Hidden Gem Links Golf on the East coast of Ireland

07 juni 2022
min. läs
Guido van Reijen
Although Ireland offers beautiful parkland and moorland courses, the island's links courses are the main attraction for golfers. Ireland connaisseur Guido van Reijen visits the East of Ireland to play some Hidden Gem Links Golf.
Guido van Reijen enjoying himself at Royal County Down (Foto credits: Guido van Reijen)
Guido van Reijen enjoying himself at Royal County Down (Photo credits: Guido van Reijen)

There is a good reason why links courses are Ireland's main attraction; the game originated on these 'links' between the land and the sea. Moreover, these courses are located in the most beautiful and untouched dune landscapes. The special challenge that links golf courses offer makes it a joy to play them.

The green fees at some of the famous Irish 'links courses' have risen considerably in recent decades. The reason is scarcity: There are only a few hundred golf courses worldwide that fall within the 'links' definition, at the same time the demand for these types of golf courses - particularly among North Americans - continues to rise.

Ireland has about 60 links courses and is only trumped by 'The Home of Golf' Scotland in this area. However, not all of these golf courses have been touched by the American gold rush. Not because there is anything wrong with them, but because they are located outside the 'pilgrimage route'. Or because the members don't like to see a bus full of visitors arrive at their golf course. These are the golf courses that I would like to bring to your attention.

Most of Ireland's links courses can be found on the unspoilt North and West coasts. Often you need to drive a little further and they are not really located close to each other. Dublin also has several links courses like Portmarnock, The Island and Royal Dublin. Beautiful and neat. But popular, so also a bit more expensive.

Staying in Drogheda

From Dublin Airport we take the highway up North. After half an hour we arrive in Drogheda. Drogheda is located on the River Boyne. A famous battle was fought here in 1690 between the armies of the Catholic James II and the 'Dutch' William III, then King of England. Old fortifications in the centre remind us of this illustrious past. Since then, this town did not experience a lot of prosperity, but this is slowly starting to change.

The reason for staying here is that Drogheda is only 15 minutes from the mouth of the Boyne. The tides created a dune landscape on both the right and left banks of the river… Featuring 3 links courses: Seapoint Golf Links, County Louth Golf Club and Laytown & Bettystown Golf Club.

Hotels in Drogheda

Scholars Townhouse Hotel in Drogheda is located in a real Victorian building within walking distance of the centre. Originally it had a monastery function, but for the last 100 years, it has been a boys' school. It was bought by a family of local entrepreneurs at the beginning of this century and since 2005 it houses a restaurant, gastro bar and 16 three-star rooms. But history is still present everywhere in the hotel. Two couples run the place with expertise. The cuisine is excellent and the locals know this: it is packed every night. Pinkish we look for our bed, which is admittedly much too big for the room, but comfortable. We are delighted with Scholars because Drogheda doesn't offer that much choice.

For those who want to spend less, the D-Hotel on the river is a good option. The D Hotel offers spacious, modern rooms and is part of a new Shopping Center with cosy terraces.

Playing Seapoint Golf Links

Seapoint Golf Links is the first course we play. Seapoint dates back to 1995 and is, therefore, a fairly new golf course with modern facilities, including a driving range. There is a discussion about whether Seapoint is a real links course, so we are curious. The first hole, a short par 4, cuts through a dune and the green is behind a stream in a dune basin. Yes, this is hidden gem links golf. Also, the second hole, a par 3, has a links feel to it, despite the houses built in this corner of the course, quite unusual in Ireland. The following holes are bordered by trees and water, complete with a swan family. Great holes, but the dunes suddenly seem very far away.

Aerial overview of Seapoint Golf Links (Photo credits: jmcmorrow50)

From the 6th tee we turn back again in the direction of the sea and the course gets stronger and stronger. On the 15th tee, we are very close to our neighbour County Louth's 10th tee. There is now a ledge between the two tees, as a flight of Chinese golfers once started at County Louth and ended in the Seapoint clubhouse. Finally, we are treated to a sea view complete with vistas of the Morne Mountains. The finishing holes are beautiful. For a green fee of €40, Seapoint offers real value for money.

County Louth Golf Club - Baltray

The next day we drive back along the left bank of the Boyne, turning right instead of left to the fishing hamlet of Baltray. This is also the popular name of the course that, since 1892, has been officially called County Louth Golf Club. Baltray is one of those unknown top courses in Ireland. Neighbour of Seapoint, but indescribably different. There is a serene atmosphere here and everything is just right: the historic clubhouse, the starter's house and the course, especially…. the course.

County Louth is a typical links course (Photo credits: mxpmvandervaart)

There is no weak hole on this course and after a flat start the dunes get higher, the rough more intimidating and the holes more spectacular. Our retired member caddy Jimmy navigated us through the course. That helps because the fairways are generally wide, but the hazards are numerous. Hole 3, for example, is a par 5 from 534 yards with a blind shot to a small, heavily undulating green.

On hole 4 we get a view of the mudflat area of the estuary of the Boyne River. "We're going there tomorrow" I told Jimmy, pointing to the other bank where "Laytown & Bettystown" is located. Jimmy laughed: "We call that a tuberfield: Very different from here, a tight course". So we've been warned. But County Louth can also be narrow. The dune valleys of holes 12 and 13 are especially intimidating. On the 15th tee we can take a breath and enjoy the panoramic view over the coastline.

County Louth is already fully booked for 2022 and partly because of this, the prices for green fees have also risen considerably. They are now around 200 euros, which is considerable.

Laytown & Bettystown Golf Club

The name says it all: Laytown & Bettystown is located near two villages with these names. The row of dunes here is narrower, the atmosphere more village-like, but the reception is no less cordial. Jimmy was right, the fairways aren't as manicured here as they are on Baltray, but what a lot of fun this course offers! The first 2 holes are somewhat wedged between the clubhouse, the road and the sea. However, it is immediately clear that driving off the tee is a risky choice.

Small greens with sea views at Laytown & Bettystown Golf Club (Photo credits: mxpmvandervaart)

However, being risk-averse produces another long and sometimes blind shot to the generally small greens. Further from the clubhouse, the course fans out, but on most tees, you need to choose your clubs wisely. Sometimes we have to find our way because the original routing (9 out, 9 in) has been adjusted since COVID: now you come back to the clubhouse after 10 holes.

The green fee rates vary quite a bit for Laytown & Bettystown Golf Club, depending on the time of day. Before 12.30 expect to pay €95 (week) to €125 (weekend). After 4.40 pm you only pay €45 (week) to €55 (weekend).

After our round, we have time for lunch before driving back to Dublin Airport at our leisure. Our choice of a morning flight in and an afternoon flight back enabled us to play 3 courses with only 2 nights. Next time we will stay longer because Ireland continues to surprise you. And if you're willing to go off the beaten track, you don't even have to break the bank.

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Guido van Reijen

Guido van Reijen

He now works as a consultant for most Dutch golf tour operators. In the past he was director of golf travel agency Golftime Travel.
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