Chris Hollins didn't always have the luck of the Irish on his side filming Golf's Greatest Holes, a new travel series that's available on GolfPass.
The sun was shining day after day, a rarity in April in northwest Ireland, while he and his film crew were stuck in quarantine due to 2021 pandemic restrictions for international travelers. As soon as they were free to film - yep, you guessed it - liquid sunshine rained down on them for several days.
"I started crying," he recalled with a laugh. "What have I done?"
Don't feel too sorry for him, though. Hollins, a BBC TV personality based in London, and Ireland's Paul McGinley, the former European Tour star and 2014 Ryder Cup captain who's now a Sky Sports golf commentator, spent several weeks in April and May racing across Ireland and Northern Ireland, filming and playing some of the best holes on the island. What a whirlwind adventure.
The original idea was to film McGinley playing the holes, but the two showed a real chemistry at Old Head Golf Links when Hollins jacked one into the ocean. It changed the trajectory of the whole series. Hollins was suddenly center-stage on the tee for all to see.
There were positives and negatives filming during a pandemic lockdown. All the courses were closed, so it was easy to commandeer a hole for filming. The bad news, though, was hard to stomach: the pubs were all shuttered, too.
“Some days, I wonder how in the hell we did it in such a short time," Hollins said. "What I’m very proud of: you have an image, an idea, of what to look for in a golf day. We manage to capture that on camera. We are not bothered about score. We've gone off near the sea to enjoy this view. It is about how emotional playing that place is."
Holes from many famous courses such as Royal County Down, Royal Portrush, Adare Manor and Waterville are showcased. So are a few holes from courses you might not have predicted or heard of, such as Glasson, Malone and Slieve Russell. If I were picking, I likely might have chosen differently. But that's the beauty of Ireland. There are so many great courses - and those great courses have multiple great holes - that coming up with one definitive list isn't possible. The six episodes feature 29 holes, each from a different course.
"It would be easy to go to the obvious holes," Hollins said. "We tried to find a few surprises."
McGinley even tossed in a few personal favorites, including the little-known Luttrellstown Castle Golf & Country Club outside Dublin.
“One of our favorite episodes is the last one," Hollins said. "Playing Portrush is obvious. It didn’t let us down. Neither did Royal County Down. We also played Luttrellstown Castle. That's where Paul got married. He wanted that one involved. It's got a lovely 10th hole with the river on the left. We go fishing with the castle in the background. It is not the longest (hole). It is not the toughest. [But] it brings back great memories."
Two kinds of golfers will be watching this series: people who want to play golf in Ireland, and those who want to go back. Both will find it entirely inspiring.