Top 10 Irish Golf Courses Under $100
Ten under the radar courses that over deliver on value!
The demand for Ireland’s bucket list courses is such that tee times are often booked out months in advance… and green fees reflect this demand. Not all of the best courses fall into the top price range however, with Carne, Narin & Portnoo, and Druid’s Glen all costing under $100. There are many more excellent and/or interesting courses costing less than this figure so here are 10 courses (both links and parkland) which meet the criteria… although for $100 you’ll get two rounds at many of these. (* All prices are based on the 2016 season)
1. Portsalon (Links)
Portsalon is one of Ireland’s oldest clubs (1891). It is a natural links cast in a bucolic Irish setting of mountains, beach and sea. Indeed, golfers are required to drive across beach and sea on the 2nd hole… one of the best in the country. It is long and dangerous as it doglegs sharply around the beach before taking on a river.
The opening seven holes rumble through strong, swinging dunes above the beach. The back nine slip inland but, if anything, fairways and holes become more shapely and show off more of the views. Excellent quality and plenty of thrills… not to mention a couple of elegant double greens. And then there’s the clubhouse welcome…. which in itself is worth the journey.
Green fees: €75
2. Concra Wood (Parkland)
Opened in 2008, Concra Wood is one of Ireland’s highest quality parklands. It was designed by Christy O’Connor Senior and Junior, and it wraps around the shores of Lake Muckno. Here, holes and water are deeply entwined to dramatic effect. You are required to hit over water three times.
The constant changes in elevation promise stunning scenery and dramatic views of holes as they glide across the landscape to immaculate green settings.
Location: close to Royal County Down and on the route from Dublin to Northern Ireland
Green fees: €45-€55
3. Strandhill (Links)
Strandhill may sit in the shadow of the renowned Co. Sligo Golf Club just across the bay, but this links has so much going for it. The sea squeezes in on two sides and holes are routed over intriguing, ever-changing terrain. It leans on the quirky rather than the classic, which works in its favour because the 5th, 6th, 13th and 15th are hugely fun holes.
It doesn’t have a renowned designer name but you will be faced with unpredictable fairways, some severely undulating, natural greens and glorious scenery.
Green fees: €35-€40
4. Royal County Down (Annesley) (Links)
A modest par 66, with six par threes and no par fives, this links is a lesson in strategic golf. The quality is just as good as its world famous sibling and you’ll no doubt learn a thing or two about tight, twisting fairways and slick greens. A driver is a liability unless you enjoy masochistic adventures into the gorse and it will sharpen your short game no end.
Many visitors like to ‘warm-up’ on this course and they will get an inkling of what makes Royal County Down’s hallowed fairways and greens so special.
Green fees: £40
5. Scrabo (Parkland)
It is difficult to define Scrabo’s character… hilltop, gorse-drenched, natural and raw. It is an adventure like no other and while the quality and pedigree are not a match for the revered links, this is a wild ride that fires the adrenaline.
The course flows up, down and around the sides of Scrabo Hill, 10 miles east of Belfast, and has views all the way to Scotland. The 1st hole tells you all you need to know as it rises straight up between banks of dense gorse to a small green beside Scrabo Tower. It is Index 1.
Your driver will be flashing all day, but balls in the gorse should be left well alone.
Location: close to Royal County Down and Belfast
Green fees: £20-£25
6. Macreddin (Parkland)
Paul McGinley designed this valley parkland in 2008. It stretches up both sides of the Aughrim Valley, in a bucolic Irish setting. Holes are defined by gorse, tall pines and the sweet, rolling fairways that dart back and forth across the valley sides. Numerous stunning holes set the tempo (2, 4, 6, 12, 13, 17) but Macreddin’s rhythm builds from the moment you step onto the 1st tee.
It is a testing course with many doglegs, a river, smart bunkering and elevation changes… they are all used to create something unforgettable.
Location: close to The European Club
Green fees: €40-€50
7. Connemara (Links)
Ocean views, craggy mountainscapes and the Twelve Bens rippling across the horizon ensure that this is a golfing adventure at the farthest reaches of the beautiful, barren Connemara region. The course is wrapped around an impressive, high clubhouse with flags on show in every direction.
The fairways are generous… a vital concession considering how the wind can batter you here. At times it feels like a lunar landscape and this feeling increases on the back nine as you reach the impressive closing stretch. The par three 13th sits alone in a rock-strewn hollow, while the 14th promises one of those incredible driving moments from a mile-high tee.
Green fees: €85
8. North West (Links)
Not far from Ballyliffin, on Lough Swilly, North West Golf Club is one of Ireland’s oldest links. This is a course of subtlety and ingenuity, old school design and charm.
From the road, North West appears almost flat but this is bumpy and idiosyncratic links golf terrain. It possesses invisible dips, semi-blind approaches and excellent, natural and treacherous greens. You will need to engage your brain to do this links justice.
Enjoy the 90 yard 16th. In the wind it can prove to be the trickiest hole of your round.
Green fees: €30-€60
9. Rosslare (Links)
Rosslare is a lone links on the south-east tip of the island. It streaks low over sweet and subtle fairways throwing in hidden hollows, unpredictable humps and deceptive green approaches. The course sits on a narrow peninsula so all holes – bar one – head out or back, meaning wind is a very real factor when you turn for home (the 8th). The terrain requires constant subtlety from your game and while it doesn’t have any ‘big’ credentials, it has many classic links features.
Green fees: €30-€40
10. Esker Hills (Parkland)
Ireland’s biggest rollercoaster is the home course of Shane Lowry. Esker creates a heaving, hypnotic rhythm which tosses you back and forth as you weave between the ridges left behind by glaciers. The holes merely follow this natural landscape, usually as doglegs and sometimes over blind crests… but it is never less than thrilling. Your judgement off the tee and on approaches – often to high greens – will be tested constantly.
Location: on the route from Dublin to Lahinch and home of Shane Lowry
Green fees: €25-€30
Note that Royal Portrush (Valley) offers excellent value and quality links golf, but it is not included here as the course is undergoing considerable work ahead of the 2019 Open Championship.
Good things come to those who search…. So when it comes to Irish golf, you need to remember to look beyond the big names and relish discovering the numerous hidden gems that define this wonderful golfing destination. You’ll also save yourself a fair bit of cash, which you can then put towards playing those signature Irish courses!
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