Ireland Golf Courses

 Southwest Ireland

The Southwest of Ireland has arguably the greatest concentration of true championship links courses for golfers to experience. The choices range from such established favorites as Ballybunion, Lahinch and Waterville, to the newest treasure of Ireland - the Greg Norman designed Doonbeg.

BALLYBUNION: Arguably Ireland’s most admired and distinguished links course. The Old Course, well over a century old, is as pure a links course as there is in the world. The course was designed using the existing links land and massive dunes without the need for artificially created challenges and hazards. The New Course (Cashen), created by Robert Trent Jones, is a worthy compliment. Local Knowledge: Early booking highly recommended to secure a confirmed time (9 to 12 months prior to travel). No weekend play.

DOONBEG: For more than 100 years, people have talked about a piece of land near the town of Doonbeg, Ireland, where nature created it's own golf course. The land is made up of rolling hills, high on the cliffs along the Irish coast but flat enough that all that was needed to create a world-class golf course was to lay out the holes and mow the fairways. When Greg Norman agreed to be the golf architect for this extraordinary site he described it as "...the perfect golf links terrain."  On his first visit to the site in November, 1997 the Irish press reported his reaction: "I am almost speechless. I have never seen a piece of land like this in all my travels. I did not know such a piece of property existed any more." Local Knowledge: Has already been elevated to 'must play' status.

FOTA ISLAND: A gem designed by Christy O'Connor, Jnr. and Peter McEvoy. Site of the 2001 & 2002 Irish Opens it's pedigree is without question. A parkland design with many 'links' touches such as the pot bunkers and a double green. Many holes offer a water view out towards historic Cobh (the Titanic's last stop) and the port of Cork.

KILLARNEY GOLF & FISHING CLUB: The Killeen and Mahoney’s Point courses, although not links style, are two of Ireland’s great golf tracks. In fact, the Killeen course hosted the 1990 and 1991 Irish Opens. The courses parallel the banks of the Lakes of Killarney in the shadows of Macgillicuddy’s Reeks - Ireland’s highest mountains. Local Knowledge:  Ideal to include when based in Killarney to allow for sightseeing time.

LAHINCH: Originally laid out by Old Tom Morris, and later revised by Alister Mackenzie, Lahinch is characterized by numerous blind shots through the coastline dunes. Take note of the many goats – they are considered locally as the authorities on meteorological matters! Local Knowledge: No weekend play. 

OLD HEAD OF KINSALE: Opened since only 1997, Old Head has quickly become one of the most praised links courses in the world. Old Head enjoys probably the most spectacular setting in golf. Located high on the bluffs of a three-mile long peninsula, Old Head offers unmatched beauty and a challenging golf experience. Local Knowledge: Ideal for weekend play.

TRALEE: The present course, opened in 1984, was designed by Arnold Palmer. Palmer, with the benefit of an absolutely stunning piece of land, has created a classic links course that has the feel of a much older layout. Local Knowledge: No visitor play on Wednesdays and very limited on weekends. 

WATERVILLE: Located on the famous Ring of Kerry, Waterville is a golfers pleasure, combining natural beauty with a thoughtful but challenging links design. Local Knowledge: Limited weekend play.

Other courses of note: Adare Manor, Cork (Little Island), Ceann Sibeal (Dingle), Dooks, Dromoland Castle,  Kilkee, Ring of Kerry, Shannon.

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Dublin and the East Coast

Ireland’s capital city and the surrounding area have a variety of superior links courses, inland jewels and outstanding new creations. In addition, all are within easy reach from what has become one of Europe’s most distinguished and cosmopolitan cities.

COUNTY LOUTH (Baltray): Sometimes referred to as Baltray, Co. Louth is a true links course. One of the most overlooked of Ireland’s championship courses; it is well worth the visit. Local Knowledge: Ideal to include when combining Newcastle (Royal Co. Down) and Dublin. Limited weekend play.

DRUIDS GLEN: A spectacular inland golf course frequently referred to as the ‘Augusta’ of Ireland. Druids Glen was a regular venue of the Irish Open over the past several years. Local Knowledge: Ideal for weekend play.

EUROPEAN CLUB: The European Club is one of the greatest new links courses to have been created in recent years. This modern links layout uses coastal land to create a wonderful golfing experience. Local Knowledge: Ideal for weekend play.

THE KILDARE GOLF & CC: The K-Club, its more common name, is located west of Dublin in the beautiful emerald green countryside of County Kildare. This parkland course designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay has been chosen as the venue for the 2006 Ryder Cup Matches. It is also the regular site of the annual European PGA Open. Local Knowledge: Good for travel day between Dublin and the Southwest. Ideal for weekend play.

THE ISLAND: In years past you could only reach this course by boat! Thankfully a car can now take you to what is probably one of the more testing links challenges in the Dublin area. Eddie Hackett and Fred Hawtree, who redesigned the course, have fashioned a layout which will force you to use every club in your bag.

PORTMARNOCK: By any standard Portmarnock is one of the foremost golf clubs in the world. The esteemed links course has hosted the Walker Cup Matches, a British Amateur, as well as other distinguished professional and amateur events since it was founded in 1894. Local Knowledge: No visitor play on Wednesdays and very limited on weekends.

LINKS at PORTMARNOCK: Although one of the newest links courses in Ireland, this Bernhard Langer design provides all the necessary ingredients for the links purist as it winds it’s way through dunes, is dotted with numerous pot bunkers and is open to the whims of the elements sweeping in from the Irish Sea. Local Knowledge: Recommended for play on arrival day, weekends or to allow time to sightsee.

MOUNT JULIET: This Jack Nicklaus designed layout, located among the rolling hills of Ireland's beautiful southeast, is one of the finest inland courses that Ireland has to offer. Host of the prestigious 2002 American Express World Golf Championship event, the championship layout has also hosted three Irish Opens and numerous other major tournaments since opening in 1991. Local Knowledge: Ideal for weekend play.

ROYAL DUBLIN: The second oldest club in Ireland (founded in 1885), Royal Dublin has been the site of many major tournaments. This links course has a unique location on Bull Island in Dublin harbor. Local Knowledge: No visitor play on Wednesdays and very limited on weekends.

Other courses of note: Faithlegg, Seapoint, St. Margaret's, Waterford Castle.

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Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is blessed with some of the British Isles most famous and highly ranked links courses. This region has experienced a major renaissance as a result of the recent peace initiatives. Now that life has returned to normal, many golfers are experiencing these superb layouts for the first time. One other reason to go - Northern Ireland was also recognized by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators as the 'Established Golf Destination of The Year' for 2001.

CASTLEROCK: Not one of the better known links, but well worth testing your game over this 100 year old course (opened in 1901).  The blind drives, numerous bunkers and small greens will test every aspect of your game and that is without any wind!  Local Knowledge: Limited weekend play.

PORTSTEWART: Although not as famous as its neighbor Royal Portrush, Portstewart is a true championship caliber links course.  Seven new holes were recently added, making it an even tougher challenge. Local Knowledge: Limited weekend play.

ROYAL COUNTY DOWN: Set dramatically against the backdrop of the Mourne Mountains and Dundrum Bay, Royal County Down is consistently rated among the top ten courses in the world. It has played host to many championships including the British Amateur and for the past several years the Senior British Open. Local Knowledge: Limited weekend play (Sunday). Closed to visitors for the Senior British Open in July.

ROYAL PORTRUSH - Dunluce: The oldest course in Northern Ireland and one of the world’s finest links courses. It has been the venue for several Senior British Open Championships as well as the only course outside of England or Scotland to have hosted a British Open Championship. Local Knowledge: The Valley Course at Royal Portrush is well worth playing.

WARRENPOINT: Located along the coast from Royal Co. Down, Warrenpoint will test your game whether the wind is blowing or not. It was the proving ground of one of Northern Ireland’s great golfers – Ronan Rafferty.

Other courses of note: Ardglass, Ballycastle, Royal Belfast, Royal Portrush (Valley).

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The West of Ireland

Although the names may not be as familiar, the courses in this region are equally as enjoyable and in many cases more challenging than courses in the more well known parts of Ireland. The West of Ireland is characterized by stunning and rugged scenery - the courses share the same characteristics.

BALLYLIFFIN - Old Course & Glashedy Links: Ireland’s most northerly club, boasts two superior links courses that rival any in the British Isles. Ballyliffin’s Old Course, opened in 1947, and the recently added Glashedy course have been described by Nick Faldo as “hidden gems…the most natural golf links I have ever played.” Local Knowledge: Can easily be played when based in the Portrush area.  Approximately 1 hour 15 minutes drive from Portrush. Limited weekend play.

CARNE (Belmullet): This new links course is located on the remote Bellmullet peninsula. Although only opened in 1995, Belmullet has quickly gained the admiration of golfers of all skill levels. Local Knowledge: Limited weekend play.

CONNEMARA: The championship links is in the heart of beautiful Connemara with the Atlantic as a dramatic backdrop. The testing layout combines breathtaking scenery with an assortment of gentle and challenging holes. Local Knowledge: Limited weekend play.

COUNTY SLIGO (Rosses Point): One of Ireland's great championship links courses. Rosses Point, over 100 years old, has hosted most of Ireland’s major golf championships. It has been described as a testing course for the skilled and fun course for the moderate player. Local Knowledge: Limited weekend play.

DONEGAL (Murvagh): Also known as Murvagh, this course is hidden away on a rugged, sandy, peninsula that is screened by a wall of dense woodlands. The par 73 links layout winds its way through 180 acres of sandhills and carefully maintained fairways and greens. Local Knowledge: Limited weekend play.

ENNISCRONE: Enniscrone Golf Club has the unique distinction of having the longest four starting holes of any course in Europe - three par fives and a par four! Situated with a view of the Atlantic at Killala Bay, the course designed by Eddie Hackett has created a wealth of interesting holes which will draw on most of your clubs to negotiate. Local Knowledge: Limited weekend play.

GALWAY BAY: Designed by one of Ireland's greatest golfers, Christy O'Connor, Jr., this ocean side course offers the best of both worlds - 'old style' golf with modern amenities. Local Knowledge: Limited weekend play.

WESTPORT: Opened in 1973, the parkland style layout is set amongst 260 acres of rolling terrain on the shores of Clew Bay. The course has been the venue for many Irish championships including the Irish Amateur Championship. Local Knowledge: Limited weekend play.

Other courses of note: Galway, Portsalon, Rosapenna.