Best Golf Courses around 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…
The region around Dublin is rich in golf courses – links and parkland alike. And, even better, they are all reachable from the city. So find some comfortable accommodation for your trip and settle in. Here are ten of the best.
- The Island
For a Dublin links course, The Island’s big dunes are an anomaly. And not only are they big but they are varied and glorious too. They promise a links course where every hole is different and bursting with drama. The opening run of eight consecutive par fours makes this abundantly apparent, combining long and short holes with blind shots, big dunes, ridges, hollows and the unexpected. It is absorbing stuff.
The back nine are even better as you’re drawn back out to the sea. This is where history enhances the experience… nowhere more so than on the 14th tee box, which was the foundation for the original clubhouse, on the edge of the Malahide Estuary. For over 80 years golfers had to row across the sea to reach the course.
Portmarnock is a links that’s revered the world over, with low, sweet dunes and phenomenal green complexes. Subtlety is the name of the game here… and sensational strategy. It doesn’t have the size or drama of The Island, but Portmarnock is about artistry – both in the course’s design and the way you must play.
With everything on view from the tee (apart from the 5th) it is easy to think you can decipher the holes, but smart positioning off the tee is crucial. Only then can you focus on reaching the perfect putting surfaces. Employ your bump-and-run skills as best you can and always target the centre of the green: the penalties for missing will prove severe. Ben Crenshaw famously called the par three 15th “the sweetest little par five I’ve ever played.”
- Druid’s Glen
When it comes to colour, variety and pure intrigue no Irish parkland can compare with Druid’s Glen. This is exhilarating golf and the club possesses the best collection of par threes on the island. Three of them are beautifully drenched in water: the 8th, 12th and 17th.
Much of the back nine is laced with water but, despite the challenges that it entails, this is never anything but an adventure. The 18th is a tough but magnificent closing par four, which climbs all the way to a green with the stunning 1770s Woodstock House (now the clubhouse) as the backdrop.
The Druid’s Glen Resort also boasts a second course: Druid’s Heath.
- The European Club
The European Club may have been voted ‘the best modern links course in the world’ but it is also a stern challenge. Set on the Co. Wicklow coastline this is muscular golf, which is thanks to Pat Ruddy… the owner, designer and your magnanimous host at the club.
The European is especially challenging off the tee and views of the infamous railway-sleepered bunkers only add to the difficulty. This is somewhere you do not want to hit offline, although at least the beach is in play on the back nine!
The course boasts 20 holes (two additional par threes) and that back nine will live long in the memory with holes like 11, 12, 15 and 17 utterly captivating.
- Co Louth
Co. Louth (aka Baltray), located just 45 minutes north of Dublin, dates back to 1892 and is one of Ireland’s great links. It has a distinguished history and an old school design which embraces strategy and finesse. This will become abundantly clear with its many steep slopes surrounding greens.
High tee boxes display the beauty of many holes, especially when the biggest dunes arrive, pressed up against the sea. Holes 12 to 16 are outstanding but even the more subtle holes deliver drama and challenges. Smart, tactical golf is required as the wind will hit you from every side.
Don’t ignore Seapoint next door.
- Portmarnock Links
With a big hotel overlooking the 1st and 18th holes it emphasises that Portmarnock Links offers the complete golfing package.
It is routed over more unpredictable terrain than its renowned neighbor, with the gentler dunes offering a starting warm-up and an introduction to the tricky green complexes before the bigger dunes begin to captivate you. The putting surfaces are big and mesmerizing throughout.
The course opened in 1996, and its natural feel is testament to the designer, Bernard Langer’s vision. The back nine are the more demanding of the two, with holes 16 to 18 providing a stunning finish.
- Carton House Montgomerie
There are two courses at the five star Carton House resort, 15 miles west of Dublin. The Montgomerie course opened in 2002 and was designed as an inland links. It certainly possesses links features with tumbling and deceptive fairways, deep bunkers and glorious greens. And few trees.
This is one of Ireland’s toughest courses, especially when the golden rough is up… which also happens to be when the course looks its best, as it did when the Irish Open was hosted here.
Choose the right tee and try not to be heroic: the gentle doglegs can be deceptive and the bunkering is always punishing.
The impressive second course was designed by Mark O’Meara.
- K Club (Palmer)
This is Ireland’s big, glamorous parkland course and the home of the 2006 Ryder Cup. There are lakes, rivers, ancient trees and lots and lots of space. The Palmer course carries quite the reputation (designed by Arnold Palmer) and it delivers all the frills and thrills you’d expect.
The River Liffey flows lazily along one edge, threatening three holes, but despite this and the other water features the Palmer is a relaxing round of golf with generous fairways and big greens. It is a course playable by every golfer but be sure to choose the right tees, as it can be long.
Its an exceptional resort, with a clubhouse and facilities to match, and a worthy second course, The Smurfit , that sits alongside its more famous sibling.
- Killeen Castle
Killeen Castle flows over 600 acres of idyllic parkland, wrapped around a 12th century castle. Today it is home to a Jack Nicklaus ‘Signature’ course, which hosted the Solheim Cup in 2011.
This is Ireland’s longest course (7,677 yards, back tees) but there are five tees to choose from and the fairways are always generous. It is approaching the heavily bunkered, shapely green complexes where the biggest challenges lie.
There is plenty of water and the majestic trees have been well employed, but Killeen Castle’s spaciousness is what impresses most… if you don’t count the castle which appears frequently and looms above the 18th green. There is also a Dave Pelz Golf School for those looking to improve their game.
- Royal Dublin
As Ireland’s oldest links it will come as no surprise that Royal Dublin was designed in an out-and-back routing. Here, on Bull Island, there are no big dunes and the island’s two courses use the natural twists and turns which make bump-and-run such a rewarding endeavour.
Not surprisingly, for a low links there will be plenty of wind… and while it typically favours you on the front nine it will then be a hard test coming home. Fairways can be narrow, greens are never less than exceptional, and deep bunkering may prove your downfall.
Dublin’s delightful mix of exceptional parkland and links golf courses, as well as its combination of luxurious modern resorts and traditional clubs, make it an intriguing an wonderfully fulfilling location for a golf vacation. Add this to the city’s historical heritage and renowned “craic” and you find yourself with an irresistible cocktail of high class entertainment. Don’t miss out on Dublin!
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