The 11 most scenic golf courses in Ireland
If you're a golfer who lives in Ireland, you're blessed with a simply astonishing array of spectacular golf courses dotted around the country, some of which are widely considered among the greatest in the world. Here are 10 you definitely need to play at least once.
A parkland gem in the heart of Wicklow, Druids Glen is as picturesque as it is deadly. Offering a stern examination of your accuracy off the tee, the par-71 has tight, immaculately manicured fairways which places a real premium on straight drives.
Unlike many of the courses on this list, Druids Glen can't offer breathtaking coastal views, but that doesn't stop it from being one of the most gorgeous courses in Ireland, with the Wicklow Mountains providing a sufficiently dramatic backdrop to your round.
A four-time host of the Irish Open, it's regarded as one of the toughest but fairest courses around. It's not cheap, though, with a round for visitors priced at €65m.
Royal Portrush (Dunluce Links)
If you live on the north coast of Northern Ireland, you're incredibly lucky to have Royal Portrush, one of the toughest but most stunning golfing experiences you can possibly imagine. A masterpiece perched right on the edge of the Atlantic, golfers are spoiled with views of the White Rocks on the east and the headlands of the Giant's Causeway in the distance.
A classic seaside links, Portrush is easy to fall in love with and hate at the same time. It's a beautiful but remarkably testing course, its undulating fairways nestled between the sand dunes and a seemingly endless breeze there to thwart you at every turn.
The 5th hole (White Rocks) is simply stunning and, with an elevated tee, it's set up perfectly for you to soak in the surroundings before you lose your tee shot in the long rough.
Excitingly, The Open Championship returns to Portrush after 68 years.
Enniscrone Golf Club
The most spectacular golf course in Connacht by some distance, Enniscrone looks as resplendent as ever now as the club celebrates its 100th anniversary. Regularly featured in the Golf Digest's top 15 courses in Ireland, this stunning piece of Sligo links land is an utter joy to behold.
The championship links is situated on a promontory that protrudes into Killala Bay at the mouth of the River Moy Estuary, providing a breathtaking backdrop as you take on the finest test of links golf on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Tralee Golf Club
Ah, terrific Tralee. Designed by Arnold Palmer, this links is an enchanting gem of the south west and boasts scenery so bloody gorgeous and cinematic, it will stay with you for weeks. With plenty of cliff top tees and towering dunes, Tralee is a little slice of Irish golfing heaven. No better way to spend four hours.
Bill Murray, the American actor known for Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day, called Tralee the most beautiful course he's ever played. If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for the rest of us.
Narin & Portnoo
With panoramic views of the Gweebarra Bay and cavernous fairways in between the dunes, Portnoo is as dramatic and intoxicating as golf in Donegal gets. Situated 25 miles north west of Donegal Town and just six miles north of the charming town of Ardara, Portnoo perhaps doesn't get the recognition it deserves but, if you visit it, you'll soon see exactly why it's been included on this list.
Old Head Golf Links
Considered by many to be the king of beautiful golf courses, you can't fully appreciate the Old Head of Kinsale until you're there. Situated on a 220-acre diamond of land which juts out over two miles into the Atlantic Ocean, Old Head is a world-famous sanctuary which comfortably lives up to the billing of 'the most breathtaking yards in golf.'
Tiger Woods famously played Kinsale as part of a dream five-ball comprised of David Duval, Stuart Appleby, Mark O'Meara and the late Payne Stewart. Accompanied by golf journalist Tom Keogh, Woods' reaction to stepping on to the 15th tee was: "This has to be one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen in golf." That tells you everything you need to know about the sheer majesty of the Old Head.
Royal County Down
Regularly topping the list of Ireland's greatest courses, this golfing haven in Newcastle is simply a must-see, must-play for all golf fans. Sitting in the shadow of the Mourne Mountains and with Dundrum Bay to the east, the championship course is a punishing but beguiling experience.
With its rugged topography along the Irish Sea, Royal County Down was surprisingly named the greatest course in the world in Golf Digest's prestigious biennial ranking. That means it edged out Augusta for top honours - that's seriously impressive.
With little to no developments to its layout since it was opened in 1894, Portmarnock is a purist's delight, a devilishly beautiful gem just 15 minutes north of Dublin Airport. With constantly changing winds and holes of every shape and size, if you're to shoot a low score at Portmarnock you will need every shot in your locker. Versatility and intelligence are duly rewarded around this fascinating creation, while the 15th has to be one of the most jaw-dropping par 3s in Ireland.
A treasure on the Kerry coastline, Ballybunion's standing in the world of golf is well-established at this stage, counting five-time Open winner Tom Watson as an honorary member. It's remote locale makes it seem like the dark side of the moon but it's certainly worth the trip.
The 7th hole runs along a coastal cliff and, as American sports writer Marino Parascenzo once put it, "four good paces carry you across the tee, the fifth drops you to the rocks and the Atlantic surf far below." That gives you a good picture of the exquisite landscape that accompanies you around Ballybunion.
Described by many as the St Andrews of Ireland, the golfing crown jewel of Clare is the product of the shared vision of celebrated architects Charles ‘Mo’ Gibson and Dr Alister MacKenzie, a glorious construction that offers a challenging but fun golfing experience, suitable for players of all capabilities.
County Sligo Golf Club
One of Ireland's most formidable championship links, County Sligo boasts an arresting combination of mountain and ocean scenery and sits beside countryside so beautiful, WB Yeats immortalised it with a poem, calling it the 'Land of Heart's Desire.' The gem of Rosses Point is worthy of standing tall among Ireland's finest courses and is a fitting venue with which to round off the list.