The Clubhouse

Best golf courses in Ireland

If you're thinking of visiting Ireland on your next golf vacation, then look no further! We have selected some of our 'must-play' courses in the Emerald Isle.

Patrick Tarantino
Patrick Tarantino
8 mins read
UK & IrelandIrelandLinksBucket listGolf tours

When devising any list of Ireland’s best golf courses it is difficult to look beyond the fabled links.

Despite there being so many wonderful Irish parklands (Adare, Concra Wood, Mount Juliet) it is the links that draw such universal praise. Explore our top picks of the best golf courses in Ireland to add to your bucket-list golf vacation.

1. Carne Golf Links

Carne boasts 27 brilliant links holes on the northwestern tip of Co. Mayo. This is probably the biggest links landscape on the planet as dunes rise almost 500 feet above sea level in random, chaotic explosions. It ripples with muscle, intrigue, and entertainment, with tees and greens perched up high or sitting low at the foot of giant dunes. The original 18 were designed by the legendary Irish architect, Eddie Hackett, whose genius was to let the natural landscape dictate the design. At Carne, that means some truly breath-taking holes. In 2013, a further nine holes (the Kilmore nine) were opened.

Carne Golf Links

Carne Golf Links facts:

Course: Hackett Links Length: Back tees: 6,702 - Front tees: 5,206 Par: 72/73 Architect: Eddie Hackett Founded: 1992 Course type: Links

2. Royal County Down

As one of the greatest golf experiences on earth this links has the design pedigree (Old Tom Morris and Harry Colt, chief among them), it has the stunning location set on Dundrum Bay and below the mighty Mourne Mountains, and it has an aura beyond words. A links this good, with so many blind shots and bearded bunkers, will always bewilder and enthrall.

Jack Nicklaus dislikes the many blind shots but this is how links were laid out in the early days. Dunes were left alone and holes were routed around and over them. Royal County Down embraces that willingly and the signature par three 4th is one of the most dramatic holes anywhere.

Royal County Down Golf Club

Royal County Down facts:

Length: Back tees: 7,186 - Front tees: 6,249 Par: 71/76 Architect: Tom Morris Founded: 1889 Course type: Links

3. Old Course, Ballybunion Golf Club

Ballybunion Golf Club sits high on the Co. Kerry coastline, with 36 remarkable links holes. The Old Course is magical but it wasn’t until the 1980s, when it so enchanted Tom Watson, that the world took notice.

This is links golf in its purest, most natural form. There is variety too, as a calm start builds to a crescendo, with the exceptional back nine ducking and diving through the biggest dunes. Greens sit on high plateaus and down in dells, fairways glide between muscular shoulders and dunes jealously embrace greens. And then there are five nerve-wracking par threes.

Old Course, Ballybunion Golf Club

Ballybunion Golf Club facts:

Length: Back tees: 7,317 - Front tees: 6,476 Par: 75/72 Architect: Harry Colt Founded: 1929 Course type: Links

4. Enniscrone

Enniscrone is in big dune country, tucked up against a beach that stretches for miles. The fairways reflect the rhythm of the shaggy dunes, presenting some major swells as they see-saw towards the greens, often through deep valleys. It is hypnotic in places, but this is a stern challenge involving some remarkable blind shots… and the plateau greens require the deftest of touches.

You’ll encounter unbelievable holes (2, 12 and 13 most notably) and the stretch from 12 to 17 is utterly captivating. You might just be tossed around by the constant swell of the landscape to the point you feel dizzy. And remember… it is always a mistake to go through the green.

Enniscrone golf club

Enniscrone facts:

Length: Back tees: 7,029 - Front tees: 5,723 Par: 73 Architect: Eddie Hackett Founded: 1974 Course type: Links

5. Waterville Golf Links

Waterville sits at the far end of the Ring of Kerry, in a picture-perfect setting of mountains and ocean. Holes flow in a sensuous rhythm through the rumpled dunes and, if it wasn’t so rugged, you’d think this landscape had been created just to host a golf course.

The raised tee boxes show off this course’s true beauty as well as helping you assess what lies ahead. Your biggest challenges will be wrapped around the greens where bump and run should always be considered. Holes 16 to 18 above the sea are exceptional but you’ll never forget the par-five 11th (Tranquility) and the par-three 12th (Mass Hole).

Waterville Golf Links

Waterville Golf Links facts:

Length: Back tees: 7,347 - Front tees: 5,370 Par: 72/72 Architect: Claude Harmon & Eddie Hacket Founded: 1973 Course type: Links

6. The Island Golf Club

For a Dublin links course, The Island’s big, glorious dunes are an anomaly and create holes of constant drama and variety. The opening run of eight consecutive par fours makes this abundantly apparent, combining long and short holes with blind shots, big dunes, ridges, hollows and the unexpected. It is absorbing stuff and requires intelligent golf.

The back nine are even better as you’re drawn back out to the sea. This is where history enhances the experience… nowhere more so than on the 14th tee box, which was the foundation for the original clubhouse, on the edge of the Malahide Estuary. The hole has one of the narrowest fairways you’ll ever encounter.

The Island Golf Club

The Island Golf Club facts:

Length: Back tees: 7,045 - Front tees: 5,953 Par: 72 Architect: Fred Hawtree Founded: 1890 Course type: Links

7. County Sligo

This timeless Harry Colt classic sits outside Sligo town. The views over Drumcliff, Sligo’s bays, and the distant mountains are mesmerizing, but it is the flat-topped Benbulbin that is the most impressive sight of them all.

The setting is as magnificent as the links. Routed over a dunescape of contrasting rhythms, holes fall into one of three categories, testing your mettle from start to finish. In places it is almost flat, in others it is unpredictable and bumpy, and instill more it is steep and practically mountainous. And yet it all feels open so that the challenges are instantly visible from the tee. It makes it a pleasure to play, especially with four exceptional par threes and perfect greens.

County Sligo Golf Club

County Sligo facts:

Length: Back tees: 7,157 - Front tees: 5,918 Par: 71 Architect: H. S. Colt (1927) Founded: 1894 Course type: Links

8. Narin & Portnoo Links

For many golfers, Narin & Portnoo is Ireland’s undiscovered links. It is rarely talked about and much of that comes down to its Co. Donegal remoteness.

No other course in Ireland gets you as close to the ocean with holes wrapping around a ridge of tall dunes at the heart of the links. Stand on the 9th tee and you can dip your toe in the Atlantic. Stand on the high 8th tee and there is no more beautiful place in Ireland. The stretch from the 6th to 11th is mesmerizing; it may well be the best run of holes in Ireland.

Narin & Portnoo Links

Narin & Portnoo Links facts:

Length: Back tees: 6,269 - Front tees: 5,315 Par: 73 Architect: Gil Hanse & Jim Wagner Founded: 1905 Course type: Links

9. Tralee Golf Club

Tralee Golf Club is home to some of Ireland’s most stunning holes as well as dazzling scenery. The clubhouse sits at the highest point, showing off the course below. From here it is easy to see why course designer Arnold Palmer quipped, 'surely God designed the back nine'. This is breath-taking stuff above beaches and azure waters.

The landscape of towering dunes and deep hollows presented a perfect setting for fairways and greens alike, and you can expect some steep putting surfaces to test your short game prowess. Anything askew will slip away off these velvet surfaces.

Tralee Golf Club

Tralee Golf Club facts:

Length: Back tees: 6,975 - Front tees: 5,481 Par: 72 Architect: Arnold Palmer Founded: 1984 Course type: Links

These 9 courses give me the greatest satisfaction and best-golfing experiences, time and time again. Yes, it is almost impossible to leave out Lahinch, The European, Portmarnock, Old Head, and Royal Portrush – and you might call me mad for doing so – but, at the end of the day, lists come down to personal preferences.

Ireland is not all about links golf by any means, especially when it is blessed with many quality parkland courses such as The K Club. However it is fair to say that it’s a mecca for golfers worldwide; every year thousands of golfers flock to the Emerald Isle to experience the striking landscapes, huge dunes, world-class courses, and famed hospitality. If you’ve not yet made that pilgrimage, then check your diary and schedule a trip to Ireland…soon!

Feeling inspired?
Ireland is home to some of Europe's oldest and classic, traditional courses. You won't be disappointed.


Patrick Tarantino avatar
Patrick Tarantino

Sales Manager

Sales Manager, Heads our Charleston office sales team for golf vacations domestic and abroad

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