Golf Courses of Ireland
Ireland – Cashen Course at Ballybunion Golf Club Cashen is making a name for itself as one of Ireland’s more difficult courses and is somewhat controversial. Whilst some like the unvarying wildness of it, others would prefer a course a bit more structured. Robert Trent Jones, designer of Cashen, is reputed to have been so impressed with the land designated for the course that he waived his design fee. The course itself is no less scenic than Ballybunion Old and stretches one’s game to the limit.
Ireland – Ballybunion Golf Club – Old Course Certainly one of the most scenic of all links courses, Ballybunion Old Course tumbles over and around and through a veritable jumble of dunes and ridges. The sea is ever present here (as are the tourist buses), and the original designer, an obscure railway employee, made full use of it. There have been redesigns to several holes due to Irish weather and whim, but even the most unseasoned architect could not do damage to this masterpiece.
Ireland – Connemara Golf Club, situated on the western tip of the Galway Peninsula, is long, windy, and flat. The last six holes are the most interesting, where there is a bit of terrain to break up the coastal plain. With the Twelve Bens (local, rather massive small mountains) as a backdrop, and with pleasant views of the Atlantic, Connemara is one of the better courses in the “off the beaten track” category, and worth a visit if you are in the area.
Ireland – County Louth Golf Club (Baltray) was designed by Tom Simpson of Ballybunion and Cruden Bay fame. Whilst Baltray’s contours are rather tame by those standards, this is a fine, subtle Irish course that lulls the golfer into a false sense of security. The golfers in the 2004 Irish Open may have been lulled a bit as the winner was only 14 under in fairly mild conditions. Baltray is well worth a visit.
Ireland – County Sligo Golf Club (Rosses Point) with its panoramic views of Sligo Bay, and the huge mass of Benbulben in the near distance, is one of the most scenic courses in Ireland. The outward nine is the inland nine, and doesn’t have the bumps and hollows of a typical links course, but does set one up nicely for the holes along the shore (13th-18th) which are great fun.
Ireland – Dooks Golf Club Golf has been played at Dooks since 1889 when it was introduced to members of the local aristocracy (small group) by officers of the Royal Horse Artillery who were training nearby. Although barely 6000 yards from the tips, the course has been praised as a classic links by the likes of famed writer Peter Doberiner and noted English golf architect Donald Steel. The club’s emblem is the Natterjack Toad, a hideous looking creature with orange spots on its back that finds the course grounds one of its few remaining habitats. The purchase of a souvenir with the club emblem is a must for the visiting golfer and a certain conversation starter when one returns home.
Ireland – Doonbeg Golf Links, a Greg Norman design that opened for play in 2002. The course is quite a natural links course hugging the coast of County Clare. Little earth was moved to create what some have claimed will be one of Southwest Ireland’s finest and most natural courses. Environmental restrictions resulted in a somewhat disjointed routing that can make the whole seem somewhat less than the sum of several spectacular holes.
Ireland – The European Club is a rugged links course located in the Wicklow Hills on a sandy spit called the Mizen Head. The Irish Sea can be seen from every hole and so can every landing area. The lack of blind shots is atypical of the great links courses but designer Patrick Ruddy, has made this an enjoyable test. We’ve always viewed the course amongst the world’s best; in its 2003 world rankings, Golf Magazine finally agreed with us.
Ireland – Island Golf Club, a sturdy links course with a character which sharply contrasts that of the more tame dunes found at other Dublin area links courses. The original design was conceived by a group of wealthy Irishmen in the late 1800’s, though today’s course bears more the mark of Fred Hawtree and later Eddie Hackett. The course itself is a pleasant links surprise when tackling the links of Dublin; definitely worth a stop if in the area.
Ireland – The K Club -Palmer Course, venue of the 2006 Ryder Cup. The course is an Arnold Palmer design that has earned its stripes by hosting numerous European Tour events, most recently the annual Smurfit European Open. This scenic parkland course is immaculately groomed and is set in one of the most peaceful settings in Ireland.
Ireland – Lahinch Golf Club An Old Tom masterpiece, Lahinch is something of a 19th century course, with several blind holes and crossing fairways. The blind par three “Dell” is one of the most famous par threes in all golf. For sheer fun, we rank this with Prestwick and the West Links in Scotland. As a test of golf, improvements by McKenzie in the 1920s and more recently by Martin Hawtree make it the equal of Ballybunion, one of our favourites.
Ireland – Old Head Golf Links A new course, designed by a committee, Old Head is spectacularly perched on a rocky peninsula, jutting out, into and high above the Atlantic. It has already earned a ranking in the top 100 courses in the world and is fast becoming one of the must-play courses for our Irish troops. If you haven’t grown weary of the scenery along the Irish coastline yet, this one might put you over the edge.
Ireland – Portmarnock Golf Club A most exclusive private club, Portmarnock is considered one of the “big four” in Ireland, and has hosted more Irish Opens than any other course. There are no weak holes here, but it is a subtle course. Portmarnock can go unappreciated the first time around, especially if there’s no wind.
Ireland – Portstewart Golf Club is a challenging test that begins with an opening drive to a fairway some 75 feet below the tee. One of our members who rates courses for Golf Digest course describes the setting for the opening nine as one of the most visually stunning in all of golf. (We think he liked it.)
Ireland – Royal County Down Golf Club Tucked artfully between the Mountains of Mourne and Dundrum Bay, playing Royal County Down can sometimes take second place to gazing at the scenery. Designed by Old Tom Morris for the princely sum of £4 in 1889, the course weaves through the rugged dunes along the shore in a totally natural fashion; simply put, this masterpiece is one of the best. And it is the highest rated course in Ireland.
Ireland – Royal Dublin Golf Club A traditional out and back links layout whose greens are amongst the best in Ireland, Royal Dublin is the second oldest club in Ireland and the only “Royal” in the Republic. The present course was designed after WWI by famed English architect, Harry Colt. Because the club’s long time professional, Christy O’Connor, played in more Ryder Cups than any other European, the clubhouse sports an interesting collection of Cup photographs and memorabilia.
Ireland – Dunluce Course at Royal Portrush Golf Club This extremely demanding links course is the only course off mainland Britain ever to host the Open Championship (1951). Barring the carnage at Carnoustie in 1999, Dunluce still boasts one of the highest winning scores in modern day Open history. Difficulty aside, the course is quite scenic and an enjoyable test of golf.
Ireland – Tralee Golf Club Arnold Palmer’s first European design (some say his best). Flanked by the Atlantic on three sides, Tralee is another of the Irish links courses with spectacular scenery. The back nine here is a wild one, offering the player many opportunities for ‘hero’ shots; the front less so.
Ireland – Waterville Golf Links As scenic as any stop on the Ring of Kerry, windy Waterville is a sturdy links course with one of the better back nines in all of golf. Owned by Americans, it is one of the few Irish courses that offer motorized buggies. Recent improvements by Tom Fazio have made the course even better. There are also different sets of tees, making the experience fun for those who would perish on the likes of Ballybunion.
Ireland – Donegal Golf Club… Darren Clark proclaims this to be his favorite course in the world and with good reason. Ranked by Golf World Magazine as one of the 100 best courses in the world you must play, the excellence of Donegal can be measured by the yard. The course literally juts out into the sea to the point where one is surrounded on almost all sides by water. Rolling fairways, ample bunkers and holes with names like Wee Dunt, Foster’s Castle and our personal favorite Bogey Hill give the first time an idea of what their up against. Afterwards you can commiserate, settle up and sit back in a fine well appointed clubhouse worthy of members visiting from the finest private clubs.
Ireland – Portsalon Golf Club… established in 1891 as one of the founding members of the oldest golfing union in the world – the Golf Union of Ireland (GUI). A short drive from Rosapenna Hotel & Resort, Portsalon is considered one of the true hidden gems among the courses of Ireland. It’s traditional Irish links golf, unspoiled, uncrowded and as charming as it is challenging. The nearby Knockalla Mountains and beaches of Lough Swilly provide an eclectic but pure and natural backdrop at every turn. At 6748 yards from tee one to hole 18, it should prove to be an ample test of your skills – especially when you add in factors such as wind, strategically positioned bunkers and a deep, green rough.
Ireland – Ballyliffin Golf Club… To say this now glorious club has had it’s share of troubles in its history would be an understatement. But what has emerged is one of the finest clubs and two of the greatest, most challenging and picturesque courses in the world. The Glashedy Links measure a formidable 7217 from the tips with an off-balance 35 for par on the front and 37 on the back (three par 3’s and three par 5’s). It’s older brother, the Old Links is a more manageable 6600 yards par 71 but don’t let the differences in distance lull you into thinking the old timer to be a piece of cake. It’s not. Moments spent regretting slight misclub will be comfortable by some of the most spectacular views of your journey
Ireland – Carne Golf Links…Carne lies in magnificent unspoiled sand dunes overlooking Blacksod Bay and the wild Atlantic Ocean near Belmullet Co. Mayo in the west of Ireland. Carne was the last links course to be designed by the late, great Irish architect, Eddie Hackett, and it is now believed by many who have played it to his greatest challenge. The building of Carne has caused little disturbance to this wild and ancient landscape. Tees and greens occurred naturally and very little earth moving was involved in the course construction. There are some breathtaking views over the Atlantic and the legendary islands of Inis Gloire and Inis Geidhe.
Ireland – Rosapenna Golf Links (Old Tom Course) The OTM Course was designed by Old Tom himself and dates to 1891. Much of the course lies in the valley between the ocean and the dunes. The course is more tame than the newer Sandy Hills, and at just under 6300 yards is shorter than most championship courses. The rolling fairways, outstanding North Atlantic scenery and varied shotmaking required to tackle the course combine to provide an enjoyable round for all golfers.
Ireland – Rosapenna Golf Club (Sandy Hills)…Sandy Hills opened in June 2003 to excellent reviews. Pat Ruddy, owner and designer of the European Club, expertly designed Sandy Hills to attack the dunes at every angle. The result is a very challenging links course with several sets of tees for golfers of all handicaps. Golfers will feel right at home if they have already experienced the similarly wild dunes of Portrush and Portstewart.
Ireland – Enniscrone Golf Club Reminiscent of the setting for world famous Royal County Down, Enniscrone is nestled on the shores of Killala Bay with the Ox Mountains lurking in the background. Location makes for good scenery but that is not all Enniscrone has to offer. Great shotmaking is required on a variety of well-designed holes.
Ireland – The Lough Erne Resort Faldo Course is situated on a peninsula on Northern Ireland’s huge & beautiful Lough Erne. Although a considerable distance from the sea, the fairways are rock hard and links like. Eleven of the eighteen holes play along the water. A most unusual course that should be played by any golfer visiting the area.
Ireland – Narin & Portnoo Golf Club is situated in a beautiful seaside resort in southwest County Donegal. It is considered one of the finest natural and scenic 18-hole links courses in Ireland, with sweeping views of Gweebarra Bay. Opened in 1932, it is engagingly old fashioned with a meandering routing over and around the dunes. The course has recently been re-developed and the new par 73 layout offers a range of teeing areas and challenges to suit all golfers.