Ireland, as a golf destination, is one of the finest in the world. With over 400 courses on the island, golfers can test their skill on a year round basis. There are championship links courses with challenging windswept dunes. There are challenging parkland courses with creative watertraps. A number of courses in Ireland are world-renowned and have been host to many international competitions. Many of other less well-known courses also offer spectacular scenery and a challenge to the most serious golfer.
We have noted below our choice of the Top 20 Golf Courses. Our criterion was based on the description of the course, its history, the amenities offered, and a poll of players. You may or may not agree with our choices, but know, there are numerous courses offering a challenge for any skill level.
- Portmarnock Golf Club, Portmarnock, County Dublin, Ireland
Established in 1894, the course was designed by W.C. Pickerman and George Ross. Many championships have been played here over its history. The course is an 18-hole links, at 7,136 yards, par 72. A unique feature of the course is, no two consecutive holes are laid in the same direction. The golfer is at the mercy of the breezes of the Irish Sea.
- Ballybunion Golf Club, The Old Course, Ballybunion, County Kerry, Ireland
The course was first conceived and played in 1891, but, after a while, laid dormant until 1906. By 1927, the 18-hole links course had been completed. Ballybunion is one of the most naturally terrain links courses in Ireland. Situate between the wild Atlantic Ocean and the River Shannon, the course is 6,540 yards and a par 72.
- Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland
Founded in 1889, this is the second oldest course in Northern Ireland. Royal County Down is an 18-hole links course, 6,968 yards, par 71. It is in the foothills of the Mourne Mountains. The rising peaks of Slieve Donard and Slieve Bearnagh can be seen in the distance. The scenery of this course is exhilarating. This is one of the most photographed golf courses in the world.
- Royal Portrush Golf Club, Dunluce, Portrush, Northern Ireland
Founded in 1888, the course was granted the title of ‘Royal’ in 1895 when the Prince of Wales, later, King Edward VII was invited to become a patron. This was the only course outside of Britain to host the British Open in 1951. There are three courses here. Dunluce is an 18-hole links course, 7,460 yards, and par 72. Valley is an 18-hole links course, 6,900 yards, par 70. There is also a nine-hole pitch and putt course. The courses are surrounded by sand on two sides and the Antrim Coast Road on the other.
- Royal Dublin Golf Club, Dollmount, Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland
The course was founded in 1885 and granted the prefix of ‘Royal’ in 1891. It is situated on an island, Bull Wall, in Dublin harbor. The pattern of the course is an ‘In and Back’ setting, where the wind will get you one way or the other. The course has hosted a variety of championships throughout its history. The 18-hole links course is 6,889 yards, par 71.
- Lahinch Golf Club, Lahinch, County Clare, Ireland
This historic course was founded in 1892. It offers natural contours of links land and bunkers to challenge the golfer. A variety of competitions take place at the 18-hole links course, which is 6,725 yards and par 72.
- Waterville Golf Club, Waterville, County Kerry, Ireland
Men who laid transatlantic cable introduced golf in this area in the 1800’s. The course has been developed over the years to a championship18-hole, par 72, links course. At 7,184 yards, the golfer is challenged on several holes, notably on the 12th hole as play is conducted over a deep gorge. This hole is named the ‘Mass Hole’. In Penal Times in Ireland, Catholics were forced to practice their faith in the hollows so they would not be detected.
- The Island Golf Club, Corballis, Donabate, County Dublin, Ireland
The golf club was founded in 1890 by a group of well-to-do bachelors. The only way to play the course was to be invited, and access to The Island was by boat only. Fortunately, it is not that way today. The 18-hole links course is laid out in an ‘In and Back’ setting of 6,658 yards and par 71.
- Killarney Golf and Fishing Club, Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland
O’Mahony’s Point is an inland, 18-hole, original course, 6,767 yards with a par 72. The newest course is Killeen, a lakeside 18-hole course, at 7,027 yards and par 73. The courses are surrounded by a serene beauty of mountains and multi-colored flora, and framed by woods, lakes, and the Macgillycuddy Reeks.
- Mount Juliet, Thomastown, County Kilkenny, Ireland
This course was founded in 1991 and designed by Jack Nicklaus. The resort is quite luxurious, and was developed with the American market in mind. Originally this was an 18th Century mansion set on 1500 acres of woodlands. The course offers well-shaped fairways, created bunkers, and well placed contoured greens. The 18-hole course is 7,142 yards and a par 72.
- Connemara Golf Club, Ballyconneely, County Galway, Ireland
This course was established in 1973, designed by Eddie Hackett, and built by the community. The championship 18-hole links course is 7,272 yards and par 72. The mountain peaks of Twelve Bens can be seen from the course. The course is on the isthmus at Ballyconneely Bay near Clifden. Both the natural, raw beauty of the land and wildness of the Atlantic challenge the golfer.
- The European Club, Brittas Bay, County Wicklow, Ireland
This course was founded in 1992 and designed by Pat Ruddy. The course has 20 holes, each with a signature of a renowned golfer. There are rugged dunes, natural sand hazards, sea breezes from the Wicklow coast, and large, undulating, fast-running greens. The course is 7,490 yards and par 77.
- Fota Island Golf Club, Cork, County Cork, Ireland
Situated in Cork Harbor and a few minutes drive to Cork City, this 18-hole parkland course was revamped in 1999. However, there is evidence that golf was played here at the turn of the 20th Century. There are 6,910 yards and it’s a par 71. This is a sister property to Mount Juliet. The 2002 Irish open will be hosted here.
- Donegal Golf Club, Murvagh, Ballintra, County Donegal, Ireland
The course was founded in 1973 and designed by Ireland’s best-known architect, Eddie Hackett. This 18-hole links course is 7,200 yards and par 73. Erosion is a grave concern here, as it is just off the Atlantic Ocean. The challenge of the golf is rewarded with the beauty of the scenery, and hospitality of the people.
- Druid’s Glen, Newtownmountkennedy, County Wicklow, Ireland
Druid’s Glen presents a mystical environment as you play the 18-hole parkland course, 7,026 yards and par 71. Set in the ‘Garden of Ireland’, this course has cascading waterfalls, white sand in uniquely shaped bunkers, multi-tiered greens, and beautiful landscape. A druid’s altar stands on a hillside overlooking the 12th green. The clubhouse is a restored 18th Century manor, featuring ornate plasterwork on ceilings and cornices. Druid’s Glen has also been host to the Murphy’s Irish Open for four years.
- Westport Golf Club, Carrowholly, Westport, County Mayo, Ireland
The course is situated just below Croagh Patrick, the beautiful, holy pilgrimage mountain associated with St. Patrick. Golf has been played in the area since 1927, however, the club moved to its present location in 1973. Today, the 18-hole parkland course is 6,959 yards and a par 73. It is a long course with spectacular views on the back nine.
- County Sligo Golf Club, Rosses Point, County Sligo, Ireland
This course is better known as Rosses Point, an 18-hole links course on 6,603 yards and a par 71. The Sligo Militia established the course in 1894. It is an ‘Out and Back’ layout, offering a unique setting, with a staircase-type contrast of cliff top plateaus. There are unique holes, with the tenth green in the shadow of Benbulben Mountain.
- Portstewart Golf Club, Portstewart, County Derry, Ireland
The club was founded in 1894 and redesigned in 1933 by H.S. Colt. The course’s natural shape provides an excellent 18-hole links course on 6,784 yards and a par 72. There are elevated tees and rolling valleys, with the first hole being truly unique. The course is situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the River Bann.
- Tullamore Golf Club, Brookfield, Tullamore, County Offaly, Ireland
This 18-hole parkland course offers much in the way of challenge, scenery, history, and other attractions to explore after a round of golf. There are many specimens of trees, beautiful greens, and a stream that flows through the course, which at times can be quite challenging.
- Tralee Golf Club, Ardfert, County Kerry, Ireland
The course was originally established in 1896, then rebuilt in 1984 under the design of Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay. The grass is still growing, but the scenery is outstanding, with mountains, cliffs, and the sea. The 18-hole links course is 6,961 yards and is a par 71.