13 OF THE BEST GOLF COURSES IN IRELAND
Our luxury golf vacations in Ireland give you access to some of the most challenging golf courses set in breath-taking locations, many of which are set along the country’s rugged coastline. There are so many fantastic courses to choose from, and our loyal clients return year after year for their annual golfing vacation.
What’s more is that our gorgeous stately homes and Irish castles can make your trip all the more special, and can be an extra special treat for your golf group or your family. Our featured properties are out-of-this world spectacular, and there’s a variety of fun activities to do both on and off site. So golfing can be combined with spas, culinary experiences, hiking, shooting, deer stalking, sailing, and many other sports.
But of course, most of you will be here for the amazing links and clifftop courses. Less than 1% of the world’s courses are true links, and 85% of these are located in Britain and Ireland alone. Which is why bespoke golf travel is so sought after at LTR.
1. BALLYBUNION (OLD COURSE)
The Old Course, established in 1893, ranks as the number golf course in Ireland on the Top 100 Golf Courses website. Located in the historic town of its namesake in Co. Kerry, the wonderment begins before you even get there. Drive through the town on the winding road to the club and you will encounter one of the most amazing views a links course has to offer.
A carpet of lush greenery, crashing sea waves, and dramatic cliff drops with historic remains are finished with a sandy beach nearby. There’s such a stunning panoramic view of the ocean – it’s an excellent place for coastal walks, not just golfing.
This is a members club that is open to visitors throughout the season. It’s not unusual for clients to visit from across the globe, particularly for The Old Course and The Cashen Course.
Top tip: A tee shot slightly right of the bunkers is ideal on this course. Go too far left and there’s a risk of going in the pot bunker, and you’ll also want to avoid the graveyard which is out of bounds.
2. LAHINCH (OLD COURSE)
Another top ranking golf course, this time in a small town on Liscannor Bay, situated on the northwest coast of Co Clare. This championship course was designed by British golf course architect, Dr Alister MacKenzie, who famously said in 1926: “Lahinch will make the finest and most popular golf course that I, or I believe anyone else, ever constructed.”
To this day, the course remains as one of the most significant golfing destinations in Europe. However, it should be noted that the greens were flattened out shortly after construction as the committee agreed that MacKenzie’s greens were simply too tough for the average golfer.
Expect green fee rates to be higher for The Old Course (The Castle Course is a sixth of the price)
Top tip: Take note of where the goats are. If you see them sheltering near the clubhouse, take your umbrella in case it rains as they are believed to sense storms before they happen.
3. ROYAL COUNTY DOWN
A favorite of Tiger Woods, Royal County Down Championship Links is located in Newcastle in Co Down (not to be confused with Newcastle in Co Dublin, or Newcastle in Co Wicklow). Set equidistant between two of Ireland’s capitals, Dublin and Belfast, it’s the ideal course for anyone staying in these cities.
The course, which was founded in 1889, is frequented by Darren Clarke and Rory Mcllroy, and is best known for having very distinct holes throughout. Each one is unique, providing golfers of all levels with an interesting game. The bearded bunkers are renowned, and the ninth hole happens to be one of the most photographed holes in global golf!
With water on three sides, this could be one of the most dramatic courses in the world. So the effort required to get to Ireland’s southwestern tip is well worth it. Waterville Golf Links is located in Murreagh, Co Kerry, and area of untouched beauty and a great place for a group or family vacation.
The stunning course (designed by Jack Mulcahy, Claude Harmon and and Eddie Hackett) plays over a plot of dunes and is enveloped by water where the River Inny meets the Atlantic. The course has welcomed prestigious players from across the globe, including Glen Dick, PGA Professional from Australia. He said about his golfing experience here: “The course and facilities were amazing and the staff made the experience an exceptional one.”
Where to stay: Churchtown House (sleeps 12 guests in 5 bedrooms) with all-weather tennis court, located 1 hour from Waterville.
5. THE K CLUB
Follow in the footsteps of champions at The K Club in Co Kildare. Host to the Ryder Cup and with two luxurious courses that resemble typical parkland courses seen in the U.S, this is one of the best places to enjoy a round of golf in Ireland.
The Ryder Cup Course offers very reasonable green fee rates from January to September, and there are also some superb dining options at the resort. Both the snack bar and the Legends Restaurant are open every day of the week.
Where to stay: Straffan House (sleeps 20 guests in 10 bedrooms) with indoor pool and ‘swim up’ bar, located 30 mins from Dublin Airport.
Tucked away in the peaceful corner of ‘The Velvet Strand’ (a Blue Flag beach area in CoDublin) is the spectacular Portmarnock Golf Links. It’s one of Ireland’s most stunning stretches of coastline, much of it untouched and beautifully rugged.
The course was designed by Bernhard Langer as his first architectural accomplishment. He was a three-time winner of the Irish Open at the nearby clubs of Portmarnock and Royal Dublin, so it made sense for his first course to be here. There’s been a recent investment program, pumping more money into the course and upgrading all the machinery, making it a great place to play for the modern golfer.
In addition to the award-winning links, there’s also an award-winning spa and some wonderful places to dine or enjoy afternoon tea, making this location the ultimate romantic getaway for him and her.
7. THE EUROPEAN CLUB
This course is widely known to be the final links course to be built in the 20th Century. So it’s the very last of its kind, and it’s a fine example of what a modern day links course should be. Carved into the sandy hills close to Brittas Bay, this is one of the top clubs in Co Wicklow, lending the most breath-taking views of rolling greenery and the Irish coastline.
It offers the most exciting sand dunes for every level of player, and all 20 holes can be found winding through and around the dunes to keep even the most seasoned golfers on their toes. The links record is 67, held by Tiger Woods and numerous stars have played here, including Rory Mcllroy (who won the Irish Amateur title on this course) and Padraig Harrington.
Top tip: Watch out for the longest green in the world at hole 12. It measures127 yards and requires a great three-putt technique.
8. OLD HEAD
A mesmerizing course with the most jaw-dropping views. Located in Downmacpatrick, Kinsale in Co Cork, Old Head is one of the most famous links around. Occupying a headland that shoots straight into the Atlantic, this is perhaps the most unique golf vacations you will ever have.
The second and fourth holes will set the pace early on, and the closing stretch will have you on your toes too. The twelfth is where it gets really tricky though, and the slightest of pulls can have your ball dropping down to the crashing waves and caves below.
This is a members club, but with connections to other prestigious golf courses around the world so one membership can give you access to multiple destinations.
Where to stay: Ballynatary Country House (sleeps 18 guests in 9 bedrooms) with an indoor swimming pool and sauna, located 45 minutes from Cork airport.
9. ROYAL BELFAST
The visual trickery of this course is what makes it an interesting play for most golfers. The view ranges from the intertidal sea inlet of Belfast Lough all the way to Co Antrim, giving it a deceptive look in size. There are just 9-11 holes set right on the shoreline, and it’s considered to be one of the more casual courses in comparison to others in the country. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s an easy course though, as you’ll be met with a set of long par fours, and two of the final three holes are strong par fives.
It was designed by the one and only Harry Colt (assisted by W.A Murray), and the concept was to create holes rolling over parkland for a style that was easy on the eye. Trees and lush green fairways with gentle elevation and smart bunkering make this course a favorite amongst golfers. This is a seriously charming course, one that still comes with a full-on challenge.
10. DOOKS CLUB
Another top club in Co Kerry, one that has been home to the world’s best players since 1880. It’s renowned as one of the oldest courses in the country, and boasts striking views of both Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and the Dingle Peninsula.
The course started as a 9 hole, with extension to 18 in the 1970s under the guidance of Eddie Hackett, and it was further improved by Martin Hawtree in 2002. The environment is tranquil and it isn’t as exposed as your typical Irish golf course, with a gentle wind and a stunning variety of heather and wild flowers.
This is a taste of traditional links at its very best. You’ll have to watch out for the local Natterjack Toad though – this is an endangered species so be careful not to injure them during your golf game.
11. COUNTY LOUTH / BALTRAY
This is a links golf course, host to the PGA European Tour twice – once in 2004 and a second time in 2009. It is set in the beautiful village of Baltray, just 4 miles from the town of Drogheda and around an hour’s drive from Dublin Airport.
The club was founded in 1892 and it has established itself as one of the finest links courses in Ireland. The Championship is a pure test for seasoned golfers, but there’s a variety of teeing options to suit all levels.
On site, there are two driving ranges, two putting greens, three chipping greens, and also a bunker green for practice.
12. ROYAL PORTSTEWART
The Strand Course at Royal Portstewart in Co Derry is one of the toughest golf courses in the world. If you’re a seasoned golfer who has spent many years on golf vacations across the globe, and you’re looking for a brand new challenge, this is the place to go on your next trip.
Not any old golfer can take on Royal Portstewart though. You’ll have to pull out all the stops, as this course, dubbed ‘The Sleeping Giant’, features rippling dunes and tricky greens to keep you game varied.
The views are spectacular from every hole, with wonderful visibility of the Atlantic Ocean at every turn.
12. DRUIDS GLEN
At the Wicklow Golf Club, you’ll be promised two championship golf courses, an exciting and varied play, breath-taking landscapes, and challenging holes that will make even the most talented pros nervous.
Tee off on a course of champions, with the most gorgeous natural surroundings within an area that is rich in history. This is one of the most prestigious golfing destinations in Europe, and the facilities on site are second to none. There’s a golf shop, a stylish fine dining restaurant, a bar, and an area serving traditional afternoon tea. Book in advance though, as reservations get taken up very early during the peak golfing season.