Memorable starting holes on an Ireland golf trip -Trump Doonbeg, Lahinch, Ballybunion Old Course, Royal County Down and Portstewart.
It may be due to the fact that you have just landed in Ireland at Shannon Airport and within a couple of hours your Irish golf vacation is underway as you stand on the first tee at Lahinch. Looks fairly straightforward as you prepare to drive to an elevated green well protected by deep bunkers short and a sharp bank to the right. Walk away with par here and it might just set the tone for a great week of golf in south west Ireland.
Not far south from Lahinch Golf Club is Trump Resort, Doonbeg which has recently undergone extensive remodelling by renowned golf course architect, Martin Hawtree. And when it comes to rating the best opening holes on an Ireland golf tour, they don't come much better than this. This par five demands accuracy from the tee and staying clear of the strategic fairway bunkering sets you up for an approach shot to a green set against the back drop of towering dunes.
Staying in the south west of Ireland, the opening hole on Ballybunion's Old course has haunted many a golfer. Not that it is by any means regarding as a daunting (perhaps haunting!) hole, compared with many others on the course. From an elevated tee box playing back towards the town of Ballybunion, let all slicers (right handed) be forewarned of the graveyard waiting to bury any erring drives. PJ the Old Course starter at Ballybunion, will do his best to set you right (or better again straight down the middle) - well you know what I mean!
Moving to golf in Northern Ireland, the great opening holes at Royal County Down and Portstewart are stand outs. Royal County Down opens with a terrific par five through a shallow valley. Dundrum Bay awaits the errant drive to the right and a high dune guards the left side. When the flag is positioned to the back of the green, the danger of the dreaded three putt looms large!
Portstewart, The Irish Open venue in 2017 has been described as the most stunning start in Irish golf. This dogleg downhill par four has been described as being unbeatable. Perhaps it is with this level of confidence that Derek, the starter/caddie master at Portstewart, offers to buy a pint for any visiting golfer who manages a birdie on this hole.
Well this is what he tells me, so make him pay on your next golf trip in Northern Ireland.
The Wild Atlantic Way, the longest signed coastal route in the world at 1,700 miles (2,750 km) is destined to become one of the world's most popular scenic drives. Golfers will also have the opportunity to enjoy the scenery and combine it with the breathtaking links golf courses dotted along the west coast of Ireland.
For the purpose of combining an Irish golf tour with sightseeing on the Wild Atlantic Way, we recommend that the route is taken in three sections, beginning in North West Ireland and winding south eventually to reach Kinsale on the south coast of Ireland.
In this post, we will describe the Wild Atlantic Way (North West), from Ballyliffin to County Sligo.
Beginning with golf at Ballyliffin, there are two terrific championship links courses, The Glashedy and The Old Course. The Glashedy is the newer and longer of the courses but both are held in equal regard by members and visitors alike.
Take the Lough Swilly Ferry and travel to Portsalon on the Fanad Peninsula in County Donegal to play this traditional Irish golf course which Paul McGinley describes as “Set along the scenic and beautiful Donegal coastline, it is simply a great place to play golf."
Next along the route is Rosapenna, home to the Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort which features the Sandy Hills Links and The Old Tom Morris Course.
Further south you will discover ( and I mean discover), what is probably the best nine hole golf course you will find anywhere in the world. This is Cruit Island and is well worth the diversion to play this truly spectacular golf course.
Narin and Portnoo, with sweeping views of Gweebarra Bay is yet another traditional links which in the opinion of many golfers is unrivalled in terms of its scenic and natural beauty.
Donegal (Murvagh Links) is one of the longest links courses in the world at almost 7,500 yards from the championship tees. This is a great golf course that has drawn comparison with Muirfield in Scotland.
And on to County Sligo Golf Club at Rosses Point to complete the first leg of your Ireland golf trip along the Wild Atlantic Way. County Sligo, is the host golf course to the West of Ireland Amateur Golf Championship and is sure to provide a great test of golf for all visitors.
As if proof were needed to justify how great an Irish golf trip this is, holes 13- 18 on the overall best golf holes on the Wild Atlantic Way, feature in the North West of Ireland section of the route.
A golf vacation in Ireland's Ancient East is a sublime and intoxicating mix of traditional links courses hugging the Irish Sea and mature parkland courses in the heart of the Irish countryside. Many golf visitors to Ireland are wooed by the majestic links courses found along the west coast of Ireland. Yet, golfers are always in search of a new experience and the golf in Ireland's Ancient East offers this opportunity. Apart from the ancient history of the region stretching from The Boyne Valley in the North East southwards to Glendalough in County Wicklow and on to Wexford, Waterford and the iconic Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary, this is a relatively undiscovered part of Ireland in terms of the quality of its golf courses. County Louth (Baltray) is one of the best links courses to be found in Ireland and is sometimes overlooked by golfers in search of the more famous courses. County Louth Golf Club hosted The Irish Open in recent years and and is the home of The East of Ireland Amateur Golf Championship. Two little gems of Irish golf right on your doorstep at County Louth are Seapoint Golf links and Laytown and Bettystown, as traditional an Irish links course that you are likely to play.
In addition, you have all the big courses of the Dublin region close at hand including Portmarnock ( both courses), The Island, The European Club and Royal Dublin. St Anne's Golf Club is a lesser known course which shares Bull Island with Royal Dublin. There are two other links golf courses along this stretch of Ireland's eastern coast that are worthy of mention. Arklow Links and Rosslare Golf Club would grace many a fine Irish golf itinerary, yet the fact of the matter is that they are not played by overseas golfers visiting Ireland as much as they deserve to be played.
Ireland's Ancient East is the home of the best parkland courses in Ireland. The K Club, which hosted the Ryder Cup in 2006, Carton House which hosted The Irish Open, Druids Glen is another Irish Open Course and Mount Juliet ( Jack Nicklaus' first Irish golf course design) bears testimony to this. In fact, Nicklaus' second Irish design at Killeen Castle hosted the Solheim Cup and is a great test of golf.
When we consider how best to plan a golf tour in Ireland within this region, we have identified two loops, namely Ireland's Ancient East (Northern) and Ireland's Ancient East (Southern). Each section is a week long itinerary making sure to include sufficient time to soak up the history and culture as you travel.
Drop in on a world-class golf course, Northern Ireland Golf Trip - among the best golfing vacations to be found anywhere in the world!
Northern Ireland Golf Trip - among the best golfing vacations to be found anywhere in the world!
A Northern Ireland golf trip is considered by many to be among the best golfing vacations to be found anywhere in the world.
Royal County Down proudly ranks as the world’s Number one golf course according to Golf Digest’s 2016-17 rankings http://www.golfdigest.com/story/worlds-100-greatest-golf-courses-2016-ranking
Royal County Down (or RCD as it is often referred to) which in 2015 hosted The Irish Open Championship is practically full for 2017 and many golfers are already planning their Northern Irish golf trip in 2018 to make sure that they secure a coveted tee time there.
Portstewart Golf Club is located on the Causeway Coastal Route with panoramic views over the Atlantic Ocean. Portstewart steps in to the limelight this year as the host venue for the 2017 Irish Open hosted once again by the Rory McIlroy Foundation. The opening hole at Portstewart is a dramatic downhill par four and Portstewart’s caddie master Derek has on many occasions added an extra incentive of buying a pint for any visitor who manages to birdie it. I am reliably informed by Derek that he has yet to make the trip to the clubhouse bar with a visiting golfer! Not far down the road is Royal Portrush Golf Club, where The Open Championship will return in 2019. The Dunluce Links is sure to provide a dramatic setting for the Open.
Castlerock Golf Club is another traditional links course which is making its presence felt alongside its illustrious neighbours at Royal Portrush and Portstewart. The positive attitude of the staff and general manager Bert McKay ( who is a PGA professional having come to Northern Ireland from one of Scotland’s most exclusive golf clubs) reflects very well and visitors usually have a very positive experience at Castlerock.
As if the golf courses on Northern Ireland’s coast were not enough Portrush is only a short drive to the famous attractions like the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway, the dramatic Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge and for followers of the epic TV drama, there are many Game of Thrones® filming locations nearby.
The Galgorm Resort in County Antrim was recently awarded the Best Large Golf Hotel in Ireland at the 2016 IGTOA Awards. www.igtoa.com The resort is set within 163 acres of lush parkland with the spectacular River Maine flowing through the estate. Galgorm Resort & Spa has an extensive Thermal Spa Area popular among golfers and non-golfers alike. The Galgorm Castle Golf course is a championship parkland golf course and in recent years hosted a tournament on European Tour’s Challenge circuit.
There are many golf courses in Northern Ireland that are worthy of a play, among them the wonderfully scenic Faldo course at Lough Erne and the cliff top gem at Ardglass.
For parkland golf course fans, a golf trip to Belfast affords the opportunity to play such courses as Royal Belfast, Malone and Shandon Park.
For more on what golf in Northern ireland has to offer, see
As they say… Northern Ireland… made for golf.
Cathal O'Donoghue, Owner.
We hope you enjoy our golf blog and current golf stories we find and share. Please always feel free to contact us if we can be of any assistance in helping you decide on the golf trip that's just right for you.