had thus far in Ireland. And having just crossed the 500-mile mark, I really needed one!

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