TOP TEN Courses in Ireland by Mike Brassil
Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland (Private)
Northern Ireland’s most socially conscious golf club, and one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, is awash in doctors, lawyers, judges and industrialists, mainly from Belfast. There’s no waiting list, not that it matters: few members leave before death and membership is by invitation only.
County Antrim, Portrush, Northern Ireland (Semi-private)
Royal Portrush hosted the first professional tournament in Ireland in 1895. In 1951, the course hosted the only Open Championship ever held in Ireland.
Ballybunion, County Kerry, Ireland (Semi-private)
Located on the Shannon estuary, the Old course at Ballybunion is a seaside links with very few trees. The course is widely considered to be one of the greatest in the world and is a fixture on Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Courses in the World.
Portmarnock, Ireland (Semi-private)
Curving along a stretch of coastline on the Howth peninsula just 12 miles from downtown Dublin, Portmarnock has played host to a dozen Irish Opens. The course has three nines — Yellow, Red and Blue, with the latter two combined to make up the Championship course.
Lahinch, County Clare, Ireland (Semi-private)
Started by Old Tom Morris in 1894, English designer Martin Hawtree gave the greens more size and slope, adding bunkers and reshaping fairways. The result is a remade masterpiece that will gladden the heart of 16-handicappers and Tour pros alike. (Phil Mickelson has called it his favorite links course.)
Wicklow, Ireland (Semi-private)
The course sits in massive sand dunes alongside the Irish Sea, about an hour south of downtown Dublin. The European Club has slender fairways, few blind shots and a collection of superb par 4s.
Ring of Kerry, Ireland (Semi-private)
8. Old Head
Kinsale, Co. Cork, Ireland (Semi-private)
There’s value at Old Head past the vistas, and it comes from the people who make your day unique. As a visitor, you typically get a tee time and someone to point you toward the locker room. At Old Head you get the sense that you are not only about to do something very special, but that everyone is happy for you to be doing so.
Tralee, Co. Kerry, Ireland (Semi-private)
County Clare, Ireland (Resort)
Doonbeg debuted in 2002 to acclaim for its beauty and criticism for its difficulty. The owners widened some fairways, yanked out the odd bunker and removed plots of ball-swallowing rough (under protest from designer Greg Norman). The result is improved playability and a faster pace of play. It’s still a beast when the wind howls, but it’s a more fun experience.