One of my favorite parts of one of my favorite golf trips ever was when a friend and I spent several days in Northern Ireland, playing courses like Royal County Down and Royal Portrush – after all these years, Royal County Down is still one of my all-time favorites. As a result, I've always had a soft spot for Northern Ireland, and have been pleased to see players like Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell earn some golfing glory for their homeland.
Northern Ireland is making headlines today and Tuesday because the Lough Erne Golf Resort near Enniskillen in County Fermanagh is hosting the Group of Eight economic summit. From what I've seen, President Obama and his G8 counterparts from the United Kingdom, Russia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan probably won't squeeze any golf in between their economic dealmaking sessions. That's a shame because, heck, why go to a golf resort if you're not gonna tee it up?
I haven't been back to Northern Ireland since Lough Erne opened in 2007 – it wasn't fully completed until 2009 – but it sounds like quite a place. It's described as the only five-star golf resort in Northern Ireland, and occupies its own private peninsula jutting out into Lough Erne.
The 120-room main hotel is ''a Provencal-inspired chateau, buttressed by a terrace of turreted rental lodges,'' according to a recent review on Boston.com. Inside the ''French facade was an interior of gentrified Anglo-Irish touches: roaring fires in the lobby, a lavish library to while away a morning with local literature, and a pleasing garden room for afternoon tea.''
Lough Erne has two championship courses – the Castle Hume Golf Course and the signature Nick Faldo Course, which was designed by six-time major winner Nick Faldo and consistently ranks among the top 100 courses in the United Kingdom and Ireland. In fact, there's a big statue of Faldo on site, and Faldo has a special connection with the property. Lough Erne has the only Faldo Golf Academy in Europe, and last September the facility hosted the 2012 finals of junior golf's Faldo Series (McIlroy is a previous Faldo Series champion).
Perhaps not surprising given the global economic situation, the resort went into ''administration'' – the British equivalent of bankruptcy – last year, and is for sale. The entire property – including hotel, guest lodges, golf facilities and more, cost approximately $50 million to build, according to published reports, and now could be had for as little as $15 million.
There's a lot of bucket-list golf competition in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and, honestly, most of the standout courses are a lot more convenient to reach than Lough Erne. But then again, places like Bandon Dunes are thriving in part because of their remote locations. So $15 million sounds like a deal.
In fact, I know a young English chap named Justin Rose who picked up a check for $1.4 million just yesterday. That looks like the perfect down payment to me.