Ireland’s must-golf courses

Going off the beaten track to take in the sights and sounds of Ireland isn’t just highly recommended, it’s a must, says Brian Keogh

Skimming golf balls on the lake at the famous Gap of Dunloe might be a little beyond most of us, but that’s exactly what Irish 2014 Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley and a handful of top professionals did.

Filmed as part of the "Every Shot Imaginable campaign" for the European Tour, the challenge was to skim a ball 200 yards across a lake and hit a nine-inch gong.

Adventures around every corner

Impossible? An Irishman, an Englishman, a Welshman and a German didn’t appear to think so. McGinley, David Howell, Rhys Davies and Marcel Siem had great craic (fun) trying to pull it off, while in Ireland for the Irish open.

Ireland can do that to you. Kerry alone has more than 20 golf clubs. Still, leave the course, take that winding road and you could be setting out on the adventure of a lifetime…

A proud Dubliner with a Donegal heart

“Players love coming over for the Irish Open,” says Paul McGinley. “It’s important to be different from the other stops on tour and they always have a great time in Ireland because there is so much to see away from the golf course.”

The 2014 Irish Open returns to Fota Island Resort in County Cork having last hosted the event back to back in 2001 and 2002. “I’m delighted that Fota Island is going to host the 2014 Irish Open. The players will love the golf course and everyone involved with the tournament will also enjoy the craic on offer in nearby Cork," says McGinley.

His favourite course in Ireland is Portmarnock in Dublin: “As links golf courses go I think it is probably the fairest links golf course I have ever played. While he’s a proud Dubliner, McGinley would be the first to tell you to jump in the car and head to the northwest and County Donegal.

He might have grown up playing at Grange Golf Club in the foothills of the Dublin mountains. But with his mother hailing from Rathmullan and father from Dunfanaghy, Donegal is close to his heart.

Portsalon and Royal Portrush

The beautiful links at Portsalon is one of his favourites, but he’s equally smitten by Royal Portrush, just across in County Antrim.

That’s also a favourite of proud Northern Irishman and European Tour star Gareth Maybin, who is a bit of a trick shot artist in his spare time!

In our video, Maybin shows off his repertoire of crazy shots at Ballyclare Golf Club near Belfast. It’s one of 27 clubs in County Antrim alone, and Maybin particularly recommends it for its warm welcome.

Play amongst the pros…

When he’s not travelling the world, Maybin loves to get out and about in Ireland and, while Northern Ireland’s finest courses are top of his agenda, another favourite is the Old Head of Kinsale Golf Links in County Cork.

“It’s just the location and the spectacular scenery down there on the southern tip of Ireland,” he says. “Plus it’s a pretty good golf course as well. We’ve so many to choose from. Royal Portrush, Portmarnock and Baltray are fantastic; and Hilton Templepatrick near my home in Belfast is a great young course.”

Take your pick…Who knows, you might even come across some golfing tricksters just attempting the impossible.

Think the Gap of Dunloe is beautiful, hear what golf photographer Dave Cannon has to say about Ireland's courses