The rolling green countryside of Ireland is beautiful to explore, but it also makes the Emerald Isle a real-life golfer’s paradise.
In Ireland, you can hit the links with friends while taking in the crashing waves of the Atlantic or play beside the pros on the finest championship courses. The country is home to several of the top 50 golf courses in the world, and more than 400 golf courses in total. That means that about 30 percent of the world’s golf courses are found in Ireland.
The manicured greens, natural hazards, and creative designs are all a joy to play.
Ballyliffin Golf Club is home to two courses – the Old Links and Glashedy Links. Together they make up 36 holes of some of the best links in Ireland. The greens and fairways look like they have been dropped into the Donegal landscape and the natural hazards are a constant challenge. Don’t let the view of the Atlantic distract you too much from the celebrated Glashedy design, created by Pat Ruddy and Tom Craddock.
Ballybunion is a popular seaside resort for many families in Ireland, but golfers always come to the town in County Kerry for the old course. Kerry is known for its dramatic landscapes and the natural hazards are beautifully incorporated into this ocean-front course. After taking on the Ballybunion course, plan a second day in the area to tackle the Cashen Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones the famed golf course architect who designed courses in 35 different countries over his long career.
The 36-hole Royal Portrush Golf Club is one of the premier golfing destinations in Northern Ireland. The club has two links courses, Dunluce Links and the Valley Links, with Dunluce being the more famous. The club originally opened as a 9-hole course in 1888 and has grown into one of the most pleasurable courses to play in Ireland over its long history. Dunluce Links offers some of the most stunning scenery of any course in all of Ireland, set on the Atlantic coast and looking off towards the cliffs which house Dunluce Castle with the Giant’s Causeway sitting just beyond. There are small greens and huge dunes, making the course as difficult as it is beautiful.
The gorgeous links course at Portmarnock is located on a two-mile long peninsula just a 10-mile drive outside of Dublin. The first nine holes first opened in 1894, and it has since grown into one of the loveliest and most challenging links courses in all of Ireland. The course is surrounded by water on three sides and has a famous par three on the 15th hole. The first-ever Irish Open was held at Portmarnock in 1927, and the championship has returned many times over the years. You don’t have to take our word for it. Golf Digest has repeatedly named Portmarnock one of the best golf courses in Ireland, and Tiger Woods once it's “one of the most enjoyable links courses I have had an opportunity to play.”
The Kildare Hotel and Golf Club is better known to golf insiders as the K Club. The golf complex was built around a glamorous 1830s manor house and has plenty of classic charm and modern luxury. Both of the courses here were designed by golf legend Arnold Palmer, and one became the first Irish course to host the Ryder Cup in 2006. The Ryder Cup course is a challenging parkland golf course and is considered a bucket list item by many serious golfers. The Smurfit Course is a links course with dunes throughout and offers a beautiful landscape along each hole.
The scenic Tralee Golf Club was the first European course designed by the legendary Arnold Palmer. The links course uses the natural, rugged coastline to create an incredibly challenging and gorgeous 18 holes. The setting prompted Palmer to declare "I have never come across a piece of land so ideally suited for the building of a golf course.” Reserve a tee time to see if you agree.
With more than 125 years of golfing history under its belt, Lahinch is one of Ireland’s oldest and grandest courses. It was first designed by Old Tom Morris, one of the earliest standard setters in Irish golf. It has been modernized since its opening in 1892 but the landscape is what truly provides some of the most classic aspects to the course. There is one hazard here that is completely unpredictable: the goats. The goats were introduced by a caddie in the 20th century, and a herd is still allowed to roam the course. The goats are supposed to be great weathermen, and if you see them hanging around the club house instead of grazing on the greens, you are likely in for some stormy Irish weather.
Established in 1889, Royal County Down is one of the oldest golf clubs in Northern Ireland. The club consists of two links courses, Championship Course and the Annesley Links, for 36 holes in total. Set in the pristine landscape of the Murlough Nature Reserve, near the Mourne Mountains, the narrow fairways are hemmed in by heath. The Annesley links are shorter than the neighboring championship course but still offer a good test of golfing skills among the dunes.
Set in the tranquil Cavan countryside, the golf course at the Slieve Russell hotel incorporates the lakes and drumlins that the county is known for. Designed by Patrick Merrigan, it is one of eight PGA National courses in the world and offers a challenging 18 holes. The par-72 course is considered to be one of the best parkland golf courses in all of Ireland. There is also a nine-hole PGA National Academy course for a shorter test of your golfing prowess.
Set just 30 minutes outside of Dublin near the Wicklow Mountains, Druids Glen Resort makes full use of its 360 acres of land to offer two championship parkland golf courses. Druids Glen opened in 1995 and went on to host the Irish Open four years in a row. The neighboring Druids Heath course offers 18 holes over rolling countryside, and there is also a driving range and golf academy on-site to help you perfect your game.
The course at Mount Juliet was designed by golf course architect Jack Nicklaus and is seen as having some features that are more typical of American courses than what is usually found in Irish design. The course has enough quirks and hazards to challenge the professional golfer but is also a wonderful place for a leisurely game. There is also a beautiful clubhouse and a Michelin Star restaurant at the estate to relax after you have played 18 holes.
Set inside Killarney National Park, the incredible Golf and Fishing Club has two lakeside championship courses, Killeen and Mahony’s Point. In addition to these 18 hole courses, the club also has a shorter nine-hole course for a lighter game. Take a break from tee times for a day of fishing on Lough Leane, or keep challenging yourself on the rolling fairways of the parkland courses—the tranquil setting is a joy to discover on the greens and off.