After spending over 130 days in space, astronaut Daniel Tani told reporters that the Old Head of Kinsale peninsula in Ireland was the point he always looked out for. An avid golfer, he’s played the course many times and even met his wife there! We caught up with Daniel to find out more.
Not many people can claim to have gazed back at Earth from outer space, but Daniel Tani is one of the lucky few. The Illinois astronaunt successfully completed five space walks in his 12 year career with NASA, including the 100th spacewalk on the International Space Station. During his 130 days in space, Daniel often found his eyes and mind wandering to Kinsale, County Cork on the southwest of the Wild Atlantic Way.
“My in-laws live in Cork and so every time I was looking out the window for it,” he explains. “The Old Head sticks out like a pinky. It's such a unique shaped peninsula and it’s almost like a little island sticking out of the coast.”
Daniel is actually very well acquainted with our fair isle. “I started going to Ireland when I was single”, he recalls, “just to play golf on vacation. That's how I would spend my holidays. I have played up and down the coast, right along the Wild Atlantic Way – Connemara Golf Club, Tralee, Lahinch, Doonbeg, Waterville and Dooks.” He continues, “From my experience, the links golf in Ireland is wilder – big dunes, plus incredible cliffs and scenery.”
Like many golfers before and after him, Daniel notes the 12th somewhat of a stickler. “There are a handful of great holes at the Old Head, but the 12th is their signature hole”, he explains. “It's just a fantastic drive. You're hitting a golf ball over a couple of 100-foot cliffs of crashing waves. That's very exhilarating.”
But others have appeal too. “The number one and two, which are on the other side of the peninsula, are great holes, also right by the ocean,” he says. “Then there’s the final hole. If you have the nerve to go out to the professional tee - there’s only three or four feet between you and the cliffs.”
Image courtesy of Daniel Tani.
Although Daniel can recount lots of memorable golf shots and holes at the Old Head, he’s a big Ballybunion fan too. It’s in fact the course that originally drew him. He explains; “I joined Ballybunion first, so when I went to Ireland to golf I fell in love with it. I became a member there and I continued to go back. It's just a spectacular golf course. I could play it every day for the rest of my life. It's just that good.”
Image courtesy of Daniel Tani.
Although Ballybunion clearly has a special place in his heart, Daniel reveals the particular significance the OId Head holds for him. “I went on to play the Old Head, because that's what you do when you’re an American in Ireland!” he says. “But I actually met my wife there. I went to play and the weather was miserable, so I sat in the club house and got to know her. She was the business manager at that time.”
He’s clearly been charmed by both courses, so we just have to ask – could he pick a favourite? “The Old Head is a great golf course”, he begins. “The views and the experience is just spectacular. I think they’re both the best in the world, but from a couple of different perspectives. They are like two brothers to me. I can't pick one without the other.”
A regular visitor to Ireland, Daniel recently spotted the Wild Atlantic Way signs dotted along the coast. “It's a great way to highlight all those towns on the coast, and the beautiful scenery,” he says.
Having explored much of the West Coast, Daniel struggles to pin down just one highlight. “The first time you drive to The Burren, it's just fantastically unique. The landscape is amazing. Some people say it's like the moon!” He adds, “I love the coast of Kerry too. I've been out the Dingle Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry, they're all favourites. The scenery and the geography are so varied along the coast of what is essentially a very small island.”
If he had to give visitors one tip, what would it be? “The first thing is to have the nerve to get a car and drive on the opposite side of the road that you’re used to”, he laughs. “Just do it, and have a basic outline of where you think you want to go, but don't be tied to an itinerary.” You know the way I used to do it? I’d drive into a town, find a B&B sign and just check in and get to know the locals that way. Find the local pub and sort of meander around the country, if people are looking for the Irish experience that is a great way to do it.”
Start planning your own golfing adventure on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way now by clicking here and filtering by county - Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Cork, Kerry and/or Galway.