Ireland's Fore!-most Golf Courses
For those of you with less time to browse all the courses in Ireland, focus on the ones that come highly recommended here. Separated by region, each course has a small description with midweek summer green fees listed. Some of the courses described are reasonably famous, while others are less known.
According to golf enthusiasts and various polls, Ireland's top ten courses are:
Old Head Golf Links
Mount Juliet Golf Course
Ballyliffin's Glashedy Course
Lahinch Golf Club
The Island Golf Club
Killarney Golf and Fishing Club
The K Club
Royal County Down Golf Club
Slieve Russell Golf and Country Club
If you are heading up into Northern Ireland, play some of the wonderful, yet slightly more expensive, courses there. (Remember, Northern Ireland uses the pound sterling.) One great choice is the Royal County Down (www.royalcountydown.org) near Newcastle. Perched on the sea with a backdrop of the Mourne Mountain's Slieve Donard, the championship course will set you back 75 in the low season and a whopping 160 midweek in the peak season. The place has a noteworthy history, but it is overpriced for the average golfer. The club also offers a more-affordable option at the Annesley Links with fees ranging 30–40.
Moving up along the Antrim Coast, the Royal Portrush Golf Club (www.royalportrushgolfclub.com) hosts the prestigious Dunluce Links and Valley Links courses. Dunluce will set you back 125 midweek, while Valley Links begins at 35. In County Derry, the Portstewart Golf Club (www.portstewartgc.co.uk) is of equal stature, offering three full-length courses. The most extraordinary of these is the Strand, which is a par-72 with low-season rates starting at 40 and summer midweek rates starting at 80. County Armagh's Portadown Golf Club (www.portadowngolfclub.co.uk) sits among orchards and is a good value starting at 30.
The Sunny Southeast
The southeast is Ireland's sunniest location. In the winter months, the splendid courses here will mean less chance of rain. In the summer, the area offers amazing beaches and sightseeing to appeal to golfers and nongolfers alike. In County Wexford, St. Helen's Bay Golf Club (www.sthelensbay.com) appears at the top of any avid golfers to-hit list. Midweek peak-season rates start at 45. Purchasing a Wexford Coastal Golf Pass for 125 will allow you to play three panoramic greens, including Rosslare Golf Club (www.rosslaregolf.com) and Seafield Golf Club (www.seafieldgolf.com).
In County Waterford, the Dunmore East Golf Club (www.dunmoreeastgolfclub.ie) is the region's premier parkland and golf arena, with impressive seaside vistas overlooking Hook Peninsula and the harbor. Not far away is the Mount Juliet Golf Course (www.mountjuliet.ie/golf) in Kilkenny. A premier getaway and golfer's haven, the fantastic layout was envisioned by none other than Jack Nicklaus. The course has won various awards and was named the best parkland golf course by Backspin Golf Magazine. Fees start at 100 midweek.
Courses in Cork and Kerry
For removed splendor and unparalled scenery, Counties Cork and Kerry offer some of Ireland's premier ranges. The region is renowned for its courses designed purposely to inspire with a backdrop of mountains and seascapes. With nearly fifty courses, the southwest is Ireland's most popular and premier golf destination.
County Cork has an amazing array of venues. Close to the city is the Cork Golf Club (www.corkgolfclub.ie). Fees start at 85 midweek with early-bird fees as low as 50. Weekends can get crowded, so book ahead. The fine clubhouse has a strict dress code, so if you want to enjoy the course's full amenities, bring pristinely pressed smart-casual attire.
In Clash, Little Island, outside of town is the formidable Harbour Point Golf Club (021 435 3094) with excellent midweek green fees starting at 37. For those profiting from time in the country's prettiest harbor town of Kinsale, the wildlife-friendly Old Head Golf Links (www.oldhead.com) is said to be Tiger Woods's favorite spot to play in all of Ireland. Bring your pot of gold to play; fees start at 295. The caddies are arguably some of the best in Europe.
Made ever popular as a practice range by visiting superstar Tiger Woods, the Waterville Golf Links (www.watervillegolflinks.ie) is one of Ireland's premier championship courses and deserves its ranking as one of the most-coveted courses to play in the world. Green fees start at 180 and they offer accommodations at the Waterville House; guests (and Tiger) receive preferential tee times.
The aptly titled Blarney Golf Resort (www.blarneygolfresort.com) in the Shournagh Valley offers a lovely eighteen-hole, par-71 course that was codesigned by John Daly. An on-site health spa, fairly priced luxury accommodations, and Lion's Den Bar are highlights best enjoyed after an enthralling day at the links. Contact the resort for various specials throughout the year.
County Kerry's Highlights
The otherworldly Dingle Peninsula is home to the equally alluring Dingle Golf Links (Ceann Sib éal; www.dinglelinks.com), which is an outstanding course overlooking the Blasket Islands and Atlantic Ocean. This often uncrowded golf course's noteworthy claim is its location; it is Europe's most westerly point to play the game!
Also in County Kerry, the Ballybunion Golf Club (www.ballbuniongolfclub.ie) hosts two courses, the famous Old Course and the rising star, the Cashen Course. Hosting various tourneys, this club has an interesting history with visitors such as Jack Nick-laus, Nick Faldo, Pat Bradley, and Cindy Rarick. The Cashen Course starts at 110, but combined tickets for the “Two-Course Experience” start at 265.
Golf legends the world over have gone into raptures about the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club (www.killarney-golf.com), which boasts three championship golf courses designated Mahony's Point, Lackabane, and Killeen. Each of the three offers its own crowning moments; the most challenging course is Killeen, with tight fairways and obstacles at every swing.
The Kerry Shamrock Golf Pass allows players to purchase three games on three of Kerry's most stunning courses. The ever-popular Killarney Golf and Fishing Club, Dingle Golf Links, and Dooks Golf Links in Glenbeigh are all a part of this promotion. Ask about the Shamrock Golf Pass when you call or frequent the pro shop at any of these participating courses.
Located on the edge of Kerry's central city, the Tralee Golf Club (www.traleegolfclub.com) is another of Arnold Palmer's gems. Fees start out at 180 per round; often two-for-one and husband-wife deals are promoted on their website. Also in northern Kerry, the Listowel Golf Club (068 21 592) was christened in the mid-1990s. The course is adorned with a forest and river running through its middle. This parkland course has excellent green fees starting at 20 per round.
One golf pass that continues to be on offer for 125 is the Cork Kerry International Golf Challenge Pass, which allows tee times at three grand courses. This pass is available at the Ring of Kerry Golf and Country Club (www.ringofkerrygolf.com), the Kenmare Golf Club (www.kenmaregolfclub.com), and the Lee Valley Golf and Country Club (www.leevalleygcc.ie).
The West and Northwest
The starkly beautiful Shannon and northwest sections of Ireland offer stupendous links situated among undulating hills, sublime sea cliffs, and Gaeltacht charm. This rather large region will truly appeal to golfers searching for distinctive play with unrivaled beauty.
One of the most popular names and courses in the region is the Lahinch Golf Club (www.lahinchgolf.com), which has two sets of links in the Old Course and the Castle Course. Located less than one hour from the Shannon Airport and positioned along the Atlantic coastline; the most favored shot is the fifth, which calls for strategic play over a sand dune. Old Course rates start at 165, while the Caste Course starts at 55.
The Adare Golf Resort (www.adaregolfclub.com) in County Limerick is the area's premier championship golf destination. Owned and operated by the adorned Adare Manor (www.adaremanor.com), the course is a stretch of the Shannon region's most pristine scenery. Inviting packages include a round of golf and a night's accommodations starting at 190.
A more affordable option in Shannon is the Woodstock Golf and Country Club (www.woodstockgolfclub.com), situated outside of Ennis. This parkland course has midweek rates around 50 and a friendly atmosphere to boot. Another parkland course of equal caliber is the Ennis Golf Club (www.ennisgolfclub.com), with superbly priced green fees set at 35 through the week and 40 on weekends.
Travelers spending time in Galway will want to check out the Galway Bay Golf and Country Club (www.galwaybaygolfresort.com). Exposed to the sweeping winds from the Atlantic, this PGA championship course is playable for 100 midweek and offers some of the west's most challenging barriers this far from Dublin! Another is the nearby Galway Golf Club (www.galwaygolf.com), located along the bayside it offers ocean views and is only a few minutes drive outside the city center in the burb of Salthill. Green fees start at 50.
The Connemara Championship Links (095 23 502) has exceptional midweek rates starting at 65. Designed by Eddie Hackett and Tom Craddock, the breathtaking course is superimposed with the sepia backdrop of the Twelve Ben peaks.
A Historical Gem: County Sligo Golf Club
Moving north, one of the region's most splendid courses is the County Sligo Golf Club (www.countysligogolfclub.ie). Positioned on the inspirational Rosses Point, this course might be Ireland's most historically significant for its connection to Yeats Country; the original land was rented by the uncle of Jack and W. B. Yeats. Originally their uncle did not want to renew the one-year lease but succumbed to one persistent member named James Campbell who offered a ten-year plan and made the uncle an honorary associate. With the prominent Benbulben in the foreground and mount Knocknarea just behind, the regular green fee of 75 is not too much to ask.
While searching for golf courses in the west and northwest of Ireland, one handy resource is the North and West Coast Links (www.northandwestcoastlinks.com) association. They promote and offer a varied selection of golf passes, packages, and reasonable rates on accommodations. With twelve championship links represented, bargains and up-to-date information are their forte.
Golfer's Retreat: County Donegal
Any traveler heading off the beaten path will do well here; golfers will revel in the unvarnished allure of this truly removed corner of Ireland. The Rosapenna Golf Resort (www.rosapenna.ie) is one fine example of two adjacent courses that beckon play. The first is the legendary Old Tom Morris Club. Sitting next to it is the Sandy Hill Links, designed and detailed by the acclaimed Pat Ruddy. A bargain for those staying at the resort, a round is fixed at 30.
For the truly removed, a visit to the twin courses at the Ballyliffin Golf Club (www.ballyliffingolfclub.com) on the Inishowen Peninsula and overlooking the Pollan Bay is a delight not found elsewhere. Green fees to the Old Links course and the Glashedy Links are similar, commencing with peak midweek rates at 75. Play-and-stay packages are worthwhile; the clubhouse holds true to Irish hospitality with wonderful craic and a great pint!