When Tour Guides Become Friends, Playing Partners and Even Instructors

As much as tasty food and comfy beds, a key ingredient of a successful golf tour in a foreign land is a qualified driver who doubles as a convivial tourist guide. I’ve had the good fortune to meet several such godsends during my travels.

Recently, in Ireland, our driver Aidan Gallagher, the owner of Limerick-based Flexi Taxi, toured Sharon and me throughout the Emerald Isle’s spectacularly picturesque southwest. The kilometres slipped away as we drove from Doonbeg to Lahinch to Ballybunion to Killarney, discussing everything from Ireland’s historic relationship with the English to the fearful state of Europe’s economy.

What a relief not having to stress about navigating ourselves through Ireland’s spiderweb of county roads or remembering to drive on the left. Aidan did all that, as well as enthusiastically describe the sights along the journey.

Ken Hanley, Scottish Blue Badge Tourist Guide (Image: Ken Hanley)

Ken Hanley, one of Scotland’s elite Blue Badge tourist guides, is famous for always wearing his traditional Scottish kilt. (Image: Ken Hanley)

Some of my favourite memories are of the two trips we made with the inimitable Ken Hanley, one of Scotland’s elite Blue Badge tourist guides. Ken, the owner of Edinburgh-based Small World Tours, has 25 years experience touring golfers and other travellers. Big hearted and endlessly solicitous of his customers’ welfare, Ken is famous for always wearing the traditional Scottish kit of kilt, sporran, knee-high woolen socks and a jacket so sharply pressed its creases could slice through gorse.

Ken is also one of Scotland’s most enthusiastic ice hockey fans, having been instantly smitten when a professional league started-up in his country more than a decade ago. Most winters he and his good wife make pilgrimages to our side of the pond to take in some NHL action.

And then there’s Dylan Williams, the co-director of Wales Golf Vacations, who doubles as the head professional at Pyle and Kenfig Golf Club, a true links on the south coast of Wales. The three of us became so friendly that Dylan introduced us to his mother, who kindly baked us the most delicious Welsh cakes (a particular favourite of Sharon’s) we’d ever tasted.

Not just our driver, guide and playing partner, Dylan also obligingly served as my personal golf instructor for the week. Rarely have I stroked the ball so well—or been so sorry to see a trip end.


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