Golf. They say it's trendy, but I don't buy that. Who cares if Ian Poulter has got his own range of designer clothes; or if DJ Spoony is giving the sport an urban vibe; or that it now has its own coffee-table (lads') mag, Golf Punk (slaver over The Bunker Babes). To me, it's still all about tartan slacks and diamond-checked jumpers.
Whether this is what the golfers wear at the new Sheraton Fota Island Golf Resort and Spa, just outside Cork City, I cannot tell you. I visited in July, just a few weeks after it opened for business, and a quick whizz to the neighbouring course revealed that the new tarmac was still setting outside the 19th hole and the two golf pros were barely teeing off with the guests.
But what I do know is that golf in Ireland gets them rolling in. Golf may be embracing the most exotic locations these days - what barren part of the globe hasn't got manicured greens and questionable water policies - but golfers have three true loves: Scotland, the Algarve and Ireland. And while seasoned hackers will head for the prime greens of Mount Juliet and the Old Head of Kinsale, a short drive away (or even shorter chopper ride), nothing quite beats falling out of bed and on to a championship-standard green.
Where there's a golfer there's a golf widow(er). And so Sheraton's owner, the Starwood group, has built possibly one of the best spas in southern Ireland to ease the pain of that weekend away which is no more than an excuse for the other half to wander over large patches of grass with a ball and a bag full of metal sticks.
Twenty minutes' drive east from Cork you'll find this striking modern complex, and while some say that a country hotel should be set in a castle or somewhere of similarly grand antiquity, I say, pah. What's wrong with the juxtaposition of a modern structure and the natural environment? It's just a shame the architects lost their nerve inside and slapped on great wooden beams and turned reception into a quasi-baronial hall.
The comfort factor
Sheraton came into this project late so some of the interiors had already been designed. The earlier rooms are styled in fresh, bright tones, the later are richer and more muted. Yet both are luxurious, if a little corporate - but then Sheraton is about giving its faithful followers a reassuringly familiar experience across the world. The 131 rooms have flat-screen TVs through which you gain free access to the internet, satellite stations, movies and a vast selection of music (no CD players here). The bespoke beds are deeply comfy. A further 280 lodges are in development in the grounds.
Spacious and sparkling with toiletries by the ubiquitous Molton Brown.
The food and drink
Gourmet grills are the fine dining option in The Cove Restaurant. The Fota is a more informal brasserie, spilling on to the terrace in summer. Drinks are served in the Amber Lounge, which specialises in whiskies.
Those golfers and their widow(ers). Plenty of families, and businessmen mixing work and pleasure.
The vast spa's features include a pool and well-designed gym, 18 treatment rooms and hydrotherapy suite. The nearby Fota Wildlife Park offers the bizarre experience of seeing giraffes roaming the Irish landscape. Cobh, site of a museum about Irish emigration to the US and the Titanic's final departure, is also nearby. And then there are the fleshpots of Cork City to enjoy.
Disabled access. Children welcome. No pets.
From €149 (£101) per double room per night. Green fees from €64 per day.
The Sheraton Fota Island Golf Resort and Spa, Fota Island, Co Cork, Ireland (00 353 21 467 3000; sheraton. com/cork).
The author travelled with Tourism Ireland (0800-039 7000; discoverireland.com)
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