Golf: Well Manored

  • James Y. Bartlett

According to legend, the Luttrell family managed to retain possession of its vast Irish estates through roughly 350 years of interesting times by adroitly switching its religious affiliation depending on the popular ism of the moment. After a long, successful run of defending Luttrellstown Castle, which sits on 560 picturesque acres along the River Liffey just outside the city limits of Dublin, the family sold it to a wealthy businessman in 1800. Today, the estate survives as an exclusive hideaway that can accommodate as many as 28 guests in true lord-of-the-manor style.

Horseback riding, pheasant and skeet shoots, tennis, swimming, croquet, horseshoes, guided tours of the formal gardens, and riding four-wheelers around an obstacle course are favored daytime pursuits, as are classes on making Irish coffee or bread, and listening to a storyteller’s Celtic yarns. The Luttrellstown Castle limousine shuttles guests to Dublin proper to partake of the vibrant city’s shopping, theaters, and pubs.

Each of the upstairs bedrooms is individually named and decorated, and some feature antique four-poster beds and deep copper bathtubs. In the interest of providing a truly custom-tailored experience, the young, highly trained staff will even rearrange the castle’s furniture to your liking. Crackling peat fires warm the beautifully sedate library with its elegant arched windows and shelves lined with leather-bound volumes. Dinner is served on a banquet-size, 18th-century mahogany table in the dining room, where well-preserved frescoes add a rococo touch to the surroundings. Executive chef Neil Shirt often uses peat bricks to flavor-grill an Angus steak or a salmon fillet, and follows it with something outrageously chocolate-laden for dessert—a triple chocolate brownie with white chocolate sorbet, perhaps.

Ages after the Luttrells (no doubt reluctantly) released the property from their ownership, a crucial feature was installed on the grounds to please visiting gentlefolk. Occupying one corner of the estate is a modern, 18-hole parkland course, its fairways bordered by towering trees and its greens protected by water and sand. This sporty, difficult layout, which can be stretched to more than 7,000 yards, hosted the women’s Irish Open in 1997. It is an easy course to walk, but golf carts, a convenience not often found in Ireland, are available. The back nine curls around the castle and flows past the glowing Finnish pine post-and-beam, Scandinavian-style clubhouse, which houses a well-stocked pro shop, a genial pub, and a fine restaurant.

Luttrellstown Castle is also ideally suited for golfing groups that seek to sample some of Dublin’s renowned courses. Destination Golf, a New York–based, Irish-run tour company, designs customized itineraries planned around a stay at the property. The castle’s limo stands ready to spirit golfers away to the famous Old Course at Portmarnock and the equally enjoyable Portmarnock Links, a 10-year-old design by Bernhard Langer that is a remarkable contemporary take on the traditional windblown, glimpses-of-the-sea links course. Also within reasonable driving distance are the Royal Dublin, Druids Glen, Mount Juliet, and the K Club, which will host the 2006 Ryder Cup.

While the Luttrells never enjoyed Shirt’s excellent cuisine, the golf course, or the on-call limousine, it is easy to see why the family patriarchs held fast to Luttrellstown Castle for so long.
 
Luttrellstown Castle, +353.1.808.9900, www.luttrellstown.ie;
Destination Golf, 800.832.1848, www.destinations-golf.com

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