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.
With the 2017 golf season in Ireland now just a matter of months away we are asked by visiting golfers about a range of practical issues as they make final preparations for their trip. Here is a summary of some of the more frequently asked questions and responses:
Q.Should caddies be requested in advance?
A. We recommend caddies for all the major links courses and they should be requested in advance so as the caddie master can arrange this. Golf clubs in Ireland as well as in Scotland will not guarantee that caddies will be available and sometimes the caddie master is left to match availability with the caddies at his disposal
Q. What is the typical caddie fee?
A. The average charge is EUR 50 per bag plus tip. It usually rounds to EUR 60/70 with tip included. Please be aware that in Northern Ireland the currency is British pounds and typically the caddie fee is GBP 45/50 plus tip of GBP 15/20 on top. Caddies are always paid in cash so please make sure to have enough cash with you as you will not find cash machines at the golf courses.
Q. Should I pack rain gear for my Ireland golf trip?
A. Of course not. Don't focus on rain as you might draw it on! However you should pack appropriate weather proof clothing. You may encounter rain on some of your golf days but the wind is likely to be a more ever-present challenge especially on the great links courses on Ireland's Coast. Don't forget to bring sun block and lip balm because these will be needed on most days on the links. Sports sunglasses are a must so forget to bring them at your peril. We always recommend packing a second pair of golf shoes as you will most like be playing on consecutive days!
Q. Do we need to book restaurants in advance?
A. For golf groups of 12 or more it is prudent to plan ahead. Your driver will be very helpful in this regard and will give you recommendations on where to eat and a have a great pint!
Q. Do we need to pack adapters for electrical equipment?
A. While most hotels will have adapters to suit most needs and many of the top hotels will have American sockets in the bedrooms, it is still a good idea to be self sufficient just in case. There is nothing as frustrating as having an uncharged phone or camera in your pocket especially when the great Irish golf links photo opportunity presents itself!
Q. Will the accommodations have WiFi available?
A. Yes, unless you are staying in a very small guesthouse or inn, the hotels in Ireland will have WiFi available.
Q. What should I bring with me to read?
A. Try "A Golf Course called Ireland" by Tom Coyne. You are sure of a good laugh as Tom recounts his adventures as he walked around the coast of Ireland playing all the top links courses both north and south.
Q. Is there anything else I should pack for an Ireland golf trip?
A. Yes, golf balls and plenty of them! However, the pro shops are well stocked just in case you eed to replenish stocks.
And finally..... Anything else?
The realisation that no matter what the golf course throws at you, that you are one of the lucky ones to be in Ireland walking and playing some of the best golf courses in the world!
In our experience of planning golf trips to Ireland and Scotland for more than 15 years, the one question that comes up time after time is whether to self drive or have a driver.
There is no right answer to this one as it entirely depends on the preferences of the group, however there are some guidelines that may help you to decide.
Generally speaking, where there are more than four golfers travelling, the recommendation is to have a driver and luxury van. The chauffeured experience tends to enhance the overall trip experience, as the drivers provide a reliable and engaging service as well as acting as your very own concierge throughout the golf tour. They keep the drinks cooler topped up, advise on and make restaurant reservations and often include side trips ( time permitting) to visit popular sightseeing landmarks travelling to and from the golf courses of Ireland and Scotland. The coaches are usually of an excellent standard and fitted with captains chairs, tables and in the newer models will have onboard wi-fi.
Apart from the comfort in travelling between destinations and golf courses, the major advantage of the chauffeured option is that the logistics are taken out of the golfers hands. Once the driver has the itinerary complete with tee times and accommodation arrangements, he or she will recommend the pick up times from the hotels and the departure times from the golf courses so as to keep the itinerary running smoothly.
However, it is important for the group to be aware that the drivers' working hours are regulated, and for this reason he must take the prescribed rest periods as required by the law. This may mean that 36 hole golf days may be possible only when the courses are at the same location ( for example Ballybunion Old and Cashen courses) or are close together such as Lahinch and Trump Doonbeg and that, importantly, there is no requirement for onward travel after two rounds of golf.
The driver will also advise on the best locations for dinner taking into account the driving time and distances involved. In such cases where there are 36 hole golf days or exceptionally long driving days, a relief driver will be drafted in to assist on the itinerary.
Our experience is that the golf drivers in Ireland, Scotland and throughout the UK are thoroughly professional and reliable and in addition are engaging characters with plenty of stories to tell and yarns to spin! It is no wonder that we have returning golf groups requesting their previous driver to take care of them on their next tour of the golf courses of Ireland and Scotland, travelling the highways and byways from the Highlands to the Ring of Kerry.
On the other hand, we have a number of golf parties that prefer the self driven option, as they enjoy the experience of driving, even if we are often told that we drive on the wrong side of the road over here! This option suits smaller parties , as we find that four golfers with golf clubs and luggage is about the optimum number of passengers, and any more usually necessitates two rental vehicles for comfort.
The key advantage for the self driven option is the added flexibility for golfers and sightseers who want to move more frequently and come and go as they please. If you are not taking your own GPS ( Sat Nav) unit with you on the trip, it is recommended to pre-order one at the time of booking. Don't worry as we will confirm the request when we are making the rental reservation on your behalf. Another consideration when self driving, is whether you want to have the added peace of mind of super cover, which removes any liabilty to an excess charge in case of damage to the rental vehicle. Again, based on our experience , we find that many golfers will add this cover at the desk when picking up their rental vehicle. In the vast majority of times, it does not come in to play, but good to have it in place just in case!
Is it realistic to combine an Ireland and Scotland golf trip or golf and sightseeing vacation and still get to all the courses on your play list? We are often asked to put together golf itineraries that feature a selection of the best courses in each country. Over the years we have had golfing groups staying at St. Andrews for three or four nights playing the Old Course, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie before moving to Edinburgh for a couple of nights playing Muirfield and Gullane. There is good connectivity between Edinburgh and Dublin with the flight taking about one hour. The decision in Dublin is whether to stay in a city centre hotel close to nightlife or in Portmarnock or Malahide north of the city and conveniently located to the golf courses at Portmarnock, The Island and County Louth. Malahide is a great seaside town with good restaurants and bars as well as being home to one of Ireland's most famous castles.
Another approach is to combine the west coast of Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Scottish west coast is dotted with iconic golf courses such as Royal Troon (Open venue in 2016), Turnberry, Prestwick as well as gems like Western Gailes and Machrihanish. Dundonald Links is an exciting addition, as it hosts both the Mens and Ladies Scottish Golf Opens in 2017.
Your itinerary can be set up to include a short ferry crossing across the Irish sea or fly from Scotland to Belfast. The must play courses in Northern Ireland are Royal County Down ( Golf Digest ranked world #1), Royal Portrush ( The Open venue 2019), and Portstewart (Irish Open venue 2017). Ardglass and Castlerock are also worthy of inclusion on your Northern Ireland golf itinerary.
Ideally you would play four or five rounds in Ireland and Scotland. Depending on the trip duration a combined Ireland and Scotland golf trip can be a unique experience offering the best of two of the world's greatest golfing destinations. Irish and Scottish golf courses are simply stunning. Surely, an Ireland Scotland golf vacation is up there with the best!
On my blog post entitled How useful are course rankings when planning a golf trip to Ireland or Scotland? we discussed the role of golf course rankings in determining the choice of destination for a golf trip or golf vacation in Ireland or Scotland. The fundamental point is that while many golfers are significantly influenced by rankings in deciding on the golf courses to be included on their itinerary or golf trip package, it is advisable to look beyond the obvious golf course choices.
The same can be said when choosing a destination within a country or in planning combination golf trips such as Ireland and Scotland, England and Scotland or Wales and England.
The West of Ireland golf tour is a classic example of a golf vacation that offers the very best in terms of golf course quality, dramatic scenery and as friendly a 19th hole experience as you are likely to find anywhere. This is a region widely appreciated by visiting golfers, even though there are no headline ranked golf courses in this part of Ireland.
The UK magazine, Golf Monthly recently released it's Top 100 Courses UK and Ireland Rankings for 2017/18. Each course is rated according to Quality of Test and Design, Course Condition and Presentation, Visual Appeal, Facilities and Overall Visitor Experience. Significantly, for golf in the west of Ireland, Carne Links ( Belmullet) and County Sligo Golf Club ( Rosses Point) were the biggest upward movers while nearby Enniscrone Golf Club made it's way in to the top 100. Combine these three courses with Donegal, Rosapenna ( Sandy Hills) and Ballyliffin ( Glashedy and Old courses) and you have an Ireland golf package to rival any!
As many of the big named courses around Ireland and indeed Scotland are full or close to being full for the peak season in 2017, this could be an opportune time to consider the west of Ireland golf tour for your next Irish golf vacation.
Apart from the quality and availability of golf courses, another factor that influences golfers in deciding on their destination is the range and variety of sightseeing and visitor attractions in the area. We are increasingly seeing that golfers want to have a rest or sightseeing day included in their golf itinerary. In Ireland, The Wild Atlantic Way, Europe's longest coastal scenic route, ticks all the boxes in this regard and towns such as Clifden in County Galway, Westport and Ballina in County Mayo and Sligo provide a range of golfer friendly lodging options, fine restaurants and of course, pubs with plenty of music and craic! I have often compared Westport to Killarney in this regard, and it is only a matter of time before Westport becomes the golfing hub in the west of Ireland.