If you’ve only recently been into golf or have played round after round, it’s important to know the best golf courses in Ireland. The Emerald Isle is known for its rich scenery, vibrant colors, and amazing natural locations.
Of course, these elements could be the perfect combination to create magnificent golf courses across the country. Now that you’re intrigued enough to know more, let’s dive into our topic headfirst!
Does Ireland Have Good Golf Courses?
Yes. It’s worth noting that Ireland is home to 25% of natural links courses in the world. This is thanks to several factors including its mountainous landscape and breathtaking coastline. Yet, these natural elements aren’t the only reason why great golf courses exist in Ireland.
See, the sport of golf first originated in Scotland, specifically in Fife, in the 15th century. Soon enough, this relaxing yet challenging sport reached Ireland. So, it’s only normal for golf to become part of the country’s history, which caused numerous golf courses to exist.
In Ireland, you should find all sorts of courses and links. They range from cliff-top locations to world class clubs that have coastal views, to courses that jut a mile or two into the Atlantic Ocean.
These are only a few examples of what you might come across if you want to play golf in Ireland. Pretty impressive, don’t you agree?
What Is the Best Golf Course in Ireland?
The answer to this question may not be as straightforward as the previous one. What could be best for you might not work for another person. Some courses have easier front nine than back nine, and vice versa.
For this reason, we’ve decided to include a list of some of the best golf courses in Ireland. That should help you find a perfect fit for when you’re on vacation and golf is your top priority.
Whether you’re an experienced or an occasional player, we’re sure you’ll come to appreciate the following beautiful locations.
1. Royal County Down Golf Club
The Royal County Down Golf Club is one of the oldest, and most famous, clubs in Ireland. Not just that, the club is home to the world’s number one golfer Rory McIlroy. It’s also number one on Golf Digest Ireland Top 100 Golf Courses list.
Yet, its reputation isn’t the only reason why international golf enthusiasts would like to visit it.
This Northern Ireland golf club rests within the Murlough Nature Reserve. It simply provides players with different vistas from each hole.
The 18-hole course truly tests the abilities of golf players thanks to the narrow fairways and other obstacles. However, its challenges are part of the fun.
Better yet, after you’re done with your game, you could take a seat in the clubhouse and enjoy a breathtaking view of the Mountains of Mourne. Note that this is a members-only club, but the good news is that visitors are allowed on certain days of the week.
There are also multiple hotels nearby, but the Burrendale Hotel, Country Club, and Spa may be the best bet if you want to stick to the foot of the mountains.
2. Lahinch Golf Club
Here’s another course in Ireland that’s favored by many people in the small nation. The Lahinch Golf Club is a haven for golf and surfing lovers alike, with charming green hills and the deep blue water nearby.
This nerve-calming spot has been recognized as a location for golf since 1852. As further testimony of its popularity, Lahinch is among the World’s Top 50 golf spots. The first two holes are pretty beginner-friendly with no hard challenging obstacles to get in your way.
However, things will start getting more interesting as we move to the fifth, sixth, and seventh holes in Lahinch. Named the Dell Hole, Paradise, and Blind Hookey respectively, these holes are favorites of many skilled golfers.
It’s also worth noting that the club has hosted the 2019 Irish Open Tournament.
As for lodging, you could always stay at the Lahinch Coast Hotel, Vaughan Lodge Hotel, or Atlantic Hotel.
3. Waterville Golf Links
The Waterville rests on exposed sand dunes and offer awe-inspiring views of the ocean. Yet, the terrain itself may be tricky even for the most experienced of international golf players. But who doesn’t like a challenge, right?
This beautiful course has a golf history that goes back to 1889, making it a must-visit location if you’re on a golf vacation. What adds to its charm is that the course went through a lot before it came to be one of the best golf courses in Ireland.
For a long while, it was misused and left to be mowed by sheep. Irishman Jack Mulcahy bought the land in 1963 and took the location in a whole new direction. He hired Ireland’s top links designer, Eddie Hackett, to transform it into the beauty that you can see today.
Many famous golf players have enjoyed the full experience of Waterville, which lies along the southwestern tip of Ireland. These include Tiger Woods, Mark O’Meara, and the late Payne Stewart.
If you wish to spend the majority of your golf vacation here, we advise you to stay at the Waterville House itself. You could also go to the Butler Arms Hotel or Smugglers Inn. Plus, there are many Kerry festivals you can attend while you’re there.
4. Portmarnock Golf Club
This is another well-known course in Northern Ireland that many golf enthusiasts wish to visit.
Not only is it located on the outskirts of Dublin, but it’s also 20 minutes away from the airport. If you don’t wish to go further than Dublin, the Portmarnock Golf Club may be a good option for a golf vacation.
Of course, there are more reasons why this golf club is respected worldwide. It’s hosted many golf tournaments throughout the years. These include 19 Irish Opens, the 1991 Walker Cup, and the 2019 Amateur Championship.
It’s also hard to resist the soothing scenery, the vibrant greens, and the lovely waters of the coastline. Just imagine how it will feel playing your favorite sport in that location, not to mention that you’ll get to stand where many golf legends stood.
Langer, Woosnam, Crenshaw, and more have won at the Portmarnock Golf Club.
It’s also good to know that you can book a residence at the Portmarnock Hotel. If you’re on a tiger budget, you’ll find plenty of inns and hotels to stay at in Dublin, and you could easily get to Portmarnock from there.
5. Royal Portrush Golf Club
This charming venue is one of the best golf courses in Ireland, and many golfers across the globe dream of giving it a visit. But what’s the reason behind this passion for the Royal Portrush Golf Club?
Well, first of all, everyone agrees on the natural beauty of this course. It spreads on top of rolling sand dunes and provides impressive coastal panoramas. What a nerve-soothing backdrop to play golf in front of!
The Royal Portrush Golf Club has two links golf courses, the Valley Links and the Dunluce Links. The latter is the championship course, where the Irish pro golfer Shane Lowry took home the cup of the 2019 Open Championship.
Sure, the Royal Portrush is a private members-only club. Still, you can visit it if you’re a member of a recognized golf club. As for your lodging options, the Golflinks hotel is one of the best places to spend your golf vacation at. It’s close to the club and the beach, which is a nice plus.
6. Rosses Point Golf Course
Here’s a top course in Ireland that’s loved by many professionals and amateurs in and outside the country. Rosses Point is a world class course that rests on top of sand dunes.
It also offers majestic scenes of the blue water against the skies, soothing the senses and calming stressed nerves. For a golf getaway, who wouldn’t want to spend their days at such a beautiful place?
It’s worth noting that County Sligo is where the legendary Pat Ruddy was raised.
While County Sligo is a bit far from all the other famous courses in Ireland, it’s worth dedicating a special trip to it. It has a nice assortment of easy, intermediate, and hard golf holes where you can test your abilities the way you’d like.
If you’re worried about your stay, we recommend that you try the Yeats Country Hotel or the Strandhill Lodge and Suites. There are also plenty of restaurants in County Sligo to cater to your needs and ensure that you make the most of your golf vacation.
7. Ballybunion Golf Club
Another top golf club in Ireland is Ballybunion, and it’s located in Kerry, which lies in southwest Ireland. While its location doesn’t allow it to host world class championships, Ballybunion has seen many famous personalities.
For instance, Former US President Bill Clinton has paid Kerry a visit and tried the course. Not to mention that a lot of pro golfers often head there to practice and hone their skills. Simply, Ballybunion’s appeal lies in its formidable sand dunes and challenging links.
If you visit this 36-hole course, you’d be thrilled to try the Old Course and the Trent Jones Cashen Course. Both can uniquely test your gameplay, resulting in an unforgettable golf experience in one of the best golf courses in Ireland.
We were also delighted to know that Ballybunion is close to Kerry Airport. It’s surrounded by small and cozy hotels, but our favorite has to be the Wilde Ballybunion. It stands near the beach and the golf course, and it features a restaurant that serves amazing meals.
8. The K Club
Looking for a high-end estate where you can spend your hard-earned golf vacation? Well, this club is many things, but its best feature is that it houses numerous golf courses that were designed by Arnold Palmer.
The luxurious club includes top-notch accommodations, a spa, and world class golf courses. Plus, it’s located near Dublin, making it a great candidate if you wish to enjoy all the treats that the capital can offer.
Yet, the most notable thing about the K Club is that it has hosted many memorable golf events. The European Tour took place there, but most importantly, it hosted the 2006 Ryder Cup where Team Europe won.
9. Dooks Golf Club
Dooks Golf Club is one of the oldest golf courses in Ireland, and it’s undoubtedly one of the most beautiful. According to the club’s official website, Dooks is Ireland’s Most Scenic Golf Course of 2020. Pretty great, right?
The lovely course provides players with panoramic views of the Wild Atlantic Ocean and the Reeks mountain range. Not just that, it also promises an unforgettable technical challenge, which golfers from across the world would be thrilled to try.
The course includes 18 holes varying in difficulty and obstacles with a background of breathtaking scenery. Plus, it has a touch of welcome wilderness, featuring a variety of flowers and genuine sandy fairways. The contoured greens can also give you a feel of traditional golf.
10. Old Head Golf Links
Our final candidate on this list of the best golf courses in Ireland is Old Head. The reason behind its fame and reputation is that it spreads over the Old Head of Kinsale, which stretches two miles into the ocean.
After booking your tee time and playing a round, you’ll come to appreciate the golf course’s beauty. You’ll have the rolling sea and the cries of seagulls as your soundtrack while you play the golf of your dreams.
The course includes 18 holes, and, according to golfers who played there, Old Head is one of the trickiest golf courses to try. This is thanks to the open greens and the ever-changing weather.
Old Head has a fancy restaurant, spa, and 15 suites if you want your golf vacation to be luxurious. If you’d rather save some cash, you could always stay at one of the hotels in Kinsale, which is only a 20-minute drive away from the course.
Before we head to the next section, it’s important to mention the Doonbeg, which is a championship course in southwest Ireland. Designed by Greg Norman, it’s a links that many golfers want to play on.
What Is the Hardest Golf Course in Ireland?
There’s been a lot of debate on the hardest course on Ireland’s soil. However, many golfers seem to agree on certain holes within different golf links. Let’s take a quick look at the top three most challenging spots for golf in Ireland.
1. Royal County Down 9th Hole (Par 4)
In this hole, your starting point will be from the top of the a and shooting straight for the Mountains of Mourne. The next thing you know, the green will seem like it’s a mile away and it can be especially tricky to find the flat fairway.
You’ll have to squeeze between even more sand dunes to find your mark.
2. Ballybunion Old 11th (Par 4)
This is another intimidating hole that might fill you with adrenaline, according to those who played there. You’ll have the Atlantic Ocean at your right and below the tee, stretching until it reaches the green.
At this point, the winds tend to be strong, too, which might affect your gameplay. Even the fairway is a challenge, dropping down over several tiers between two sand dunes.
3. Royal Portrush 16th (Par 3)
Also known as Calamity Corner, this golf hole is world-famous for its difficulty. Once you step into the tee, you’ll be met with a deep chasm that the hole revolves around. With nothing but the blue sky behind the green, the view can be both captivating and scary.
A lot of golfers have experienced heartbreak after playing that hole, especially during the Irish Open.
What Are the 10 Best Golf Courses in the World?
Now that we’re a bit more familiar with the top golf courses in Ireland, let’s get to know some of the world’s best.
1. St. Andrews Links (The Old Course)
Scotland is where golf originated, so it’s only natural for the St. Andrews course to make the top of the list. This charming location has seen more than 500 years of golf history, and it’s a must-visit for all golf enthusiasts. It was designed by Old Tom Morris.
The Old Course has hosted the Open Championship 29 times with its 7,279 yards of beauty and par 72. It also includes a wide variety of challenges and hole contours to cater to each golfer’s needs.
2. Royal Melbourne Golf Club
Another world-famous course is the Royal Melbourne, which lies in the eastern part of Australia. Once you set foot in this golf heaven, you’ll quickly fall in love with its contoured greens and varying challenges.
The club offers two courses, which are the East Course and the West Course. Every hole within the front nine and back nine is worth trying.
3. Oakmont Country Club
The Pennsylvania-based golf club is known for its challenging holes and rough contours. Designed by the golfer Henry Fownes in 1903, the course tests the skills of the most experienced of golf players.
You should also know that the Oakmont Country Club has hosted the US Open Championship.
4. Pebble Beach Golf Links
Here’s another one of the best golf courses in the United States. Not only is that due to its seaside view, but also to the fact that anyone can play on the course. It’s not restricted to members, making it a perfect destination for someone on a golf getaway.
Running along the Pacific Ocean, Pebble Beach is a par 72 with eye-catching fairways and unforgettable scenery.
5. Royal County Down Golf Club
Our favorite Irish course has made countless appearances on worldwide lists of the best golf courses. This is thanks to the club’s 100 years of history, the luxurious experience that it grants you, and its position overlooking the Irish Sea.
The club was designed by Tom Morris, who made sure that the field ran side by side with the shoreline.
6. Royal Dornoch
Here’s another course located in Scotland that’s a must-see for all fans and players of golf. What’s even more interesting about Royal Dornoch is that it has seen a lot of golf history, which dates back to 1616. Wow, right?
The golf links offers a fantastic view of the coastline thanks to its location in the northern tip of the Scottish Highlands. Better yet, it’s the perfect picture of natural beauty with its rolling greens and round-trip layout.
The Paris-based course was designed by the British architect Tom Simpson. Its ageless design has impressed golfers from all over the world, especially with the course’s heather clumps and Scotch pines.
There’s also a dense forest surrounding the holes in Morfontaine. It gives the course dramatic vibes and promises a memorable golf experience.
8. Shanqin Bay Golf Club
This beautiful course, which is located in Hainan Island, China, is designed by both Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. It features wide, intricate greens and big corridors, not to mention that it flanks the South China Sea.
Sahnqin Bay has jungle elements as well as the natural appeal of the island location, which makes its design all the more unique.
9. Sunningdale Golf Club
The Sunningdale is one of the best golf courses that England has to offer, dating back to 1901. This course is routed like a golf links, having the ninth at the far end of the estate and a sand base beneath the turf.
The course also features big greens and artfully designed bunkers, making it a favorite of many golfers worldwide.
10. Ballybunion Golf Club
This is another Irish course that has an immediate spot on worldwide golf lists. The Ballybunion was designed by Lionel Hewson. Then, improvements have been made after the initial design by other architects.
The last addition was by Martin Hawtree, who added new tees on top of several sand dunes.
With awesome views of the Atlantic Ocean and Shannon River, Ballybunion is easily one of the most scenic courses on Ireland’s soil and in the world.
You’ve worked hard enough, and you deserve a golf vacation to satisfy your inner Rory McIlroy. If you’re ready for this exciting journey, you should know all you can about the best golf courses in Ireland.
Because the country is rich in golf history, you must visit it at one point or another in your life, right? You’ll enjoy the rolling greens, sea vistas, and intimidating mountains while trying golf holes of various challenges.
It’s time to pack your bags and prepare for a round of golf!