I Kissed a Leprechaun

By: Elisa Gaudet

Prior to traveling to Ireland the only leprechaun I ever encountered was the one on the front of my Lucky Charms cereal box. The dictionary describes them as "a type of fairy in Irish folklore, usually taking the form of an old man, clad in a red or green coat, who enjoys partaking in mischief. The leprechauns spend all their time busily making shoes, and store away all their coins in a hidden pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If ever captured by a human, the leprechaun has the magical power to grant three wishes in exchange for their release."

Mt. Falcon

My first thought is this leprechaun sounds like my kind of guy. What kind of shoes is he making anyway, Jimmy Choo or Christian Louboutin?

What I'm about to tell you is a true story, similar to the one when your friend bragged about shooting par at Royal County Down Golf Club. My Irish story starts at the famous Lough Erne golf resort, where I was invited to the "bar in the woods."

When asked if I'd like to go to this mysterious place I figured it was a nice little log cabin somewhere in trees off the ninth hole. Instead, we got in a car and followed a few neon signs the shape of a pizza with no writing on them until we came upon a house in the forest. Inside was the most magical bar filled with antiques, golf memorabilia and photos of previous visitors, including Sir Nick Faldo.

Leprechaun & Elisa

Next thing I know I was handed a small glass of clear liquid from an unmarked bottle, never a good sign. It was Poitín, a traditional Irish beverage with a 90-proof kick. Poitín is traditionally distilled in a small pot from malted barley grain or potatoes. It is one of the strongest alcoholic beverages in the world, and for centuries was illegal in Ireland.

To say "the alcohol made me do it" and to blame Poitín for kissing a leprechaun after a wee bit of alcohol is the oldest trick in the book. No, that part was premeditated as I was determined to get three wishes. The leprechaun acquiesced and quickly accepted my three wishes:

• Live and play like royalty
• Witness the creation of the nectar of Ireland
• Golf the fairest courses of them all

Ardglass Clubhouse

The next day I was off to Mount Falcon in County Mayo on the western side of Ireland. The manor house was built on a 2,200-acre estate on the west bank of the River Moy in 1876. The Maloney family purchased and restored the structure to its former glory and throughout the property are constant reminders of its exquisite history, including housing plans and receipts for the purchases of fireplaces and furnishings still in the house.

Here I was schooled in fly-fishing. Mount Falcon owns two miles of the Moy riverfront, where you can find some of the finest salmon fishing in the world. These deep and shallow pools are ideal for fly, bait and spin angling.

I dined in the cozy bar and sipped fine Malbec wine, then slept in the same bed Tiger Woods did when he visited. Other golf luminaries have also enjoyed Mt. Falcon, including Faldo, Mark O'Meara and John Cook.

Elisa Falconing at Ashford Castle

My next stop was Ashford Castle, founded in 1228 and purchased in 1852 by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, a member of the family of brewers that make world-famous Guinness stout. The 350-acre estate includes its own nine-hole golf course, and the 83-room castle is all about opulence and grandeur. Here I was able to practice the 4,000-year-old sport of falconry. The sensation of having a majestic hawk with amazing speed and agility fly through the forest and land on your arm is breathtaking.

The Guinness Storehouse was where I learned how the nectar, so well-known in Ireland, is made, along with the incredible history of the Guinness family and its enduring brand. At the Guinness factory in Dublin, you have the opportunity to experience an interactive beer museum that includes learning how to correctly pour a Guinness, a 360-degree panoramic glass bar on the top floor, and a private beer-tasting room that seats 14.

Now it was time to play golf on some of the fairest courses in the land. Ardglass Golf Club in County Down has the most amazing views. It's also very challenging with numerous holes along steep ocean cliffs. The course at Royal County Down is regarded as one of the best in Ireland and, while I was unable to play the day I was there, I had the distinct pleasure of having tea with some members. The ladies have their own clubhouse adjacent to the main clubhouse and are a very impressive group.

Loche Erne

Lough Erne is a serenely picturesque course with elevations and holes running alongside the tranquil "loughs" in the area of County Fermanagh. The Faldo-designed layout challenges and delights golfers of all levels.

Finally, Tandragee Golf Club in County Armagh is a charming parkland-style layout with elevated tees and rolling hills that was built in 1911 by the Duke of Manchester. The vistas are spectacular and the area rich in history.

The club members' Irish hospitality at all four courses was the best I've ever experienced and what we all hope with any golf trip.

This Irish saying says it all:

Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter
Lullabies, dreams and love ever after
Poems and songs with pipes and drums
A thousand welcomes when anyone comes . . . That's the Irish for you!

Elisa Gaudet brings a wealth of entertainment and golf experience to Cybergolf. Elisa has spent the past several years in the golf industry in the U.S., Latin America and Spain. She worked for the PGA Tour and the Tour de las Americas before founding Executive Golf International, a golf marketing company that works with clients to develop strategies using golf as the medium. Often referred to as the Maria Bartiromo (a business analyst for CNBC) of golf, Elisa says: "Golf, as a marketing tool, has been around for years. It's amazing how many new ways companies can align their brand with the golf market to reach their target audience. Our goal is to create alliances and establish cross-border relations." Elisa also worked in the entertainment industry for over 10 years, including five in Los Angeles as a model and actress. She can be seen at many celebrity golf events and often gets the inside scoop from PGA Tour players. In 2011, Elisa published her first book, "Two Good Rounds" (Skyhorse Publishing). Her story for Cybergolf, "Golf a Romantic Affair at Cabin Bluff," won the top prize in ING's 2012 Travel Writing category. For more information about Elisa, visit her websites at www.onthelip.com or Executive Golf International www.execgolfintl.com.

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