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Since the establishment of the Royal Curragh Golf club back in 1853, Ireland has become recognised globally as a great golfing destination. Whether you’re combining it with a trip to the British Isles, or taking it on its own, it’s bound to be a fulfilling golfing experience. With 332 golf clubs, the Republic of Ireland boasts one third of all links courses in the world and includes a slew of exceptional championship courses in spectacular locations. From the historic array of golf courses in the east to the wind battered links in the west, the Emerald Isle has everything you need!
A golfer rating of 9.1 on Leadingcourses.com indicates that Ireland is outstanding as a golf destination. So we’ve compiled a shortlist of the ten best golf courses in the Republic of Ireland.
*Note: This list is based upon ratings and reviews of real golfers. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Leadingcourses.
The County Sligo Golf Club is as challenging as it is scenic. The 18 hole traditional links layout – designed by Harry Colt – measures 6,136 metres with the 9-hole course at 2,785 metres. Bordering the Atlantic Ocean with Benbulben and Knocknarea as the backdrop, the course utilizes the natural contours of the dune-covered landscape. There are especially scenic views of five Irish counties from the third tee. The course provides a challenge to the best of golfers while fun for all. County Sligo is open to visitors all year round and comes equipped with its own floodlit driving range.
Carne Golf Links sits on the West Coast of Ireland and lies in magnificent unspoiled sand dunes. The course overlooks Blacksod Bay and the wild Atlantic Ocean near the town of Belmullet. The Eddie Hackett designed 6,700 yard links, proves to be a challenging test from the opening par 4 to the magnificent par 5 18th. The layout of this course gives the sense that it has been here since ancient times. Its white sandy Atlantic beaches stretch for miles and its bountiful wildlife provide a warm welcome. An additional 9 holes (The Kilmore 9) opened in 2013. Jim Engh Design and McIntosh Golf Design created these holes.
The beautiful Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort is situated in County Wicklow, “the Garden of Ireland”. It is just twenty miles south of Dublin (east coast) and about 50 mins from the airport. Nestling between the Wicklow Mountains and the Irish Sea, the spectacular resort consists of two contrasting championship golf courses; Druids Glen and Druids Heath. The course hosted the Irish Open four years in a row (1996 – 1999), as well as the prestigious Seve Trophy. This parkland course offers 6,202 yards, and the island green at 17 provides one of the most exciting tests in golf.
Established in 1890, The Island Golf Club enjoys a unique setting bordered by the Irish Sea on 3 sides. It is a classic links course set in a rugged terrain & nestled between the highest sand dunes along the east coast of the country. Only 15 minutes from Dublin Airport and 30 minutes from Dublin City Centre, The Island is one of the Ireland’s oldest courses and enjoys an excellent international reputation. The club currently hosts Regional Qualifying games for The Open Championship and has co-hosted strokeplay qualifying for the British Amateur Championship in 2019. Consistently ranked among the top courses in Ireland, it is required playing for those wishing to gain a true links experience.
On the north west coast of County Kerry lies one of the most well known golf courses in Ireland, Ballybunion Golf Club. It sits perched on a beautiful stretch of sand dunes overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. There are two challenging and unique links golf courses here -the Old Course and the Trent Jones Cashen Course. The Old Course provides contoured fairways that tumble down through a blanket of grassy dunes while the TJC Course is located along the sweeping, undisturbed shoreline, and offers breathtaking views throughout. Whatever your choice of course, every hole, every hazard and every shot is defined by the rugged nature of the west coast of Ireland.
The club is the latest stage in the evolution of Castleblayney Golf Club. Initially founded as a 9 hole course in 1905, Concra Wood Golf & Country Club was located opposite the entrance to Concra Wood. The course then closed down in 1949 and it wasn’t until 1985 that it was reborn in the grounds of Hope Castle (visible across Lough Muckno). It finally moved to its current location in 2008, and expanded to 18 holes. The course has a nice layout and there is a good variety of holes. Concra Wood is both hilly and long and you may need to call in the help of a buggy. It is a unique setting and is guaranteed to impress all who play or visit here.
Lahinch Golf Club is situated on the west coast of Ireland beside the little village of Lahinch, county Clare. Before last years Irish Open (2019), the last professional tournament held at Lahinch was the 1975 Carroll’s Irish Match Play, won by Christy O’Connor Jr. Founded in 1892, the original layout of the Old Course was the creation of Old Tom Morris. His world famous Klondyke and Dell holes remain in play today. It has been described as ‘The St Andrews of Ireland’ and those who know the place firmly believe that it doesn’t need comparison with any of the game’s other world class venues.
Designed and built by Arnold Palmer, this stunning setting represents a true paradise for those willing to challenge it. The course is widely acclaimed as one of the finest links courses in the world. Although the whole course is magnificent, it is the back nine at Tralee Golf Club that sets it apart from the rest of the field. Each hole hugs the rugged coastline and provides spectacular views while taking the golfer back in to the clubhouse. Compared to tougher courses like Ballybunion or Lahinch, Tralee is surprisingly playable for the majority of golfers. However, as mentioned it is the experience of the course that settles itself into the golfers memory.
Home to the spectacular and challenging championship Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. A golfers dream. Voted Best Parkland Course in the greater Dublin area, Killeen Castle Golf Club is located only 30 mins from both Dublin city centre and Dublin Airport. The course measures over 7,700 yards from the back tees and the substantial investment in the drainage system has provided a course that is playable 365 days of the year. Killeen Castle hosted the prestigious Solheim Cup in 2011, attracting some of the greatest female golfers in the world. This course is not to be missed.
Sitting at the top of our list of the best golf courses in Ireland is Old Head Golf Links. This true links is among the most renowned golf courses in the world. It was purchased in 1989, before John and Patrick O’Connor spent nearly ten years creating the breathtaking course. It finally opened in 1997. The track reaches out over two miles into the Atlantic Ocean and is home to the most spectacular world-class golf course. Located in County Cork on the South West Coast of Ireland, the Old Head of Kinsale has developed into one of the most recognised and sought after golf experiences anywhere on earth.
Golf Courses in Ireland
So there you have it. Ireland has got you sorted for your next golfing experience. And it’s not just the golf that brings people here. The people of Ireland are known worldwide for their warm hospitality and rich culture. There are plenty of sights to plan your golf trip around too. Castles, cliffs and remote Atlantic islands to name but a few. The cities of Dublin, Galway and Cork serve up some great nightlife and attractions. While the country’s countless small villages provide authentic pubs, traditional music and spectacular scenery.
Keep in mind that we have not included Northern Ireland in this post. Just over an hour north of Dublin you will find special courses such as Royal Portrush, Royal County Down and Royal Belfast. You can check out our blog on these courses here.