Golfers who take the game seriously, but also enjoy beautiful scenery, quaint villages, and friendly people have discovered Ireland. Many of the courses are among the top ranked links in the world. Of the 246 “true links” courses worldwide (as defined by the Links Association), Ireland boast 58.
Classic Heritage Golf Tours offers all-inclusive golf vacations that include these courses. Here is a selection of the best, grouped by golfing area. Click on the profiles to learn even more about these great golf courses.
Golf in Southwest Ireland
Ballybunion Golf Club
Ballybunion consists of probably the best two combined courses in Ireland. Founded in 1893, the Old Course was designed by Simpson McKenna, while the Cashen Course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. The courses winds through dunes which rise in ridges and peaks, resulting in valleys for fairways and greens and tees on the cliff edge.
Old Head Golf Links
It was seven years in the making on what must be one of the world’s truly remarkable and natural sites on a peninsula rising above dramatic cliffs on all sides, commanding the most spectacular views from virtually every part of the course.
Tralee Golf Club
The original course was designed in 1896, and redesigned by Arnold Palmer in 1989, the first course designed by him in Europe. The front nine is on mostly open land, set on cliff tops with the greens set on the edge of the sea. The back nine is set amongst majestic dunes
Waterville Golf Links
Ireland’s Ring of Kerry is the setting for the highly regarded Waterville. Like the famous Ballybunion, its exposure to the winds from the Atlantic presents an outstanding challenge. The back nine holes, amongst the hills and sand dunes, are as tough and as visually pleasing, as you will find.
Lahinch Golf Club
Designed by Old Tom Morris in 1892, he said Lahinch was “the finest natural course” he had ever seen. A 1926 redesign made maximum utilization of the natural contours of this great links land, which is the essence of the course, considered by many as the St Andrews of Ireland.
Trump Doonbeg Golf Club
IWhen opened in 2002, Doonbeg was immediately designated as Golf Digest’s “Best New International Course”. Greg Norman’s design team employed a “least disturbance” philosophy; for example most fairways were mowed to play just as nature created in the contours.
Dooks Golf Club
Dooks is the oldest course in Ireland, being designed in 1889 by Eddie Hackett. This seaside course is set on the prettiest section of the Ring of Kerry. Dooks, meaning sand-bank in Gaelic, sits atop one of three stretches of sand dunes at the head of Dingle Bay.
Ring of Kerry Golf & Country Club
It sits majestically between the towering majesty of the MacGillycuddy Reeks and the Caha Mountains. Golfers enjoy the view of one of the most panoramic scenes to be found on any golf course in Ireland, overlooking spectacular Kenmare Bay.
Killarney Golf & Fishing Club
Dating back to 1893, the club has two courses – the Killeen Course and the Mahony’s Point Course. The challenging golf of The Killeen Course is matched by the spectacular views of Killarney lakes and the high mountain range, which provide an imposing backdrop.
Golf in Northwest Ireland
Ireland’s most northerly course has two outstanding and contrasting links courses to enjoy—the classic Old Links and the magnificent new Glashedy Links. It was once considered the ultimate hidden gem, but now is considered one of Ireland’s best.
Carne Golf Links
Carne lies in magnificent unspoiled sand dunes overlooking Blacksod Bay and the wild Atlantic Ocean in County Mayo in the west of Ireland. Carne was the last links course to be designed by Eddie Hackett and it is believed by many to his greatest.
County Sligo Golf Club
This is one of Ireland’s great Championship Links located in the picturesque seaside village of Rosses Point, just 8 km from Sligo, and lies under the imposing shadow of Benbulben, a unique rock formation.
Two championship golf courses are located in this fine stretch of Donegal coastline, first recognized by Old Tom Morris in 1881. Both the Old Tom Morris Links and the newer Sandy Hills Course feature spectacular holes and beautiful views over the bays.
Golf in Eastern Ireland & Dublin Area
Portmarnock Golf Club
Portmarnock is on a small peninsula which extending southward into the Irish Sea north of Dublin. Surrounded by water on three sides and laid out in a serpentine fashion, no two successive holes play in the same direction. Only open space and long views of the distant scenery meet the eye.
The European Club
These links, designed by Pat Ruddy in 1987, were designed to perpetuate the traditional values of links golf: rugged dunes, deep bunkers, sea breezes and large undulating greens that call on the golfer to display strength of character, an ability to think and shot making skill.
The Island Golf Club
Established in 1890, it is surrounded by the sea on three sides, nestled amongst the lonely dunes at Malahide near Dublin. Virtually every hole requires some sort of cleverly imagined and executed shot, whether off the tee or into one of the brilliantly conceived greens.
Royal Dublin Golf Club
Famous golf course architects Harry Colt, in the 1920s, and Martin Hawtree, in 2006, combined to make Royal Dublin one of the finest links courses in Ireland. Located on Bull Island in Dublin Bay, it challenges golfers with its beautifully contoured, raised greens.
Druids Glen Golf Club
Sometimes referred to as the Augusta of Europe, every effort has been made to make the course in County Wicklow into one of the most sophisticated homes of the game. The result is a truly magnificent course built on a turbulent, well wooded property near the sea.
County Louth Golf Club
“Baltray” as it is more affectionately known is situated four miles from the historic town of Drogheda at the mouth of the river Boyne, north of Dublin. With the river to the south and the Irish Sea to the east, this is links golf at is very best.
Golf in Northern Ireland
Royal County Down
If Northern Ireland had a signature course then Royal County Down would be it. It’s nestled in the huge sand dunes beside the town of Newcastle in view of the Mountains of Mourne. It is considered one of the top five golf courses in the world by many.
Royal Portrush is a great test of any golfer’s shot-making and nerve. It is famous not only for its magnificent turf and superb golf holes but also for its lovely setting. The Dunluce Course is laid out through a tangle of sand hills with the sweeping contours of dunel.
Portstewart Golf Club
Founded in 1894, this championship links course received its greatest makeover with the purchase of land known as “Thistly Hollow” in 1981. This enabled the club to build a stunning new seven holes through towering dunes and fabulous and natural links land, spectacularly set on Ulster’s Causeway Coast.
Castlerock Golf Club
Situated in the seaside village of Castlerock, on the North Coast of Northern Ireland, Castlerock is a fabulous links course. Its scenic qualities embrace the river Bann flowing to the Atlantic, and eye-catching views of Donegal and on a clear day towards Scotland and the Isle of Islay.
Ardglass Golf Club
With the old Ardglass Castle as its clubhouse, the setting of Ardglass is very impressive. This seaside course, overlooking the beautiful coast line, just up from Royal County Down, and the Majestic Mourne Mountains, is unquestionably one of the most spectacular courses in Ireland.
Note on Links Courses: why we walk
Traditionally, Irish and British links courses are meant for walking in order to enjoy the entire historic links experience. Courses are generally flat, fairways run adjacent to each other (rarely are there housing or other developments on the courses), and tee boxes are close to the greens. Therefore links courses are much shorter and easier to walk than most American courses. Caddies are available at nearly all of them for a cost of about $60 plus tip, and they offer pull carts. Some courses offer a limited number of motorized carts (buggies) and nearly all offer buggies for golfers with a handicap statement from their doctor.