The Clubhouse

Best links golf courses in Ireland

An island with almost unrivaled links pedigree, play some of the world’s best courses on your next Irish golf trip.

Chris Bowles
Chris Bowles
6 mins read
LinksIrelandUK & IrelandBucket listGolf tours

Like golf in Scotland, many of the courses on the island of Ireland were built around the coastlines, attracting early visitors that came to the area to enjoy the region’s beaches. As a result, many of the oldest and most well-respected layouts here were built on reclaimed linksland.

Both the North and South of Ireland are blessed with some world-beating layouts, so without any further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best links golf courses in Ireland.

Royal County Down

To be considered the best golf course in the world is quite the accolade. However, the championship links at Royal County Down is more than deserving of this hearty praise. It’s a true test of links, overlooked by the Mourne Mountains; although there’s as much beauty within its layout as there is on the horizon.

From start to finish, it’s an incredible golf course, easing you in with a splendid par-5 that weaves between the dunes. There are several blind tee shots that can mean only one thing … you simply must pay it a second visit!

Royal County Down Golf Club


Often top of the list when planning a trip to Ireland is the Old Course at Ballybunion. Such is its allure that Tiger Woods & Rory McIlroy are not unaffected by its charms, choosing to practice here together before the 2022 Open Championship. These pros are not alone in their admiration for the course, with Tom Watson really helping to put Ballybunion on the map amongst Americans following several visits here.

Changes to the green complexes and the addition of more rivetted bunkering in the early part of the 21st century really helped to complete Ballybunion, and it is now rightfully known (and loved) the world over.

Ballybunion Golf Club

Royal Portrush

When The Open returned to Northern Ireland in 2019, few could have written such a compelling script. Irishman Shane Lowry was roared home to victory in what can only be described as typically Irish weather! But amongst all the admiration for Lowry, the course garnered nearly as much applause.

The opening par-4 features out of bounds on both sides of the fairway, and caught out home-hope Rory McIlroy with his first shot of the week. There is also the brutal par-3 16th known as ‘Calamity Corner’. But through all its challenges, Royal Portrush was a phenomenal backdrop for the sport’s oldest Major, and it’s no surprise that golfers are eager to experience it for themselves!

Royal Portrush Golf Club


As mentioned in the opening of this article, Lahinch is typical of many of the courses in Ireland, created in the 1890s to entertain and attract visitors coming to the area on the newly-built train line. When commissioned to help with an early redesign, Old Tom Morris described Lahinch as “the finest natural course he had ever seen” – some statement, from the Keeper of The Greens at St Andrews!

There’s plenty of quirk at Lahinch, with blind shots a plenty’ however, it’s far from a novelty – instead, it presents a fabulous test of Championship golf.

Lahinch Golf Club


Portstewart Golf Club is home to three courses, with the par-72 Strand Course (it’s championship layout) most recently hosting the Irish Open won by Spaniard Jon Rahm. The course joins Royal Portrush and Royal County Down to create a trio of world-class links destinations in Northern Ireland.

Portstewart is flanked by the Atlantic, creating mesmerizing views on your route around this stunning plot of land. The wildness of the sea in the distance contrasts against the immaculately maintained playing surfaces which are crafted from the natural dunes. All in, it’s a course that should be missed under no circumstances when visiting Northern Ireland.

Portstewart Golf Club

Rosapenna (St Patrick’s)

Opened in 2021, the St Patrick’s course at Rosapenna is a true modern masterpiece. Designed by renowned architect, Tom Doak, the course takes in land that initially housed 36 holes to create a sprawling and specular 18-hole layout.

The route overlooks Sheephaven Bay and wows from start to finish, rivaling the iconic Barnbougle Dunes in Australia as Doak’s most acclaimed work. So much so, that the St Patrick’s course debuted at #55 in the world’s best courses in just its first year of opening. Given that it’s only likely to improve as time goes on, we’d recommend adding this one to your Irish itinerary.

Rosapenna (St Patrick’s)

Portmarnock Old

While many of Ireland’s top courses can be found along the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ on the country’s west coast, Portmarnock is a fabulous option for those staying closer to Dublin.

Originally built on the land owned by the famous Jameson whiskey family, The Old Course at Portmarnock has been a key hub for the sport in Ireland since 1894. There are plenty of top-tier associations, with Portmarnock hosting the Irish Open and Walker Cup, always being a tough test for those looking to beat its par of 72.

Portmarnock Old Golf Club


One of these courses along the Wild Atlantic Way is Waterville Golf Links. Continually thought of as one of our customers’ favorite stops, it’s an ideal addition to any journey down this coastline. There’s a rugged feel to Waterville which befits the natural landscape – however, the course itself is painstakingly looked after, providing excellent surfaces for visiting golfers from across the globe.

With the course hugging the coastline, there are unbeatable views out to the water, which can come as a welcome distraction for those racking up some high scores on Waterville’s testing links.

Waterville Golf Links

The Island

Established in 1890, The Island Golf Club has a long and proud tradition of supporting the elite amateur game in Ireland; most recently as a host of The Amateur Championship in 2019. It’s a links in the truest of senses, built on an outcropping of land between the Irish Sea and the Malahide Estuary.

Its exposed location means that weather is always a factor here, however, being just a short trip from the center of Dublin, there are plenty of places to warm up after a windswept round on the links!

The Island Golf Club

County Sligo

Our last links layout in Ireland is unsurprisingly laid out in the county of Sligo! The club is also known as Rosses Point, and boasts 27 excellent holes in the northwest of Ireland. Despite being more than 120 years old, the current course can stretch back to over 7,200 yards – ensuring it’ll continue to offer a stern challenge for many years to come.

An example of this difficulty is evident at the 500-yard par-4 17th hole! Hugging the water, it turns back towards the clubhouse and is tough to reach in two; forcing most golfers to attempt a lengthy up-and-down in search of an impressive par!

County Sligo Golf Club

Feeling inspired?
Enjoy a trip filled with culture, spectacular scenery, and traditional links courses on a golf vacation in Ireland.


Chris Bowles avatar
Chris Bowles

Senior Golf Vacation Specialist - UK & Ireland

Senior Golf Vacation Specialist, I help golfers find their ideal golfing getaway overseas

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