Paying Homage to the Fuel of St. Patrick's Day

By: Joel Zuckerman

St. Patrick's Day is around the corner, reminding me once again how I love Ireland and all its aspects. Coincidentally, the golf world has also focused on Emerald Isle in recent years.

An amazing bit of fortune is that Northern Ireland, with less than 2 million souls, has produced the winners of four of the last 11 major championships. First it was Graeme McDowell winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2010, then Rory McIlroy taking the same event at Congressional the following year.

The very next major was captured by old warhorse Darren Clarke, who took the Claret Jug at the 2011 Open Championship. Then it was young Rory again, winning the PGA Championship just last August at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course.

While McDowell, McIlroy and Clarke make up the "Holy Trinity" of modern golf professionals from Ulster, their distinctive names have nothing on my posse of fine lads - great friends from youth, whose ancestors hail mostly from the Republic of Ireland. This much larger swath of land (actually five-sixths of the entire island) has two-and-a-half times as many residents as the North.

I love my many Irish friends, first and foremost. Names like Foley and Ryan, O'Gara and Melody, Murphy and McDonough are among my favorite golf pals and closest long-time confidants.

Speaking of names, I love the names of the towns in Ireland. From the ridiculous to the mellifluous: Knock, Muff, Gort, and Burnfoot; Tipperary, Killarney, Letterkenny and Ballyconeely. I love their incredible links golf courses, the lilting accents and easygoing nature of the natives, a landscape encompassing a hundred different shades of green.

And I love the Guinness.

Is it possible to devote the remainder of this column to paying homage to a simple glass of stout? It is, and I shall.

First of all, you don't have to actually be in Ireland to enjoy a Guinness. You can quaff one at taverns, saloons, bistros, bars, roadhouses and upscale eateries alike throughout these United States.

But enjoying a pint or three in Ireland undoubtedly enhances the experience. Few of us were privileged enough to see John, Paul, George and Ringo in the flesh and, while Beatlemania may replicate the "Fab Four," no right-minded person would argue it's the same thing.

Same with exported Guinness.

There's an old golf expression that states, "There are horses for courses," meaning certain types of players are best suited to certain venues. Taking that one step further, I would argue there are certain habits for habitats.

I would no more think of ordering a post-round pint of creamy Guinness after a steamy summertime round in my adopted hometown of Savannah, Ga., a round where my shirt is sticking to my back and the sunscreen -applied via paint roller - is melting down my neck, than I would a cup of hot cocoa. But after a day of battling the links, striding purposefully amidst the dunes, squinting through the wind and turning a collar up to the cold, a bottle of Bud or a Coors Light is scant reward.

Settling into the clubhouse in the gloaming, after four (or preferably eight) hours on the greensward, the Irish golfer requires something meatier on the other side of the Pond, something heartier, by all rights something stouter than a watery lager the color of apple juice.

Like a Little Leaguer daydreaming about his post-game chocolate milkshake, the links player anticipates the first draught off a freshly poured pint in advance, no matter how stunning the venue or keen the competition preceding it.

Both golfer and ballplayer indulge in that thick, dark, highly caloric refreshment, but the Guinness man has an added advantage. Junior grabs his malted and gulps with alacrity.

But the golfer enjoys the added benefit of gazing into the pint glass as the beverage settles. It's a mesmerizing sight as the foam rises with the carbonation, like staring into an alcoholic lava lamp.

Just ask Clarkie, GMac or Rors. When in Ireland, there's nothing quite like that initial sip of that first pint of Guinness.

Except perhaps a pint of Murphy's Irish Stout, another exceptionally fine malted beverage. But that's fodder for another St. Patrick's Day column entirely.

Joel Zuckerman, called "One of the Southeast's most respected and sought-after golf writers" by Golfer's Guide Magazine, is an award-winning travel writer based in Savannah, Ga. His seventh and latest book, entitled "Pro's Pros - Extraordinary Club Professionals Making Golf Great!" is scheduled for release in April 2013. This is the first-ever golf book to shine the spotlight on the beating heart of golf - the unsung, yet hard-working club professional. Joel's course reviews, player profiles, essays and features have appeared in 110 publications, including Sports Illustrated, Golf, Continental Magazine and Delta's Sky Magazine. He has played more than 800 courses in 40-plus states and a dozen countries. For more about Joel, visit visit