Golf in Northern Ireland
Tee up on incredible world-class golf courses in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is home to golfing champions and some of the most breathtaking and challenging courses in the world. A mix of wild coastal links and luxurious parklands, there's nowhere quite like it. But it's not all about the courses. Golfer Keegan Bradley put it best when he said that "the area is unbelievable and the people are extraordinary". Follow our journey to the rewarding greens dotting the landscape in counties Down, Antrim, Londonderry and Fermanagh. It's tee time!
County Down is famous for its spectacular landscapes, so let the lush forests, imposing Mourne Mountains and golden sands be your backdrop on four very different golf courses.Explore Day 1
Swing by the sea at Ardglass
Before you even begin to tackle Ardglass, take in the views across the Irish Sea: here, the course clings to the coastline, and it's breathtaking. Now get started on Ardglass's new course, which includes three challenging holes designed by former European professional David Jones that rank as some of the best on the island. Got some spare time? Head over to Castle Ward for a different type of challenge. If you're a fan of HBO's Game of Thrones®, then you can fire some arrows on the archery movie set, cycle the filming trail or even dine out at a banquet in Westeros style.
Golf Digest's World No 1 course: Royal County Down
“Royal County Down is one of my favourites,” says Rory McIlroy. “The more you play it, the more you recognise it for the class place it is.” The majestic, savage beauty of Royal County Down Golf Club makes it a thinking person's links, but even the shrewdest players can be flummoxed by the guile of what is arguably Irish golf's finest course. Peppered with blind tee shots, deep pot bunkers, domed greens and narrow ribbons of hummocky fairways – it is still a pleasure to play. If you have more time tuck into the best local seafood at the Mourne Seafood Bar in Newcastle, serving super-fresh produce hauled in from local ports. It's simple and delicious.
Warrenpoint hides a few tricks up its sleeve
Set in the glorious surrounds of Hall Estate between the Mourne Mountains and Carlingford Lough, Warrenpoint Golf Club is an 18-hole parkland course. Golfing legend Christy O’Connor Snr won the Irish Professional Championship here in 1960 and 1966, and it is ranked as one of the best parkland courses in Northern Ireland. But don't let its reputation fool you – this is one tricky course that will test even the most seasoned golfer.
Beyond the golf courses in County Down
Figure out Castlewellan Forest Park's Peace Maze to ring the bell at its centre, take a stroll through Tollymore Forest Park – local source of the wooden interiors for the RMS Titanic; scale the Mourne Mountains with expert mountain guide, Peter Rafferty; or explore the magnificent Georgian mansion known as Montalto House.
Between Belfast and the Glens of Antrim you'll find award-winning golf courses and the incredible Causeway Coastal Route.Explore Day 2
Malone – a gem just outside Belfast
Just 8km from Belfast city is Malone Golf Club. Set around a beautiful natural trout lake, this testing championship course is situated on 330 acres of rolling parkland. Beautiful, historic and integral to the Belfast golfing scene, the clubhouse here is a perfect way to wind down, chill out and enjoy the very social side of golf on the island of Ireland.
Jacobean splendour at Galgorm
Set in the grounds of a stunning 17th-century estate, the par 72 championship course at Galgorm is bordered by two rivers and is home to the annual Northern Ireland Open. Once you've played the course, take a wander through the grounds – the castle and the acres of mature parkland deserve to be admired. If you have more time, head to the Castle Kitchen and Bar, where the smells of the BBQ smokehouse entice you from the moment you step through the door. Try their spicy street food, slow-cooked ribs or dry-rubbed beef brisket while enjoying views of the beautiful castle grounds and golf course from the balcony terrace.
Ballycastle beauty on the Causeway Coast
Location is everything for Ballycastle, a golfing diamond perched on the edge of one of Europe’s most spectacular coastlines: the Causeway Coast. Boasting towering views out over Fair Head, Rathlin Island and Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre, this course is a showstopper. The exposed location and challenging conditions call for real shot making, from punched long irons, little bump and runs to hitting under the wind. Afterwards, enjoy chowder and Guinness in The Central Wine Bar, part of the Ballycastle Food Tour, or take a trek on horseback in the company of Shean’s Horse Farm. If you’re a fan of the HBO series Game of Thrones®, then you’ll adore Giant Tours Ireland with Flip, your local guide and driver who was a stand-in actor for Hodor!
Champion greens at Royal Portrush
Home course of Graeme McDowell, Royal Portrush is majestic: towering dunes, sweeping valleys and rough so thick only the greats can conquer it – and as Shane Lowry did when he won The 148th Open there in 2019. There are two courses at Royal Portrush Golf Club: the famous Dunluce Links; and the Valley Course, situated in the historic War Hollow, where local lore has it that the Chief of Dunluce fought the King of Norway many centuries ago. At Dunluce, be warned: go long with your approach on the sublime 5th, a dogleg 411-yard par 4, and your ball may one day wash ashore on nearby White Rocks Strand.
Beyond the golf courses in County Antrim
Take a road trip along one of the world's great journeys: the Causeway Coastal Route. Packing some of the most picturesque places in the world into a stretch of 314km (195 miles), it's an experience worth taking time out for. And the jewel in the route's crown? Definitely the Giant's Causeway, a mind-boggling expanse of perfectly hexagonal stones that form a pathway out to the crashing sea. Tackle the Giant's Causeway Cliff-top Experience Walk, with local guides led by Eimear Flanagan. The 8km walk takes you along quiet routes that allow the best views of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There's more to County Londonderry than its historic walled city. In 2017, Portstewart hosted the Irish Open, and there are plenty of courses ready to challenge seasoned golfers.Explore Day 3
Any course on a patch of ground called “Thistly Hollow” must have a few prickly surprises up its sleeve, and Portstewart Golf Club doesn’t disappoint – the course weaves through towering dunes and stunning links land, with something for every golfer. No wonder Rory McIlroy called it a hidden gem! If you have more time, set sail from Portstewart on a Catch and Sea food experience. It’s a breakfast tour, which means a very early start for all, but you are all here to catch your breakfast, so enjoy reeling in the fish and then tucking in with the help of a local chef! Visit Morelli's on The Promenade for award-winning ice cream, or feast on delicious seafood at Harry's Shack, dramatically located at the very edge of Portstewart strand.
Take on the Leg o' Mutton at Castlerock
By the time you strike the first ball on Castlerock Golf Club's championship course you’ve entered uncharted waters. On this par 73 with five par fives, the most talked-about challenge is the nerve-jangling Leg o’ Mutton, the 200-yard 4th with a railway line to the right, a stream (called a “burn” in this part of the world) to the left, and raised green in the distance. The “Leg” plays tough even without the wind – are you up for the challenge? If you have more time, wander up to the Temple of Vesta – the beautiful Mussenden Temple overlooking Downhill Strand.
Luxury and charm at Roe Park
Lough Foyle and the Inishowen Peninsula provide the backdrop to Roe Park Resort, which boasts an 18-hole parkland course on its historic riverside estate. The house is a great base to explore the area, complete with beautiful accommodation and an Elemis spa for off-course luxury. The course itself won Golf in Ireland's "Best Golf Resort in Ulster" award in 2016.
Beyond the golf courses in County Londonderry
Derry~Londonderry is one of the best preserved walled cities in Europe, and a walk along the top of the beautiful 17th century walls, past the preserved cannons, will give a bird’s eye view across the Renaissance-style street plan and over to the River Foyle. Passionate in their storytelling, the guides from the Unlocking the Walled City tour mix humour and history while telling the tales of the city from its 6th century foundations to the present day. And if you're hungry, head to Quay West for delicious, tasty food in cosy surroundings. Trust us, it's worth taking your time here.
Fermanagh's lakelands make for a sometimes hazardous golfing trip – prepare to lose a few balls to the water!Explore Day 4
The ultimate 36-hole experience at Lough Erne
Just 10 minutes from the historic town of Enniskillen is the Lough Erne Resort, a golfing destination par excellence. Described by Rory McIlroy as “a great place to stay, a great place to play", the resort boasts the Faldo Championship Course, designed by six-time major winner Sir Nick Faldo. Also at Lough Erne Resort is the Championship Castle Hume Course is famous for its pristine fairways – and for hosting the Ulster PGA Championships for over 10 years! Why not take up the challenge with one of its team of dedicated PGA professionals, where help with tricky shots will always be at hand. The onsite 3 AA Rosette-winning Catalina Restaurant is a delicious end to a day of golfing, with food lovingly prepared by acclaimed Executive Head Chef Noel McMeel and his team.
Beyond the golf course in County Fermanagh
For six months of the year, there are lakes in Fermanagh... for the rest, Fermanagh is in the lakes. Take a cruise, go angling with a ghillie or visit one of the finest show caves in Europe, the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark, which were formed around 330 million years ago. Enjoy a taste sensation and tour of The Boatyard Distillery near Enniskillen, and see how the team produces its fine spirits, while discovering the secret behind its famous "Érainn" copper still. Explore the Fermanagh Lakelands from the water with a tour skippered by Barry Flanagan; or find out more about the Belleek Pottery factory, which has been part of the landscape for over 160 years.