Are the Irish Links the best?
Ireland is blessed with legendary links layouts in the most spectacular landscapes overlooking the Atlantic. There are over 440 golf clubs, some of which world-renowned such as Ballybunion and Waterville.
The golfing experience in Ireland is special and unique for every golfer. Many of the courses in Ireland are played on the layout that the game was born on, true-links. There are fewer than 200 courses in the world with the same layout, Ireland is home to 58 of them.
The stars share a fondness of the game in Ireland too. US actor Bill Murray said his “favourite place to play golf is in Ireland”, while professional golfer Tiger Woods said he “had such a great time in Ireland that [he’s] been coming over ever since.”
There is no doubt that when it comes to golf, Ireland delivers. Here are the six ‘must-play’ golf courses in Ireland that we have picked for our Ireland Golf Tour.
The European Club – Wicklow
One of the last great links courses to be built in the 20th century, the European Club has been labelled a modern masterpiece. It offers golfers a unique links experience right on the shores of Brittas Bay.
The course is a monster spanning 6,700m and consists of large dunes with mighty definition and the tranquil Irish sea in the backdrop. It makes 18 holes here a thrilling test for every golfer, with those who learn to play low trajectory shots more likely to enjoy the fast running fairways.
Designer Pat Ruddy has utilised his sense of humour in the scorecard to add entertainment to your round of golf. For instance, on the 12th hole, Ruddy will have you play a 114-metre par 4 making a three-putt an achievement in itself.
The course’s signature 7th hole is ranked in the world’s best 100 holes by Golf Magazine. Ruddy plays with the golfer’s perception creating an optical illusion by concealing parts of the fairway behind the reeds. A tip for overcoming the designer’s trickery is to keep to the right side from the tee-off.
Old Head Links Club – Kinsale
This is one of the most exhilarating courses you will ever play. Old Head is set on the edge of the world – literally! – you will look down from the cliff-tops at the crashing waves of the Atlantic below.
The site was so challenging and sensitive that it took four prominent course designers to get it right. Ron Kirby, Paddy Merrigan, J.B. Carr & Eddie Hackett tried 41 different routings before eventually creating a course that sits in the World’s Top 100 list.
The course favourite is the 12th which has been described as the “most outrageous hole in golf”. A ‘do-or-die’ par 5, it is essential that with each tee shot you don’t bite off more than you can chew.
We recommend you bring some extra golf balls unless you believe you will play the best game of your life!
Waterville Golf Links – County Kerry
“One of the golfing wonders of the world” is all that record PGA Tour winner Sam Snead could say about the course at Waterville. It has been used by Tiger Woods and Payne Stewart as a warm-up for the British Open.
This is a stunning links layout that sits alone in a spectacular coastal location. The fairways are gently undulating, the front nine is played on the relatively flat ground whilst the back nine challenges golfers with long avenues of bunkers.
The ‘peak’ hole at Waterville is the 17th, called “Mulcahy’s Peak”. The tee is placed on the highest dune in the course, giving golfers a breathtaking 360-degree view of the course.
Once your round of golf is over, head on over to the famous 19th hole – The Butler Arms Hotel. Since 1884, it has been the pub that many golfing royals have chosen to unwind at. The hotel is a trendy spot where you can share your day of golf with half the town’s population over a pint of Guinness and a wonderful meal!
Tralee Golf Club – County Kerry
Legend has it that Arnold Palmer created the front nine at Tralee and Mother Nature did the rest. It was the famous course architect’s first endeavour into Ireland, and he has certainly hit the nail on the head in his first attempt.
Tralee has been labelled as a tale of two nines. Your first nine holes here sit right on the coastline giving golfers a breathtaking view of Tralee Bay.
Contrastingly, the back nine is occupied by mountainous dunes and formidable carries across gullies to flat greens. This combination makes the entire 18 hole experience exciting.
Those familiar with the Pebble Beach golf course might think they are playing on the 7th hole when they tee off at Tralee’s 3rd (pictured). Known as “The Castle”, the par 3 has ruins of a castle to the left behind the green and crashing waves of the Atlantic to its right…
Ballybunion Golf Club – County Kerry
Ireland’s #1 golf course. When Ballybunion’s managers say these 18 holes were designed by God, nobody laughs at them.
The site is located on a beautiful stretch of sand dunes overlooking the Atlantic ocean with the layout presenting an excellent test for golfers.
Professional golfer Tom Watson best described Ballybunion in an article for the course planner. “There is a wild look to the place, the long grass covering the dunes that pitch and roll throughout the course. I consider it a true test of golf.”
The signature hole, if it isn’t every hole, is the 11th – “Watsons”, named after Tom Watson. It is regarded as one of the best par 4’s you will ever play, and it’s not hard to see why. You will tee-off right on the coastline, battling the howling Atlantic wind as you try and dodge ravines to the green. The view and challenge here are incredible.
Adare Manor Golf Club – County Limerick
In 2016, the Adare Manor was closed to be rebuilt and redesigned to championship-worthy specifications, with the ambition of bringing the Ryder Cup to Ireland for the second time in the competition’s history.
World-renowned architect, Tom Fazio was behind the redesign that has the course being compared to Augusta. The parkland layout has no rough, only 42 bunkers and quick bent grass greens that resemble the features at the home of the Masters.
Every golfer will love the spectacular golf experience this uniquely scenic course offers.
Set on the peaceful waters of the River Maigue, the gorgeous landscape provides ever-changing vistas and breathtaking approaches. It is every bit strategic as it is scenic, demanding precision for those who play it but also rewarding risk and courage.
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