Golf in Ireland

The home of champions

Golf in Ireland: a firm favourite

Actor Bill Murray loves golf. And he loves golf in Ireland: ”My favourite place to play golf is in Ireland. It’s the most beautiful country to play golf in. And when you come as a guest, you’re treated like a king.” But don’t just take Bill’s word for it. Isn’t it time to play here yourself?

The Irish Open 2015: Royal County Down

May 28-31, 2015

Golfers around the globe will be keeping their eyes firmly fixed on Newcastle, County Down, at the end of May 2015, as the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, Hosted by the Rory Foundation (part of the European Tour), will take place at the renowned Royal County Down Golf Club. And just look who’s coming to play: Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, Lee Westwood, Rickie Fowler, and, naturally, Mikko Ilonen will be there to defend his title!

The event in 2015 will be the first time in 76 years that the Irish Open will be hosted at the world-famous links course. Voted best course in the world outside the United States by Golf Digest, Royal County Down is just one of a number of prestigious courses where Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke all honed their impeccable skills.

Northern Ireland has hosted the Irish Open only twice in the last 60 years, but when Royal Portrush hosted the event in 2012, it was the only time the European Tour had sold out before play even began on four consecutive days.

"I am delighted that the Irish Open is being hosted at Royal County Down in 2015. It is hugely exciting to be joining some of the world’s greatest golf talents on my home turf. Northern Ireland has established itself as one of the world’s greatest golfing destinations and Royal County Down is one of the world’s finest links courses."
Rory McIlroy, 2014 Open Championship Winner and World No. 1.

"I had such a great time in Ireland that I've been coming over ever since.”

Homegrown heroes

Follow in Rory McIlroy’s footsteps at Royal Portrush in Antrim or his home course of Holywood in Down. County Louth Golf Club is where rising star Shane Lowry won his first Irish Open. The 2014 Ryder Cup Captain, Paul McGinley, struck his first ball at the Grange in County Dublin. Still in Dublin, Stackstown Golf Club is where three-time major winner, Pádraig Harrigton, goes to tee off. Darren Clarke was a junior member of Dungannon, County Tyrone, while Graeme McDowell walked the fairways of Rathmore Golf Club as a youngster. Touch the greens in these places, and perhaps some of their skill will rub off on your game?

Time to play: the 19th hole

The late US Open and US PGA Champion Payne Stewart felt right at home when he visited the 19th hole in Waterville – The Butler Arms Hotel: “We get into the pub and get around a piano,” said Stewart of his post-round routine. “I bring out my harmonica and the next thing you know it’s about 4am!” You see, finishing a round of golf doesn’t mark the end of the day in Ireland. Round here we always carry on to the 19th.

Invest in a caddy!

Even Rory McIlroy knows that his caddy, JP Fitzgerald, could prove crucial to his game. If you’re going to be playing on some of the island’s famous championship courses, get a caddy. They know the fairways best, save you plenty of shots, and will probably be the best four hours' conversation you’ll ever have on a golf course! Oh, and you never know what future super star you might meet…

Golf by Design

Golf’s big names have designed in Ireland. Take County Clare’s Trump International Golf Links: Greg Norman was a brave man to have challenged his skill to create such a prized course just minutes from the Dr Alister MacKenzie-built Lahinch. Then there’s Jack Nicklaus’ Kilkenny parkland, Mount Juliet, a constantly ranked must-play.

Nick Faldo achieved drama on Fermanagh’s serene Lough Erne; while The Palmer Ryder Cup course in The K Club, Kildare, and Tralee, County Kerry, both enjoy that extra special Arnold Palmer touch. Carne, Connemara, Dooks, Enniscrone, Murvagh and Waterville: Eddie Hackett, Ireland’s ‘Golfing Saint’ turned these greens to golfing gold.

And not forgetting Rosapenna and Royal County Down – the legendary Scot, Old Tom Morris embraced the lie of the land and, over a century later, golfers still can’t resist the challenge…

The Beauties

“WOW,” was all Tiger Woods could say as the early morning fog cleared to reveal the challenge of the 15th tee at The Old Head Golf Links in Kinsale, County Cork (the southernmost point of the Wild Atlantic Way – and just one of Ireland’s many golfing ‘beauties’). He has a point: humpback whales splashing in the swirling waters, swooping seabirds and scampering hares – you’re at one with nature’s immense power on Ireland’s links. Just be sure to keep your eyes on the ball...

Championship courses

First up has to be Royal County Down, where the Irish Open 2015 will be played, and where World Number One, Rory McIlroy noted: “The more you play it, the more you recognise it for the class place it is.” Two years later, in 2017, Fermanagh’s Lough Erne Golf Resort does the honours, with water hazards the key to success on this Faldo-designed Lakelands course.

Dublin’s Portmarnock, Kildare’s Carton House, Wicklow’s Druids Glen Golf Resort, Killarney Golf Club, County Kerry, Kilkenny’s Mount Juliet, and Cork’s Fota Island are other Irish Open hosts to note if you’re looking for a challenging golfing itinerary. And then there’s the exquisite Royal Portush: touted as the possible future venue for The Open 2019.

The big hitters

  • Lahinch, County Clare: Just a few miles from the Cliffs of Moher, Old Tom Morris said: “The links is as fine a natural course as has been my good fortune to play over.”
  • Waterville, County Kerry: "The beautiful monster – one of the golfing wonders of the world," so said Sam Snead, winner of a record 82 PGA Tour events and seven Majors.
  • Royal Portrush, County Antrim: To quote Rory McIlroy: "This is among my favourite places to play in Northern Ireland, one of the truly great links courses."
  • Royal County Down, County Down: “Royal County Down is my all-time favourite,” exclaimed PGA Tour player Rickie Fowler.
  • Portmarnock, County Dublin: "There are no tricks or nasty surprises, only an honest, albeit searching, test of shot-making skills,” said Tom Watson, five-time Open champion.
  • Old Head Golf Links, Kinsale, County Cork: “Anyone who has a love of golf and scenic beauty should make a point of playing here, it’s as simple as that,” said former masters and The Open Winner Mark O’Meara.

The Hidden gems

  • Rosapenna, County Donegal: Yes, the golf is riveting, but with sandy strips of beach and purple hued mountains as the backdrop, this is wild and wonderful links golf at its finest.
  • Ballybunion, County Kerry: This isn’t quite hidden…but maybe you haven’t heard of the cemetery challenge yet? Keep the driver left, or you may stray into sacred grounds.
  • Adare Manor, County Limerick: An incredible 18-hole parkland with a 13th century castle as its backdrop.
  • The European, County Wicklow: A links beauty that’s constantly ranked amongst the World’s Top 100 Golf Courses.
  • County Sligo Golf Club: A firm favourite of two-time Masters winner Bernard Langer.
  • Warrenpoint Golf Course, County Down: The perfect parkland where Christy O’Connor Snr won the Irish Professional Championship in both 1960 and 1966.
  • Royal Belfast, County Antrim: Steeped in history, this parkland gem celebrated its first 18-hole competition all the way back in 1881.
No licence required

And you don’t need to be a member to play our courses, either. All you have to do is find the courses, book your tee times and turn up – or choose an operator to arrange it all for you. One New York Times writer found the whole thing so easy, he quickly realized that he could, in fact, play the entire island as one GIGANTIC golf course. As with all golf clubs, green fees do vary. But will you make as good friends anywhere else in the world? We think not.

Inside information

  • Check out 19 great things you need to know about Golf in Ireland!
  • There are fewer than 200 true golf courses in the world – Ireland has 50 of them.
  • In Ireland during summer, days are long – it’s light at 6.30am and doesn’t get dark until after 10pm, so you have plenty of playing time.
  • You won’t need a tuxedo in Ireland, but there are dress codes – smart casual works.
  • Don’t be afraid to mix things up. Invite a member or two to join your group and have a fun fourball…loser buys drinks at the 19th hole!
  • Don’t just check out a course’s signature hole – check out its history. In Killeen Castle (former Solheim Cup host), County Meath, for instance, your play was dictated by the fairies. Designer Jack Nicklaus wanted to tuck the 12th green into the left, but it would have meant cutting down a hawthorn tree, considered in Ireland to be a fairy tree… the tree was left intact for fear of bad luck and so a big drive leading to a small green is where the magic now happens.