A painting of a golf course in the mountains.

Exploring the Best Golf Courses in Ireland: A Golfer’s Guide

Choosing the perfect Irish golf course can feel as challenging as trying to sink a putt on a blustery day. I’ve explored these paths, dedicating countless hours to understanding each course’s unique personality—the upshot is this handcrafted golfer’s guide crafted with you in mind.

Packed inside, you’ll discover expert insights into Ireland’s premier fairways, those under-the-radar treasures, and savvy advice for taking your game to the next level. So grab your clubs; it’s time for an adventure that’s just as rich in scenery as it is in sport!

Key Takeaways

  • Ireland has some of the world’s top golf courses, including Royal County Down and Royal Portrush.
  • Lesser – known courses like County Sligo Golf Club offer unique experiences at affordable prices.
  • Booking in advance and looking for package deals can save money and secure tee times at popular courses.
  • Exploring different regions, such as South West Ireland or Dublin’s East Coast, provides diverse golfing adventures.
  • Engaging in other activities like visiting castles or tasting whiskey can enrich the overall trip to Ireland.

Top Golf Courses in Ireland (with rankings from GOLF Top 100 Courses in the World list)

Ranked among the top golf courses in the world, some of the best courses in Ireland include Royal County Down, Royal Portrush, Ballybunion (Old), Lahinch (Old), St. Patrick’s Links, and Portmarnock (Old).

These iconic links courses offer a challenging yet unforgettable golfing experience for enthusiasts.

Royal County Down

Royal County Down is a true jewel among Irish golf courses. Tucked away in Newcastle, Northern Ireland, this course boasts dramatic views of the Mourne Mountains and Dundrum Bay. Its design is a masterpiece that challenges even seasoned players with its naturally rugged terrain.

The fairways are lined with purple heather and golden gorse, making for a stunning visual treat as you play.

Golf legends have walked these greens, leaving their mark on the history of the game. With its blend of beauty and difficulty, Royal County Down offers an unforgettable golfing experience that lives up to its reputation as one of the world’s top courses.

Here I found myself not just playing a round but soaking up every moment on one of Ireland’s premier links courses.

Royal Portrush

Royal Portrush is one of Ireland’s top-rated golf courses, offering a premier golfing experience. Situated in Northern Ireland, it boasts challenging holes against a breathtaking coastal backdrop and is a must-visit for golfers seeking championship-level play.

Designed by Harry Colt, this links course provides an unforgettable journey through undulating dunes and natural terrain. The 148th Open Championship held here further solidifies Royal Portrush as a world-renowned destination for avid golfers.

Next, let’s delve into the best golf courses by region across Ireland to discover more hidden gems and exceptional playing grounds.

Ballybunion (Old)

Moving on from the renowned Royal Portrush, Ballybunion (Old) is another gem in Ireland’s golf crown. This course commands respect with its challenging fairways and breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Known for its fickle winds and undulating terrain, Ballybunion offers a test of skill for even the most seasoned golfer. It has consistently ranked among Ireland’s top courses, inviting golfers seeking a true links experience with rugged beauty.

A legendary links course like Ballybunion (Old) offers an unrivaled golfing adventure complemented by stunning natural surroundings. As one of the premier golf courses in Ireland, it promises an unforgettable experience amidst sweeping dunes and coastal panoramas that will leave any golfer mesmerized.

Lahinch (Old)

Lahinch (Old) is a top-rated links golf course located on the west coast of Ireland, offering a challenging and rewarding experience for golfers. The championship course features stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and presents a mix of blind shots, undulating fairways, and natural terrain.

This historic course has been around since 1892 and has earned its reputation as one of Ireland’s premier golfing spots. Some notable holes to look forward to include the par-5 4th hole named “Klondyke” and the par-3 5th hole referred to as “The Dell.” Golf enthusiasts can expect an unforgettable round amidst breathtaking scenery.

St. Patrick’s Links

St. Patrick’s Links ranks as one of Ireland’s premier golf courses, providing a challenging and picturesque championship course. With stunning ocean views and rugged terrain, it offers a unique and unforgettable golfing experience.

Designed by renowned golfer Tom Doak, St. Patrick’s Links promises an authentic links-style challenge for all players.

At St. Patrick’s Links, you’ll encounter rolling fairways, natural dunes, and strategic bunkers that demand precision and skill in every shot. The course boasts top-rated facilities and services to ensure a memorable visit for any traveler seeking an exceptional golfing adventure in Ireland’s beautiful landscape.

Portmarnock (Old)

Portmarnock (Old) is one of Ireland’s best-rated golf courses, offering a classic links layout and stunning sea views. This course has hosted numerous Irish Open Championships and provides a challenging yet enjoyable round for golfers of all levels.

The unique design by Bernhard Langer ensures an unforgettable experience with well-manicured fairways and strategic bunkering, making it a must-visit for any golfer exploring Ireland’s best golfing spots.

Moving on to the next top-ranking golf destination: Best Golf Courses by Region.

Best Golf Courses by Region

Discover the top golf courses in South West Ireland, North West Ireland, Dublin and Ireland’s East Coast, and Northern Ireland. Each region offers its own unique golfing experience, from rugged coastal links to parkland courses surrounded by stunning scenery.

South West Ireland

When in South West Ireland, enjoy some of the most stunning and challenging golf courses. Here are the top-rated golf courses in this region:

  1. Old Head Golf Links – Located on a peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, this course offers breathtaking coastal views and a unique golfing experience.
  2. Ballybunion Golf Club – Renowned for its natural terrain and challenging layout, this course has been consistently ranked among the best in the world.
  3. Tralee Golf Club – Designed by Arnold Palmer, this picturesque course provides a mix of dunes, cliffs, and ocean vistas for an unforgettable round of golf.
  4. Waterville Golf Links – Nestled between mountains and the sea, this course showcases the beauty of Ireland’s southwest coast with its ever-changing winds and rolling fairways.
  5. Dooks Golf Links – With panoramic views of Dingle Bay and McGillycuddy’s Reeks, this traditional links course offers a delightful test for golfers of all levels.

North West Ireland

Now, let’s explore the hidden gems of North West Ireland, which offer some of the most breathtaking golfing experiences.

  1. County Sligo Golf Club: Nestled between Benbulben Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean, this course offers a challenging yet rewarding experience with its stunning seaside views.
  2. Ballyliffin Golf Club: Home to two outstanding links courses, this club provides a true test of golfing skills amidst the dramatic coastal landscape.
  3. Rosapenna Golf Resort: Situated on Sheephaven Bay, this resort boasts two 18-hole championship courses, offering a diverse and picturesque golfing experience.
  4. Carne Golf Links: Known for its natural beauty and striking dunes, this links course is a must-visit for those seeking an authentic and challenging golfing adventure in Ireland’s North West region.

Dublin and Ireland’s East Coast

Moving along from the scenic North West Ireland, let’s explore Dublin and Ireland’s East Coast. The region boasts a selection of golf courses that cater to both seasoned players and beginners. Here are some noteworthy golf courses that you should consider visiting:

  1. Portmarnock Golf Club: Situated along the shoreline, this championship course offers breathtaking views and a challenging yet enjoyable round of golf.
  2. The Island Golf Club: Just 20 minutes from Dublin, this links course presents a unique playing experience with undulating fairways and natural dunes.
  3. Druids Glen Golf Resort: Known as “The Augusta of Europe,” this stunning course features lush landscapes, water hazards, and is perfect for those seeking a world-class golfing experience.
  4. Royal Dublin Golf Club: Established in 1885, this traditional club provides an elegant setting with beautiful surroundings and challenging holes.
  5. County Louth Golf Club (Baltray): Located in the historic Boyne Valley, this course is known for its dramatic views and demanding layout.
  6. Powerscourt Golf Club: Nestled at the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains, this scenic course offers two championship layouts amidst picturesque scenery.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland boasts stunning golf courses that will leave any golfer in awe. One of the top-rated courses is Royal Portrush, home to The Open. This championship course offers breathtaking views and challenging holes that will test your skills. Another must-visit is Portstewart, renowned for its striking coastal scenery and world-class layout. County Sligo Golf Club is a hidden gem with a unique blend of traditional links and parkland holes, offering an exciting and diverse playing experience. Ballyliffin Golf Club, located on the Inishowen Peninsula, features two outstanding 18-hole links courses that promise an unforgettable golfing adventure. Lastly, Royal County Down stands as one of the most beautiful links in the world with its remarkable setting and exceptional design.

Hidden Gems in North West Ireland

Hidden Gems in North West Ireland

  1. County Sligo Golf Club: Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Benbulben Mountain, this course offers stunning views and challenging holes.
  2. Ballyliffin Golf Club: Featuring two 18-hole courses, this club provides a diverse golfing experience with rugged coastal landscapes.
  3. Rosapenna Golf Resort: Situated near Sheephaven Bay, this resort boasts two championship links courses that will test your skills against the elements.
  4. Carne: Located on the remote Belmullet Peninsula, this course offers a true links experience amidst dunes and breathtaking scenery.


Tips for Planning a Golf Trip to Ireland

When planning a golf trip to Ireland, it’s important to book tee times in advance and consider package deals for the best value. Don’t overlook the lesser-known courses and be sure to explore other activities in between rounds.

Book tee times in advance

To secure tee times at the top-rated golf courses in Ireland, it’s essential to book in advance. Many of these championship and famous courses have high demand, so planning ahead ensures you get to play where and when you want.

With popular destinations like Royal County Down and Portmarnock attracting golfers from around the world, booking early is crucial. Take advantage of package deals that may offer preferred access to these renowned courses while also considering lesser-known gems for a well-rounded golfing experience.

Exploring other activities between rounds adds an extra layer of enjoyment to your Irish golf adventure.

Consider package deals

When planning your golf trip to Ireland, it’s worth considering package deals which often include accommodation, tee times, and sometimes even transportation. These packages can offer great value for money and convenience, allowing you to focus on enjoying the world-class golf courses without worrying about logistics.

Many tour operators specialize in organizing golf vacations in Ireland, offering a range of options from budget-friendly to luxury experiences. By opting for a package deal, you can streamline your travel plans and potentially save money while gaining access to exclusive courses and tailored experiences.

It’s also an excellent opportunity to explore different regions of Ireland and take advantage of added perks such as group discounts or special events.

Don’t overlook lesser-known courses

In addition to the well-known top-rated golf courses, consider exploring some of Ireland’s hidden gems. Lesser-known courses like County Sligo Golf Club, Ballyliffin Golf Club, Rosapenna Golf Resort, and Carne offer unique golfing experiences amidst stunning landscapes.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to discover these affordable and less crowded options for a memorable round of golf in Ireland.

Before planning your trip, it’s essential to gain insight into the best golf courses by region in Ireland.

Explore other activities in between rounds.

When not on the golf course, take time to explore the rich cultural heritage of Ireland. Visit historic castles, ancient ruins, and traditional Irish villages. Immerse yourself in the local music scene at lively pubs or embark on a scenic hike along rugged coastal cliffs.

Don’t miss out on savoring authentic Irish cuisine and tasting locally brewed whiskey during your downtime.

Engage in outdoor adventures like cycling tours, fishing trips, or horseback riding to make the most of your golf trip. Experience the breathtaking landscapes as you indulge in activities such as kayaking along serene lakes or taking a leisurely cruise down picturesque rivers.


In conclusion, Ireland offers a golfer’s paradise with world-class courses in spectacular locations. Planning a golf trip to Ireland can be made efficient by booking tee times in advance and considering package deals.

Exploring the best golf courses by region like South West Ireland or North West Ireland is essential for an unforgettable experience. Applying these tips can lead to significant improvements in your golfing journey.

The impact of experiencing legendary links courses and hidden gems cannot be overstated. Take on this adventure and create lasting memories amidst breathtaking landscapes and challenging championship courses.

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