The lure of some of the most famous names in world golf brings thousands of golfers to Ireland each year – Ballybunion, Old Head Golf Links, Royal Portrush, Portmarnock, the list goes on and on. Unsurprisingly so as these are some of the best golf courses on the planet, and are highly sought after. Many visitors from overseas, in particular from the United States, grew up watching ‘The Open’ Championship or an ‘Irish Open’ on TV and dreamt of one day playing on those same links courses as the professionals. The thought of crossing the ‘Swilken Bridge’ and making the stroll up the 18th of The Old Course in St. Andrews, the opportunity to test yourself at ‘The Postage Stamp’ at Royal Troon or the aptly named ‘Calamity Corner’ at Royal Portrush, ensures a steady stream of these golfers to Irish shores every summer.
In Ireland however, there is much more to the golf ‘experience’ than just these famous trophy course names. The country is peppered with fabulous links golf courses, many of which are likely not as well-known overseas. They are certainly no less impressive, but are equally challenging and great fun. So, we have decided to select our top 4 courses (one in each of the four Irish provinces), that are in close proximity to some of these other great names. These are the golf courses that you really shouldn’t miss out on when planning your itinerary. You could combine these to make a great 36-hole day, or simply enjoy them on their own as part of a great golf vacation in Ireland.
A golf vacation to Ireland is one of the most unique experiences the game has to offer and should be on the bucket list of any serious golfer. A well-regarded international golf tour operator can make the most of your time in Ireland by helping you plan the perfect itinerary. They’ll assist with choosing your perfect lodgings, arranging tee times at the golf courses that you will enjoy playing, suggesting what restaurants and pubs you should experience and of course how you can ship your clubs ahead to your destination with Luggage Forward to get the trip off to the perfect start!
About the author:
Tom Cotter has spent a lifetime playing golf courses across Europe since picking up the game at a young age while growing up in Ireland. Tom is now the President of The Consumate Pro, an international golf tour operator based in Belfast.
Ardglass Golf Links
Starting in the North, and an approximate 25-minute drive from Royal County Down Golf Club is the stunning Ardglass Golf Links. The clubhouse, a Norman Castle, dates back to 1405 AD and is situated just to the south of the beautifully fishing village. Your opening tee shot is made with the battlements of the castle at your back, the Irish Sea entirely to your left and the pin flag perched on a rocky outcrop in the distance. One of the most memorable, most beautifully, and most challenging tee shots not only in Irish golf but arguably in the world. The course stretches out from the clubhouse around a rugged headland and is one of the very few golf courses in Ireland where you can see the water from all 18 holes. There is a sublime mix of golf holes at Ardglass, however, it is likely the run from the 10th through to the 13th that will linger longest in the memory. The walk down the 18th with the ancient castle as the backdrop will be one of your most memorable in golf. No journey to this part of Northern Ireland is complete without a visit to Ardglass, one of the most welcoming golf clubs in Ireland.
The Island Golf Club
Heading down the East Coast where you will find the famous links golf courses of Portmarnock Golf Club and The Royal Dublin Golf Club, you might inadvertently pass one of Ireland’s best golf courses in Ireland were we not to highlight it to you. Situated on a sand spit in Malahide Bay is The Island Golf Club, which up until the 1970’s could only be accessed by rowing boat! The course is blessed with some of the most dramatic sand dunes, best rolling fairways and tight links turf that you will find anywhere in Ireland. It feels as if no two holes ever run in the same direction at The Island as you weave your way around and between the massive dunes. Similar to Ardglass, they have a great variety of golf holes, but it is a fair challenge too for golfers of all abilities. The Island is a great favourite of our visiting guests, and is a course not to be missed when playing some of the other magnificent links courses in and around the greater Dublin area.
Dooks Golf Club
The south and south west of Ireland is blessed with some of the most famous names in world golf, such as Ballybunion, Tralee and Waterville. However, there is one particular gem that should not be overlooked when circumnavigating this part of the island. Dooks Golf Club is situated a short 45-minute ride outside of the famous tourist town of Killarney in County Kerry. The golf course is located on the edge of Dingle Bay and affords visitors some of the most majestic views of the brooding McGillycuddy Reeks Mountains. After a gentle opening hole, players make their way along a small, hedge-fronted path and under an archway to the second. By the time you reach the tee box, it’s as if you have been magically transported through the wardrobe of Narnia. The course simply opens up to one of the most panoramic and stunningly beautiful vistas in Irish golf. The aforementioned mountains create a fabulous backdrop from that point forward until you return to the clubhouse. Dooks is not just about the pretty scenery and demands all of your attention. Our favourite hole is probably the Par 5, 10th. The out of bounds fence on the left dominates your peripheral vision but a straight drive is vital to have any chance of achieving par. The views from this tee are again just breath-taking. Definitely one course not to be overlooked while in the south-west of Ireland.
Carne Golf Links
Finally, to the West coast of Ireland, the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’. This part of the island has several very famous golf names such as Lahinch, Doonbeg and County Sligo to name but a few, however, it is the most westerly golf course in Ireland, Carne Golf Links that really grabs our guest’s attention. Located just a few miles outside of the village of Belmullet in County Mayo, Carne was designed by the legendary Irish golf architect, Eddie Hackett. The 27-holes of Carne sweep around, through and over many of Ireland’s most impressive and largest sand dunes. The course had virtually no mechanical intervention in its design, such is the spectacular piece of land that mother nature left Eddie Hackett with. This is pure, natural, wild Irish links golf at its absolute finest. The ‘Kilmore’ nine-holes were the last addition to the golf course and are arguably its best holes. They reflect the best of Carne; rugged, wild and beautifully sculpted around the dunes. No journey to the West of Ireland is truly complete without including eighteen or twenty-seven holes at Carne Golf Links.