"My favourite place to play golf is in Ireland," says Bill Murray. "It’s the most beautiful country to play golf in. And when you come as a guest, you’re treated like a king.” After all, this is the home of champions.
Follow in Rory McIlroy’s footsteps at Royal Portrush in Antrim or his home course of Holywood in Down. Take a trip over to County Londonderry, to the stunning Portstewart golf links – described by Rory McIlroy as "one of Northern Ireland's hidden gems". Then visit the host of the Irish Open 2018, Ballyliffin Golf Course in County Donegal, completing a trio of championship courses that will provide a great challenge to the discerning golfer.
See where 2016 Ryder Cup Captain, Darren Clarke, struck his first ball at Dungannon Golf Club; where 2014 Ryder Cup Captain, Paul McGinley, teed off at The Grange in County Dublin; and where County Louth Golf Club saw Shane Lowry win his first Irish Open.
The more you play it, the more you recognise it for the class place it is.
Maybe in Dublin you can visit Stackstown Golf Club, where three-time major winner, Pádraig Harrington, goes to tee off; or walk the fairways of Rathmore Golf Club, so familiar to Graeme McDowell from an early age. Touch the greens in these places, and perhaps some of their skill will rub off on your game?
Golf’s global stars have always had a penchant for designing their ideal courses in Ireland, too. Take Golf Digest's World Number One Course, Royal County Down: Old Tom Morris and Harry Colt both had a hand in its creation. Then there’s Jack Nicklaus’ Kilkenny parkland, Mount Juliet, a constantly ranked must-play and, of course, the sublime Dr Alister MacKenzie-built Lahinch.
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 let's not forget Rosapenna and Royal County Down – where the legendary Scot Old Tom Morris embraced the lie of the land. Over a century later, golfers still can’t resist the challenge…
Waterville possesses the best par-three holes I have ever encountered on the same golf course.
It's not just the designs that host the big names. The courses do, too: Royal County Down, 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 have all hosted the Irish Open; while the exquisite Royal Portrush is the upcoming venue for The Open 2019.
The beauty of golf in Ireland
“WOW,” was all Tiger Woods could say as the early morning fog cleared to reveal the 15th tee at The Old Head Golf Links in Kinsale, County Cork 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...
Someone who will help keep your eyes on the fairways is the 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!
I had such a great time in Ireland that I've been coming over ever since.
Of course, it's not all over after the 18th. 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.
No licence or membership is required to play golf in Ireland. 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.
There are fewer than 200 links 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.
Some of my fondest memories of great golfing holes in the world, include the number four and five holes at Lahinch.
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
Check out 19 great things you need to know about Golf in Ireland!