Golf Guide to Dublin and Ireland’s East Coast

The irresistible combination of a great capital city and bucket list golf! Read and listen to our thoughts on one of Europe’s leading cities…

Ireland’s thriving capital draws all manner of tourists attracted by the culture, history, the food, drink and vitality. The city is over a thousand years old (founded by the Vikings in 841 AD) but the one constant has been the River Liffey, which flows through the city’s heart. This is home to the Book of Kells, Trinity College, Croke Park, Dublin Castle, U2 and Guinness.

dublin castle

Whether it’s the city centre, the suburbs or further afield, there’s always lots to do and see, and plenty of places to stay. Several of those places also just happen to have a golf course attached. Portmarnock Links is one of the most popular in Dublin, while Druid’s Glen, Carton House and the K Club all add a luxury element slightly further out of the city. 

You could choose to stay in any of these hotels (or in the city centre, itself) and golf would always be outside the front door – anyone fancy a little putting competition before dinner? – but unlike the other three regions of Ireland (Northern Ireland, South West, and North West) you can elect to stay in one place for the duration of your golf trip or – at most – two! It takes the pressure off and gives you greater scope to relax in the evenings. After all, if you’re staying around Dublin, you’re sure to find a pub which will become a favorite haunt. Guinness has a certain allure for many visitors – a pint pulled in Ireland can’t be matched anywhere else in the world – but the craft brewing industry has exploded in the past five years and, from humble beginnings, there are now well over 100 breweries across Ireland. Several pubs in Dublin are renowned for their selection, the Porterhouse in Temple Bar being one of the originals and still one of the best.

dublin

Elsewhere in the province of Leinster, Newgrange offers visitors a chance to explore one of the wonders of the ancient world. Built around 3,200 BC, it is older than the Pyramids and Stonehenge. Not quite so old is Royal Curragh Golf Club, which lies 30 miles west of the city. It is Ireland’s oldest golf club, where balls were first struck in 1852.

For links golf there’s no doubt that the north side of Dublin city has the richest pickings. Several top clubs are even visible on your descent to Dublin Airport, which has direct flights to 16 North American cities and connections to dozens more. Golfers have been well known to walk off the plane, ignore the jet lag and step onto the 1st tee of a world-class course less than 30 minutes later. And why wouldn’t you!

Further afield, but within 40 miles of the city centre lies a boon of Ireland’s great golf courses – links and parkland alike. Links courses include Seapoint, Co. Louth and Laytown & Bettystown to the north, and extend down to The European Club, in Co. Wicklow, to the south. In between lie those city links… six of them in all: Corballis, The Island, Portmarnock Links, Portmarnock, St. Anne’s and Royal Dublin. There are a couple of nine hole links which also deserve a mention: Rush and Sutton.  The famous J.B. Carr was a Sutton golfer, through and through, and a visit to the clubhouse and the J.B. Carr Room will reveal the great amateur’s achievements (11 Walker Cup appearances among them).

Bountiful parklands stretch north, south and west from Dublin. The most obvious and most popular with travelling golfers are those with four and five star hotels attached (Druid’s Glen to the south, and both the K Club and Carton House to the west) but many others offer highly exceptional golf. Killeen Castle, home of the 2011 Solheim Cup and a Jack Nicklaus ‘Signature’ course, is one of the biggest and most prominent (it is the longest in Ireland from the back tees). But other smaller courses have their unique selling points: the hilly and fun Stackstown is the home club of Padraig Harrington; and Paul McGinley’s Grange Golf Club is only two miles away. Each club has a room dedicated to its favorite golfing son. To the south, Greystones Golf Club now boasts its own superstar in the guise of Paul Dunne, who, as an amateur, led the Open Championship at St. Andrew’s in 2015.

The links on the east coast are vibrant, entertaining and the source of entertaining folklore. Co. Louth and Seapoint sit next to each other on the coastline, 40 miles north of the city, and are separated by little more than a rugged dune. The story goes that a group of Japanese golfers started their round at Co. Louth but finished on Seapoint’s 18th. It must have wrecked their scorecard as they would only have played 16 holes. Co. Louth is now better known for the heroics of Irishman Shane Lowry, who won the Irish Open here as an amateur in 2009, beating Robert Rock in a rain-drenched play-off. That’s folklore which will last for ever!

More tales surround The Island Golf Club: until the 1970s, this magical links could only be reached by a boat across the Malahide estuary. A road has since been built at the far end of the peninsula, and the foundations of the original clubhouse now form part of the 14th tee.

The Island

The golf club at Corballis sits next door and while no Japanese golfers have attempted to scale the impenetrable undergrowth and steep dune which separate these two links, visitors will be pleasantly surprised by what this short, municipal links has to offer.

Closer to the city lies the behemoth that is Portmarnock. In terms of links strategy these low dunes are home to one of the greatest tests in Irish golf. The greens are things of beauty… and bedevilment.

Portmarnock

The village of Portmarnock may also be the ideal place to base yourself as those six city links are only minutes away. The two closest to the city centre lie on Bull Island, a sand spit three miles long and created thanks to the recommendations of Captain ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ Bligh, in 1800. The island is occupied by just three residents: St. Anne’s and Royal Dublin golf courses… and a world famous UNESCO designated nature reserve.

Beyond Dublin city and well to the south, golfers will find The European Club… designed, built and managed by Pat Ruddy. The great man may even serve you a cup of tea or a slice of homemade apple pie, such is his involvement with what is widely regarded as a modern links masterpiece.

Within a semi-circle of 40 miles there are some 80 parklands to choose from. Of these, Druid’s Glen, the K Club and Carton House have all hosted international events; none bigger than the Ryder Cup on the K Club’s Palmer course.

palmer

There can’t be many golf vacation destinations better than Dublin, being both one of the world’s great capital cities and being surrounded by world class golf. Aside from its culture, history, undoubted golfing pedigree and unforgettable nightlight, it is an easy place to get to from many countries in the World. Why wouldn’t you pay a visit?

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Kevin Markham

I am an Irish golf writer, blogger and photographer. In 2008, I traveled around Ireland in an RV playing every 18-hole golf course for a book entitled 'Hooked: An Amateur's Guide to the Golf Courses of Ireland'. Now in its 3rd edition the book introduces all 340 golf courses and rates the experience awaiting golfers. A second book, 'Driving the Green', is a light-hearted story of my travels. I loves golf… but just not all the way from the back tees. My blog can be found at TheIrishGolfBlog.com.