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Best Golf Courses In Ireland

May 2020

With more than 300 golf courses, Ireland has everything a golf connoisseur could ask for. Some of these beautiful courses embrace seaside settings and other parklands traits setting up magnificent terrains.

Golf in Ireland dates back all the way to the 19th century. Ireland possesses many of the greatest golf courses in the world. The three well-known Golf Clubs are; Ballybunion, Lahinch and Portmarnock.

Irelands credentials are strong when it comes to the game of golf. Some of the worlds best golfers also come from Ireland - Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Darren Clarke, Greame McDowell, Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington.

Here are our picks of the best course courses in Ireland.

Read Next: Best Golf Courses in Scotland.

Please note: The list of courses in this article are based on 3rd party rankings from sites like Golf Digest, Top 100 Golf Courses, Planet Golf and Golf Advisor; as well as from consumer reviews from platforms like Google and Trip Advisor.

Best Golf Courses in Ireland

1. Ballybunion (Old)

Ballybunion (Old) Golf Club

Image credit: irishgolfdesk.com

  • Location: County Kerry, Ireland                                   
  • Date Established: 1893              
  • Course Architect: Jo McKenna   
  • Interesting Fact: Bill Clinton played a round in 1998

Consistently rated among the best in the world, the links course that is Ballybunion is a great challenge to any golfer. If there is a gentle breeze, a good score may be within reach. However, even the most skilled golfer can see their round turn into a game of ‘Survivor’ due to the much vaunted onshore gale. Such is the severity.

With many holes to choose from, one may settle on the 11th as the courses signature hole. “Watsons”, as it is called, is a challenging 472 yard par 4 where only the most adapt with the club in hand will fancy themselves. Ballybunion is maintained in good shape, but not exceptional due to the high number of round the course hosts throughout the year. The Old Course has a length of 6,802 yards. The new Cashen Course with its succession of formidable par fives and breathtaking beauty and is wonderful compliment to the Old Course.  If one finds themselves in Ireland, Ballybunion should most definitely be high up on the to-do list.

2. Lahinch (Old)

Lahinch (Old) Golf Course

Image credit: golfbreaks.com

  • Location: County Clare, Ireland                                     
  • Date Established: 1892              
  • Course Architect: Tom Morris   
  • Interesting Fact: Derived from the old Irish name Leithinsi                                       meaning half island

Golf at Lahinch stared all the way back in 1892 when three local Limerick golfers laid out 18 holes with the help from the Scottish “Black Watch” regiment who were posted in the town at the time. In 1894, Old Tom Morris was commissioned to make improvements to the course. He addressed the layout and better utilised the natural terrain, specifically the giant sand dunes.

 The Old course was redesigned in 1927 by Alistair MacKenzie who famously know as one of the co-designers of Augusta. The links was also extended at the time and the Castle Course was added on the opposite side of the road. One of the more interesting aspects of the course is the presence of goats which have been granted a free license to roam.

3. Portmarnock (Championship)

Portmarnock (Championship) Golf Course

Image credit: golfadvisor.com

  • Location: County Dublin, Ireland                                  
  • Date Established: 1894           
  • Course Architect:  Mungo Park          
  • Interesting Fact: In the old days the only way Portmarnock could be accessed safely was by boat

Like most links courses, a good round at Portmarnock is dependent on wind conditions which can be especially gusty as it is situated on a peninsula. The championship course is over 7500 yards long and the only real change to the layout was the inclusion of the famous 15th hole in 1927.

The course was extended to eighteen holes in 1896 with a new clubhouse and a further nine holes were added in 1971 and Portmarnock has the distinction of hosting the Irish open on 19 occasions. The practice facilities at Portmarnock Golf Club are set to a championship standard with excellent amenities including two full restaurants and bars. The course is always kept in pristine condition and maintains a natural look which is evident in the timeless appearance and play.

4. European Club

European Club Golf Course

Image credit: golfcourse-review.com

  • Location: County Wicklow, Ireland                               
  • Date Established: 1993           
  • Course Architect: Rat Puddy   
  • Interesting Fact: With its many dunes and bunkers, the course is often compared to a walk on the moon

European Club was first opened in 1993 by Rat Puddy. It is a 20 Hole links where his family has stayed ever since. The contrast between the high dunes and the backdrop of the sea gives European Club its signature look.

Like many of the courses on this list, European Club is a must play and is probably one of the last links course built in Ireland. It is particularly difficult, with the course record standing at 67 which was shot by Tiger Woods. The course has been giving blessing by many a top golfer.

Rory McIlroy said the following of European Club, “This is probably the best links course I have ever played and I include Royal St. George’s, Royal Portrush, and Royal County Down in that. It’s just the definition to it with the sleepers in the bunkers. It is totally unbelievable. I love courses where you really have to think your way around. It gets me focused much more.”

5. Waterville

Waterville Golf Course

Image credit: commons.wikimedia.org

  • Location: County Kerry, Ireland                                    
  • Date Established: 1889           
  • Course Architect: Claude Harmon & Eddie Hackett*
  • Interesting Fact: Waterville members include Tiger Woods and Mark O’Meara

Like many of the other links courses on this list, Waterville combines sand dunes, gorse and native grasses, firm fairways, sod faced bunkers and subtle putting surfaces. All this in addition to temperamental Irish Wind makes for a considerable challenge.

Waterville’s General Manager, Noel Cronin, describes Hole 3 named “Sanctuary”, as the courses most difficult Hole. Don’t let the name fool you, Sanctuary is a 433-yard Par 4 from the blue tees, with little break and water haunting golfers all along the right. “Mulcahy’s Peak” is arguably the course signature Hole. This 194-yard Par 3 sits on the highest point on the course and has an eye-catching 360-degree view of the property. The world renowned golf architect, Tom Fazio, was commissioned to update the memorable Eddie Hackett masterpiece in 1989. Waterville is consistently rated as one of the top 5 courses in Ireland and one of the top 20 in the world.

6. Trump International Golf Links (Doonbeg)

Trump International Golf Links

Image credit: golfadvisor.com

  • Location: County Clare, Ireland                                     
  • Date Established: 2002           
  • Course Architect: Greg Norman         
  • Interesting Fact: The name Doonbeg is derived from ‘Dun Beag’ , meaning small fort

This is a course built by Greg Norman and is the Great White Sharks’ only in design in the British Isles. The geography of the course was hardly changed as the natural variations that occurred throughout the property were taken full advantage of. The complex hosts a 5-star hotel, spa, cottages and reception rooms.

In 2014 Donald Trump bought Doonbeg property on a deal that was said to be around €15 million. The course was then renamed Trump International Golf Links and Hotel. Over the next two year period the course was redesigned by Martin Hawtree at a cost, reputedly, of €5 million. Besides the course itself Trump International Golf Links has unparalleled five star facilities, world-class hospitality and the highest standards of luxury.

7. County Sligo (Championship)

County Sligo (Championship) Golf Course

Image credit: countrysligogolfclub.ie

  • Location: County Sligo, Ireland                         
  • Date Established: 1894           
  • Course Architect: George Combe
  • Interesting Fact: The course is also known as Rosses Point

Willie Campbell extended the original 9 hole course to 18 holes at the turn of the 20th century. The course was remodeled by the famous Colt and Alison partnership in 1927. The two utilized the natural contours of the dune-covered landscape with minimum disturbance of the surrounding earth. The end result is a course filled with dramatic undulations, elevated tees, and raised plateau greens.

The County Sligo Golf Club clubhouse, a quaint Tudor design with two large putting clocks, is one of a handful of real classics in Ireland. County Sligo, like Ballybunion and Royal County Down, should be a “given” to include on Ireland golf tour.

8. The Island

The Island Golf Course

Image credit: 1golf.eu

  • Location: County Dublin, Ireland                                  
  • Date Established: 1890
  • Course Architect: Fred Hawtree
  • Interesting Fact: Was once an Island but is now connected to the main land

The Island is a 6,903 yards par 71 classic links course set in a rugged terrain between the high mountain dunes. The Island is favourable located in the remote and tranquil Estuary of Donabate and Malahide.

The courses signature hole is the 13th, which is a long par 3 measuring over 220 yards. There is a bail-out option short and left of the green, with only the braver golfer being prepared to tackle the lengthy beach shot.

Darren Clarke holds the professional course record with a score of 63.

9. Rosapenna (Sandy Hills)

Rosapenna (Sandy Hills) Golf Course

Image credit: 1golf.eu

  • Location: County Donegal, Ireland
  • Date Established: 1981
  • Course Architect: Pat Ruddy
  • Interesting Fact: Donegal is rapidly becoming one of Ireland’s favourite golfing destinations and Rosapenna is a big favourite

This stunning challenging links has earned such a fierce reputation in Ireland amongst the golfing community. Some say even some touring groups that want to play golf are steered away from this links as Pat Ruddy made this links a tough but amazing golfing experience.

This is a demanding test, Ruddy’s holes are nestled inbetween hills and often finish on a platform well above the fairways. Punch shots almost feel impossible. The views from all angles are breathtaking which takes the sting off the scorecard.

 The golfing world began to recognise that Sandy Hills was something special.

10. Ballyliffin (Glashedy)

Ballyliffin (Glashedy) Golf Course

Image credit: golfdigestme.com

  • Location: Ballyliffin, County Donegal, Ireland
  • Date Established: 1995
  • Course Architect: Tom Craddock and Pat Ruddy
  • Interesting Fact: This incredible course hosted the Irish Open

The Glashedy Links provides an amazing golfing experience along the coast with a breathtaking landscape. This course is known to many as inferior. This course hosts various events including the Irish Open and is known as the championship course.

This links is over 7000 yards in length and the golfers need to be prepared for no gentle introduction as the first three holes are incredibly challenging. Most the greens are huge, whilst some of the greens have two parts to them which makes the approach shots tricky.

This links is a must play but make sure you are ready for one of the most challenging links in the world.

11. County Louth

County Louth Golf Course

Image credit: 1golf.eu

  • Location: Baltray, Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland
  • Date Established: 1892
  • Course Architect: Tom Simpson, Donald Steel, Tom Mackenzie, Philip Spogard, Michiel van der Vaart
  • Interesting Fact: This stunning course is rated in Golf Digest’s top 100 courses in the world as a “hidden gem”.

County Louth Golf Club is situated about 4 miles from Drogheda at the mouth of the river Boyne. The river to the south and the Irish to the east side. This links is incredible and breaks the sound of nature.

This links is recognised as one of the top twenty five courses in British Isles. This links can be incredibly challenging, but this course provides competition for all handicaps. I would say this links is more ‘user friendly’ so to say.

The back nine is so special with a number oh holes running right next to the shore with breathtaking views towards the mountains of Mourne. Another interesting fact is that County Louth hosted the Nissan Irish Open in 2004.

12. Carne (Hackett)

Carne (Hackett) Golf Course

Image credit: golfadvisor.com

  • Location: Carne, Belmullet, Co. Mayo, Ireland
  • Date Established: 1993
  • Course Architect: Eddie Hackett
  • Interesting Fact: Carne links golf course introduced its final nine holes in 1993, just a few years before this legendary 85 year old Irish man passed away in 1996

Eddie Hackett dug minimal holes for bunkers as the natural terrain is challenging enough. Carne try to keep this links as natural as possible. A lot of people describe this links as ‘Ireland’s most undiscovered links’. This beautiful links is hidden in the northwest. As the locals would say, Carne is simply ‘iontach’ (wonderful).

The Hackett course is a par 73 and is roughly 6700 yards in length. The dunes and hills play a massive factor on this links. Each nine winds its way back to the clubhouse as the holes flow and create a snake formation up and down and in all weird directions. It is simply magnificent to say the least.

A trip to Ireland would not be complete without playing this breathtaking links.

13. Enniscrone (Dunes)

Enniscrone (Dunes) Golf Course

Image credit: golfadvisor.com

  • Location: Enniscrone, County Sligo, Ireland
  • Date Established: 1918
  • Course Architect: Eddie Hackett, Donald Steel, Tom Mackenzie, Martin Ebert
  • Interesting Fact: Twelve holes wind through some of the largest dunes on the coast which guarantees to add a sense of serenity and beauty to your golfing experience

This course is situated on the remote western coast of Ireland.

The surroundings of this golf course is indescribable literally. Strong winds and elevated greens make this course a lot trickier for the golfers out there. These holes demand accuracy on all shots.

This course is roughly about 7000 yards in length which calls for some solid driving off the tee boxes. Everything about Enniscrone is natural, everything is in allign with nature which just adds a sense of freedom and joy to your round.

The location and course is just ravashing. Enniscrone really is a stunning golf course with serious challenges attached.

14. Adare Manor

Adare Manor Golf Course

Image credit: adaremanor.com

  • Location: Adare, Co. Limerick, Ireland
  • Date Established: 1995
  • Course Architect: Robert Trent Jones and Tom Fazio
  • Interesting Fact: This venue will host the 2026 Ryder Cup

As mentioned above, This stunning course will host the 2026 Ryder Cup. This course also hosted the Irish Open. Adare was built in 1995 but was completely rebuilt in 2017, improving many factors on the course naming drainage and showcasing the course as a whole.

Adare Manor is placed in more than 800 acres of unreal landscaping in the beautiful gardens . The course is known for its cloverleaf bunkers and its american styled mounding, not to forget about all the water that comes into play during your round.

If you rate yourself as a golfer, do yourself a favour and challenge yourself at the beautiful Adare Manor Golf Course.

15. Tralee

Tralee Golf Course

Image credit: golfcourse-review.com

  • Location: West Barrow, Ardfert, Tralee, Co. Kerry, Ireland
  • Date Established: 1984
  • Course Architect: Arnold Palmer, Tom Mackenzie, Martin Ebert
  • Interesting Fact: Tralee offers one of the best backdrops of any golf course in the world

Amongst the spectacular various views of the Atlantic from each and every hole, this incredible location also has a historical landmark naming the ‘Irish Folklore’ with the tower located behind the 3rd green dating all the way back to the 1190’s which is amazing by itself.

This course is breathtaking, but at the same time, do not get too comfotable as some of these holes are more than challenging. A lot of these holes and approaches to the greens require good accurate shots.

Lastly, I would like to say that there are very few courses that has your attention from the first tee box to the last putt on the 18th green.  This links at Tralee is one of those captivating golf courses for sure. You will enjoy every second of this breathtaking golfing experience.

About the author 

Paul Bradshaw

Paul hit his first golf shot at the age of 5, and from that point on was immediately hooked. He went on to become one of the leading amateurs in South Africa, securing a full golf scholarship with the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. Turning professional in 2004, Paul played extensively on the Sunshine Tour and co-sanctioned European Tour events. Paul is our lead editor at Golf Assessor.

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