As any golfing aficionado will know, Ireland is home to countless world class golf courses. From championship links courses in the South West such as Ballybunion, Doonbeg and Lahinch to parkland beauties including Druids Glen, The K Club and Mount Juliet there is something to suit all tastes and in addition to the golf, those travelling to Ireland can enjoy local sights and sounds and, of course, a warm Irish welcome wherever you may go. Although there are plenty of household golfing names dotted up and down the Emerald Isle there are also a great deal of top class golf courses that may not be as well known as their famous neighbours, but are nonetheless equally enjoyable and impressive to play during an Irish golf tour.
Ballyliffin is Ireland’s northernmost golf club, and while its two golf courses may differ greatly in character, they are both of outstanding quality. The Old Course is links golf in its purest form. Sandy fairways wind through the natural dunes and although the course is not long, the dramatic undulations inherent to the land make it quirky and unpredictable. Moreover they make the Old Course an incredibly enjoyable test of golf. The Galshedy Links Course joined the Ballyliffin party in 1995 and it has only served to enhance Ballyliffin’s reputation. Named after the Galshedy Rock, the local equivalent of Turnberry‘s Ailsa Craig, the Glashedy is a brutal proposition at 7,200 yards in length. This monster seems certain to play host to major tournament golf and unlike its more traditional sister, there are huge greens here, whose severe slopes make scoring well on a blustery day devilishly difficult.
Ballyliffin Golf Club
Head a couple of hours South of Ballyliffin and you will stumble across a collection of links courses in and around County Sligo. In fact, County Sligo Golf Club is one of the outstanding highlights of an Irish golf tour in this region. Founded in 1894, County Sligo is home to one of the finest links courses in the country. It is situated on Rosses Point, a spectacular promontory that juts out into the sea off Ireland’s west coast. Along with County Sligo, golfers visiting the North West of Ireland would do well to seek out Enniscrone Golf Club where another awe inspiring links awaits. The Bartragh Peninsula, which plays host to Enniscrone, boasts some of the most natural links turf around. It may be a private members club, but the locals are always accommodating, and keen to share their amazing course. Throw in a round at Strandhill and you have the recipe for a top class golf tour…but where to stay?
Mount Falcon in Winter
Situated on the banks of the River Moy, nestled among some 100 acres of enchanting woodlands, Mount Falcon offers golfers travelling to the North West of Ireland a fantastic base from which to strike out at the courses above. This stunning hotel has won multiple awards and offers golfers a heady blend of luxurious accommodation; fine dining and excellent leisure facilities including a lavish spa; the perfect place to unwind after a long day on the fairways!
Alternatively head to Castle Dargan where, like Mount Falcon, golfers will find outstanding accommodation, excellent food in the hotel’s Hall Door restaurant and another spa where you can treat yourself to a relaxing treatment to get rid of any aches and pains picked up on the golf course. At Castle Dargan top class golf is never too far way as it boasts its very own golf course which was designed by none other than last year’s Open Championship winner Darren Clarke. The majestic woodland, lakes, burns, walls and ruins of the Castle Dargan estate were presented to Clarke as the backdrop for his fantastic golf course, which, in its finished state, is a perfect reflection of the amazing natural surroundings.
Rather than imposing his ideas on the site, Clarke allowed the character of the local terrain to dictate, spawning holes of amazing beauty and great challenge. County Sligo is blessed with a great many championship links courses, but Clarke has sought to redress the paucity of high quality parkland layouts with Castle Dargan.
In addition to Sligo, Enniscrone and Sandhill the North West also boasts the Rosapenna Hotel which, conveniently, boasts its very own pair of championship links courses – the Old Tom Morris Course and the Sandy Hills Course. The legendary Old Tom Morris laid out the original links that bears his name in 1891. On his first visit to the area, Morris was struck by the quality of the ‘golfing canvas’, and before he returned home he staked out the guidelines for his superb creation. In the following decades, both Harry Vardon and James Braid provided amendments, to make the golf course the outstanding challenge that it is today. The addition of the Sandy Hills course in 2003 has only added to Rosapenna’s reputation. While Morris’ course skirts the fantastic dunes, Pat Ruddy has crafted a monstrous tournament links that cuts through the sandhills of the incredible landscape, that so captivated Old Tom over a century ago. It is a tough task to find two finer tests of links golf in the same location so, needless to say, Rosapenna is an outstanding destination for an Irish golf break.
The Old Tom Morris & Sandy Hills Links at Rosapenna
Dublin & Surroundings
If the North West of Ireland doesn’t tickle your fancy or if you have your eyes set on something closer to Dublin but away from the usual suspects then head to the Knightsbrook Golf Resort. Boasting lavish surroundings, fantastic golf and, of course, a warm Irish welcome this is an ideal base for anyone looking to explore the golfing riches in and around Dublin. The Knightsbrook golf course was designed by ex Ryder Cup player Christy O’Connor Junior and is fast becoming one of the most popular layouts in and around Dublin.
Knightsbrook Golf Resort
Measuring a little over 7,200 yards from the tips the course is certainly long enough to challenge the big hitters while a selection of tees make it more manageable for players with less experience. Built to USGA specifications, the course is in fantastic condition year round and golfer will no doubt enjoy the challenge provided by the undulating fairways, testing putting surfaces and a number of menacing water hazards dotted around the course.
And what of the South? Well while there plenty of options to choose from the one that really jumps off the page is the Old Head Golf Links. Old Head is simply one of the most dramatic settings for a golf course anywhere in the world. The promontory that juts out 2 miles into the Atlantic is accessible by a single thoroughfare, and the sandstone below was formed some 350 million years ago.
Old Head Golf Links
Every single hole at Old Head is an absolutely remarkable experience, and has incredible views of the iconic lighthouse and the surrounding Atlantic. Thanks to the sheer quality of each and every hole here there isn’t really a signature hole, but it is absolutely guaranteed to strike awe into those fortunate enough to visit. The land itself boasts an amazing history, but for now its main attraction is the golf course, which is quickly establishing itself among the world’s elite. Playing Old Head as part of a Cork Tour will be an unforgettable experience.
Let’s face it…like Scotland it matters not where you go for your Irish golf break as there are such fine courses from the top to bottom of the Emerald Isle. So if you are one of the lucky ones to have ticked off a good few of the household names in Irish golf then perhaps one of the above destinations will be next on the hit list.