Best Courses in Ireland and Northern Ireland

By Ryan Watson


Ireland is an enchanting place with thousands of years of history and culture. Ireland is today comprised of two countries: the larger Republic of Ireland in the south and the smaller Northern Ireland. Together, these countries are home to some of the best golf in the world. Along with Scotland and England, Ireland was instrumental in the development and spread of the game of golf and boasts some of the world's oldest and most beautiful courses. The following are 5 of Ireland’s best courses, old and new, that any golfer should try and play when visiting the Emerald Isle. 


Royal Portrush Golf Club (Dunluce Links)

Dunluce Rd, Portrush BT56 8JQ, 
Northern Ireland

The only course to host the Open Championship outside of Scotland and England, 2019 Open Championship host Royal Portrush Golf Club is one of the finest examples of classic links golf. The Dunluce Links course dates all the way back to 1888, though the current layout is primarily the result of the work of course architect H.S. Colt in 1929. The course has since seen some alterations, notably the creation of 2 new holes, to ensure the course remains challenging to modern golfers. The course features strategic bunkering and stunning views of the Irish Sea to create one of the world’s best courses. 


Tralee Golf Club

2 The Square, Barrow, Ardfert,
Co. Kerry, V92 E336, Ireland

The Tralee Golf Club was founded in 1896, but its current course was opened in 1984. This Arnold Palmer designed links course on the rugged Atlantic coast offers beautiful scenery to match its challenging layout. Palmer claimed that while he designed the front nine, “surely God designed the back 9”. That sentiment is reflected in how well these holes hug the coastline and seemingly melt into the natural terrain. Golfers are sure to enjoy their time amongst the dunes and cliffs on this Irish treasure. 


Trump International Golf Links Doonbeg

Doughmore Bay, Doonbeg, 
Co. Clare, Ireland

Trump International Golf Links Doonbeg, formerly known as the Doonbeg Golf Club, is a modern entry onto this list, first opening in 2002. The links course was designed by Hall of Famer Greg Norman, and received at update from Dr. Martin Hawtree after the Trump Organization purchased the property in 2014. The course is a loop that travels across links-land and hugs the Atlantic coast to create an excellent golfing experience. 


Ballybunion Golf Club (Old Course)

Sandhill Rd, Ballybunion, 
Co. Kerry, Ireland 

Ballybunion Golf Club was founded in 1893 on the same land where today’s course now resides. The course remains much the same from those early days, with noted architect Tom Simpson applying what he called “finishing touches” to the course in 1936. The course became a favorite amongst elite golfers and the course would see its popularity grow over the next few decades. When Tom Watson, fresh from winning the Open Championship, declared that “Nobody can call himself a golfer until he has played at Ballybunion” the secret was out. The course provides a pure test of links golf at its finest. 


The Royal County Down Golf Club

36 Golf Links Rd, Newcastle BT33 0AN
Northern Ireland, UK 

Considered by many to be the best course in all of Ireland, and perhaps in Europe, the Royal County Down Golf Club's original course was designed by the legendary “Old” Tom Morris. The Morris design would then be updated by another legend, Harry Vardon, in 1908 and further improvements occurred in 1926 under the eye of Harry Colt. The course jaunts along the Irish Sea and offers views of the Mourne Mountains. The course often appears to be carved directly from the natural landscape. Indeed, much of what makes Royal County Down so remarkable is how natural it all feels, as if this land were destined to be one of the world’s best courses. 



About The Author

Ryan Watson is a freelance sportswriter and history professor. He has been an avid fan of golf since his father signed him up for golf camp as a young child. Ryan enjoys following the professional game and learning about new equipment and gadgets.


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