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A heavy shower had just cleared as we stepped on to the first tee but as far as the eye could see there was no hint of the rain just fallen, writes Brendan Coffey.
Like so much of the course, the opening hole at Rosses Point is laid out in front of you. Even if there was no golf to be played, you would still come here, but being familiar with the place can have its drawbacks – you forget what a privilege it is.
"If we had rain like this in Stuggart, the course would be closed for three days," our German visitor told us as we walked down the first fairway. It was a Friday in early November and our new acquaintance was at the end of a week-long stay in Sligo. This was not his first time in Ireland and although he had travelled here with a group of friends, he was the only golfer among them.
While the rest of the crew went surfing, Axel hopped in his rental car and made for a different part of the Atlantic coast. Playing his third round in five days, the chance to play golf on such fabulous terrain was just as thrilling as the first time.
"I love it here," he said, even after he failed to get out of a greenside bunker on the fifth. The chance to play a full round of golf was enough of a treat in itself at a time of year when he would be putting the clubs away at home. Getting annoyed about a bad shot or a bad break seemed foolish in his company.
Sometimes we forget just how lucky we are. We may not be blessed with balmy weather for much of the year but whatever conditions are outside, a game of golf is never too far away. When the Romans christened our country Hibernia ('land of eternal winter') they never imagined the coastal terrain would be so hospitable to golfers. Whereas the pros follow the sun, Irish golfers can take to the seaboard.
Of all the skills a golfer requires, imagination is often the most elusive. Without it, your mistakes will eventually prove too costly but armed with the ability to fashion an escape, nothing is impossible. As much as we strive for the perfect swing, the best golfers are those who accept mistakes and then figure out a way to recover. A links teaches you how to do that because it's not just errant shots that put you in difficult spots.
"I almost lost my ball off the first tee," Tom Watson recalled, describing his first taste of links golf at Monifieth in Scotland. "I drove down the middle of the fairway and I couldn't find it. My playing partners carried on while I took one last guess, and there it was, buried in a tiny pot bunker. I had to take a really awkward stance to get at it. And I didn't really like that, having hit what I thought was a perfect drive."
On a links you are laid bare as a golfer, your weaknesses exposed and your resolve pushed to the limit by the uncertainty of the outcome. At times it can feel like a mental and physical battering, the golfing gods conspiring against you but if the mind remains clear and the swing holds no fear, there is no greater thrill.
"A glorious, sailing, bounding drive/That made me glad I was alive."
John Betjeman captured the wonder of it all in his poem, Seaside Golf. And on a dark, dank day in November, a German visitor showed me how bright it really was.
*Photo shows County Sligo Golf Club (Rosses Point).