The crazy good par-3 third at Tralee Golf Links. [photo courtesy of John & Jeannine Henebry]

The odyssey is complete, our nine-courses-in-nine-days schedule has been dispatched, and it’s all over but the ibuprofen withdrawals. Eight links, one parkland track. Three venues in the very north, four in the west of Ireland, and three more in the southwest. I arrived with a bag full of balls and 24 new ones in a box. I’m happy to report there are at least 18 left and, God be praised, I’m actually swinging the club better now than I was at the start. That’s not typical. I’ve been on plenty of long golf trips were things get bad, before they get worse, and there they stay, excruciatingly. But I tallied an 85 at Tralee today and it could have been 81 or 82. For me that’s something to blog about.

But I won’t. Tralee Golf Links, not my 85, is the story today, and what a grand golf course it is. The back nine is among the best loops of links golf you’ll find anywhere, and after the brutally long, quite tight 10th, 11th and 12th holes, this Tiger does something unique: It retracts his claws and treats the sojourner to six exquisite holes of only moderate length, as they snake up, over and around some massive dune formations.

Tralee is a bit different than many of the links courses I’ve played, on this trip and previously. As indicated, it finishes very reasonably with two short par-4s, a par-3 and a short par-5 (no. 18). It’s nowhere near Tralee town; just a few houses are scattered about the hillside nearby. It sits way out on a point, surrounded by huge tidal lagoons and an estuary or two. The feeling of isolation would be total, if you weren’t looking down off tees over long beaches dotted with families, dogs, etc. When we walked back to the 14th tee, serving a magnificent 300-yard uphill par-4, we noticed a jet ski peeling its way out of a lagoon to our right, headed for more open water. Would’ve made a fine video… sorry we didn’t act quickly enough.

One of our colleagues at Failte Ireland, the estimable Michelle McGreevy, says that the back nine at Tralee is her favorite loop in the country. As a senior tourism official, that means something. As a former Irish Girls Champion who plays off 1, that means a little more. She’ll get no argument from this quarter. Tralee’s front nine is perhaps as beautiful — it skirts massive cliffs before looping back beside another lagoon, across which sit the ruins of some ancient castle — but the back nine is worth the trip on its own.

It was a helluva way to punctuate ours.