Golf in Northern Ireland, a dive into the unknown

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29 März 2022
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Northern Ireland may not be a big country or region, but they certainly hold their own when it comes to golf courses and top golfers. With 90 golf courses and Major winners such as Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke, golf is in Northern Ireland's veins.
Golfing in Northern Ireland is a great experience that every avid golfer should add to their bucket list! (Photo: Tourism Ireland)

Many Europeans will make their yearly commute to the sunny south of Europe for their golf holidays. Spain, Portugal and also Turkey have been favourites for years, however there’s so much more to discover in golf beyond those countries. Enter, Northern Ireland, your new bucket list golfing destination!

"Bang for your Buck"

A few years ago we conducted a study into the relationship between average green fee prices in a country and the appreciation that golfers give to golf courses. The results? Ranked at number 1 and 2 were Wales and Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, the usual suspects of Spain and Portugal were dangling a lot closer to the bottom, thanks to their higher green fee prices.

So if you're an adventurous golfer, take the plunge and visit Northern Ireland. Not only will you find yourself on some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world but you can kick back at cosy pubs with some of the loveliest people you’ll meet in Europe.

How can you travel from Europe to Northern Ireland?

The easiest and fastest way to travel to Northern Ireland is by plane, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take the more adventurous route by boat if you’re up for it! 

Fortunately, no matter how you get there, once in Belfast you only need another hour to an hour and a half by car to travel to most of the golf courses in the area, making it the perfect weekend trip!

Which golf courses in Northern Ireland should you play?

There are 90 golf courses in Northern Ireland so we’ve helped you narrow the selection to our favourite golf clubs.

Ardglass Golf Club

Dramatic aerial photos of Ardglass Golf Club in County Down (Photo: Tourism Ireland)

Ardglass Golf Club is an 18 hole links course in the south-east of Northern Ireland with great views and unique holes. The course is a 50 minute drive from Belfast and just 30 minutes from the Royal County Down Golf in Newcastle - arguably the best golf course in the world.

Ardglass is a real test, especially on a windy day. But that’s precisely what makes golf in this region so much fun. You have to play with the elements here. Or actually it's the other way around, the elements play with you and you have to adapt. It requires a different approach to your round and that makes playing on these types of courses very challenging and fun.

The golf course is located directly on the sea with 8 holes where the Irish Sea comes into play. The sea is visible from all 18 holes and on a clear day you can see The Isle of Man.

Portstewart Golf Club

More Northern Irish links golf at Portstewart Golf Club in County Antrim (Photo: Tourism Ireland)

Located on the beautiful Causeway Coast in northern Northern Ireland, Portstewart Golf Club is a difficult but fair golf course. Portstewart has three 18-hole courses. The Strand Course is without a doubt the most attractive of the three, thanks to the quality and scenery of the course.

Designed by Willie Park Jr and Des Giffin, the Strand Course is set in a classic links landscape between towering sand dunes and views of the Donegal Hills, the Atlantic Ocean and the River Bann.

The golf course has impressive bunkers, undulating fairways and challenging, but perfectly maintained greens. The view from almost every hole is magical. The opening hole with its elevated tee, dogleg right to the green and sand strip to the right, is an instant opening hole that you won’t be forgetting any time soon. 

Lough Erne Resort

Lough Erne is a delightful golf resort located in County Fermanagh (Photo: Tourism Ireland)

Northern Ireland also has a large number of beautiful parkland courses. One is Lough Erne, located in southwestern Northern Ireland, not far from the fun town of Enniskillen. Regularly voted one of the best golf resorts in all of Ireland, Lough Erne Resort offers a superb 36-hole golfing experience. You can easily spend a few days on the resort's two championship golf courses, the Faldo Course and the Castle Hume Course.

The Faldo Course, designed by six-time Major winner Sir Nick Faldo, offers excellent playing conditions all year round. The fairways have the same characteristics as the aforementioned links courses and the perfectly maintained greens roll wonderfully. The views of the surrounding Fermanagh Lakelands provide a stunning backdrop to the course, and the waters of Lough Erne come into play on 11 of the 18 holes.

Galgorm Castle 

Galgorm Castle in Antrim County is one of the finest parkland courses in Northern Ireland (Photo: Tourism Ireland)

Another beautiful resort only half an hour's drive north from Belfast is Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort. Galgorm Castle is one of the leading spa and golf destinations in the UK and Ireland. Set in 400 hectares of parkland and with two unique historic buildings, the surroundings of Galgorm Castle are impressive.

The par-72 course was designed by Simon Gidman and is located in the heart of the estate.If you’re looking for a relaxing round of golf, this is the place for you. The course is bordered by the Maine and Braid rivers which come into play on numerous holes. The variety of teeing areas provides an exciting and fun challenge for golfers of all levels and the central location makes the course a must for golfers planning a trip to Northern Ireland.

The two most famous golf courses in Northern Ireland

Royal County Down and Royal Portrush are synonymous with Northern Ireland, regularly featuring on lists of the best golf courses in the world. In fact, Royal County Down has been number 1 in the "Best Golf Courses in the World" list of leading American golf magazine Golf Digest for several years now and Royal Portrush is in the same list in 8th place.

It’s not surprising that these golf courses are so highly regarded, when playing there is such a great experience. Between the rolling dunes and the blooming gorse (make sure you don't get caught in them!) on both courses you will find yourself in golf heaven. Granted, getting a tee time on these courses isn't easy, but you should definitely put them on your bucket list!

Read more in detail about Royal County Down and Royal Portrush in the blog Leading Courses Evangelist Leonard van Nunen wrote about Golfing at the 3 Royal's in Northern Ireland.

Learn more about golfing in Northern Ireland

In addition to the courses mentioned above, there are many more golf courses in Northern Ireland to explore. You can view all of these golf courses in Northern Ireland here.

For more information on golf in Northern Ireland, also check out the Tourism Ireland website, which has a great article with lots of good links about golfing in Northern Ireland.

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