Driving is not normally a concern for me. But over here in Waterville, Ireland, it is.
No, I am not talking about my tee shots, with which I feel quite comfortable even if the wind is lashing 30 knots and the rain ripping sideways. Rather, I mean driving the roads here. Bordered by mossy walls and thick hedges as high as minivans and populated by seemingly suicidal motormen who appear to pay no regard to speed limits, they make every trip between golf courses feel like a car rally.
Oh, and need I mention that the Irish also drive on the wrong side of the highway (if you are a North American)? As if they didn’t impose enough difficulties.
Golf is sometimes an adventure in Ireland when I am not playing well. But driving here is nearly always a panic. To be sure, the scenery is spectacular, and I happily gawk at the hills that loom along the coasts, either brilliant green with stretches of gorse and its flecks of yellow flowers or tawny colored from swathes of heather not yet in bloom. From routes that cut through seaside fishing villages I also check out the seas, bays and inlets. I frequently marvel at the sounds of gulls calling and savor the smells of the salt water and peat logs burning in the fireplaces of nearby homes.
But then there are the waits when I come upon horse-drawn carts and 40-year-old tractors limping along narrow lanes. And the times I am stopped by herds of cattle and sheep, ambling down the pavement in no apparent hurry. Every now and then, I see lorries bearing down, and I determine they fit as poorly on these lanes as fat men do in Speedos. I also feel sure I am about to die each time a truck comes careening around the corner.
Getting an actual driver next time may be as sensible as going to a 5-iron off the tee on some of these wind-whipped courses. But I doubt it would be nearly as much fun.