By Heidi Richardson, PGA
I grew up in sunny San Diego, the lucky daughter of golf-loving parents! My junior golf years shaped the core of my personal character and led to the development of my long, amazing successful career. I have formed some of my most impactful friendships through the game of golf.
Throughout my 30 years as a PGA Professional, I have studied and been required to know the rules, history, traditions and foundations of the game. My vision of the original golf game – the original players, the first competitions and the mystical links-style golf courses in the Scottish and Irish history – has always intrigued me. Sharing the meaning of this history with my clients has always been one of the cores of my golf academy. My junior golf academy is founded on the personal integrity that is gained through the game. My camps, clinics and lessons are structured on personal character development while improving the golf swing and playing skills.
So naturally when I finally had the chance to travel to Ireland, I jumped on it! Visiting the homeland of golf only made me appreciate it more! I feel lucky to share this rich history with my clients, some of whom are only four years old.
It is hard to summarize the experiences I have had on my two special trips to Ireland! Our first challenge was to narrow down the many courses we hoped to play on this trip. During our first visit to Ireland, several years ago, we played Portmarnock Golf Links, Lahinch Golf Club and Waterville Golf Links. On a special recent second trip, we wanted to experience more, including travel to Northern Ireland, as well.
The courses we decided upon were Royal Portrush Golf Club, Royal County Down Golf Club and Old Head Golf Links. We also returned to the very special Lahinch Golf Club! Just stepping out of our car, into the golf shop, then onto the first tee gave me the chills! I brought a thank you note and gift to the wonderful PGA Directors who welcomed me from the other side of the world. Of course, I then had to purchase a logo ball, hat and jacket from each course.
Although I always have high expectations and a serious desire to score well, the emotions that overwhelmed me during each round we played were that of awe, wonder and appreciation for the opportunity to walk on these historic and legendary fairways. I found myself with a great smile on my face during each and every rounds. Even after a drive into the rough grass, a fairway shot into the deepest bunker I’ve ever seen or a three-putt from 10 feet, I just found myself giggling, shaking my head and looking for the next tee with excitement.
Being from Southern California means we are not quite as prepared or skilled at playing golf during normal Scottish or Irish weather. Everyone who knows me at home knows that I don’t like being cold. I wear 4-5 layers of jackets while teaching, even on a mild San Diego afternoon.
Because of my passion for golf, my goal for this trip was to experience the game in its purest form. We had lovely weather most of the trip, until our last round at the awesome and legendary Lahinch. The dark foreboding clouds came over the ocean and then the course, and during my first swing on the first tee the rain started. Just as I made bogeys and three putted with a smile, I got soaking wet and cold with a smile. It was magical to walk the fairways with the wind, rain and the angry waves pounding on the shore along the fairways of Lahinch. I felt as if we had stepped back in time to the origins of golf. And then the rain stopped, and a double rainbow showed up while I finished my putt.
As I fly home, I am excited to share my even greater love and appreciation for the game of golf. A few words I will use include: Awe, Wonder, Thrill, Pleasure, Privilege. I can’t wait to go back! My next goal will be St. Andrews and beyond!
Heidi Richardson is a Class A member of the PGA of America, and a PGA Teaching Professional at Encinitas Ranch Golf Course in Encinitas, California. She has been playing golf since the age of five, having been introduced to the game by her mother. Heidi was a member of the UCLA Bruins Women’s golf team, graduating in 1988, and has been a PGA member since 1995. She has earned several PGA Section and Chapter awards for Junior Golf and Player Development. To learn more about Heidi Richardson, log on to her website at http://www.heidirichardsongolf.com/.