The Emerald Isle is home to dozens of drool-worthy golf courses. From one end of Ireland to the other (and for this story, I’m including Northern Ireland), the golf opportunities on offer are simply world-class. And when you’ve finished with your golf for the day, Ireland’s devotion to good times—its legendary craic—makes your evenings as enjoyable as your days.
It’s easy to find world-class accommodations in Ireland, as well—including self-contained golf resorts where those good times can take many forms. Not just spectacular golf, but fabulous dining, spa services, and other luxurious amenities. Here’s a list of my top places to stay and play in Ireland. It’s only a partial list, and you may have other favorites. But if I was offered a few days to spend in any one of these hotels, I’d dance a jig all the way to their doors.
Carton House (County Kildare)
A visit to the five-star Carton House is like stepping back in time. It’s an escape to a kinder and gentler, 1,100-acre world where you’re treated like aristocracy and have a nearly endless list of activities to enjoy. There are two fine courses here, a pure parkland course from Mark O’Meara and its more linksy sibling from Colin Montgomerie. They’ve held Irish Opens here, but you may like Carton House as much for its formidable spa, fine dining, and host of other activities, including fishing, falconry, and tennis. Grace Kelly and Prince Ranier holidayed at Carton House, and you’ll be welcomed like royalty there, too.
The K Club (County Kildare)
Also in Kildare, not far from Dublin, you’ll find The K Club, home of the 2006 Ryder Cup and thirteen European Opens. The two courses here, and especially the championship Palmer North course, will test your mettle in a big way whether you’re playing for your home country/continent or not. But no matter how much the golf courses may beat you up, smiles will return when you visit the resort’s elaborate spa or settle in at one of its five bars and restaurants. Afternoon tea in The Drawing Room is an experience not to be missed.
Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort (County Donegal)
Perched on the edge of Sheephaven Bay, Rosapenna is a links golf lover’s dream. There are three standout courses to choose from: the Old Tom Morris Links (1893), Pat Ruddy’s Sandy Hills Links (2003), and the new Tom Doak-designed St. Patrick’s Links, which debuted in 2021 and immediately earned a spot on many World Top 100 lists. All three are set in and amongst broad, fescue-covered sandhills that frame the holes beautifully and add greatly to their challenge. Book a bay view room, schedule an après-golf body treatment or two, and enjoy a fresh Sheephaven Bay lobster for dinner in the Vardon restaurant.
Mount Falcon Estate (County Mayo)
Mount Falcon is the ideal hotel for anyone teeing it up in the west-central part of Ireland, where its location near the Wild Atlantic Way offers some of the best sightseeing in the world. The area also boasts some superb links golf. Nearby, you’ll find the astounding 27 holes at Carne Golf Links (including its stunning Wild Atlantic Dunes course), as well as Enniscrone Golf Club with its massive sandhills and County Sligo Golf Club with its formidable championship pedigree. After golf, the hotel experience at the Mount Falcon is just as excellent. Whether you stay in one of its beautifully appointed bedrooms or hole up in a luxury lodge, you’ll be pampered. You can even experience falconry, do some clay shooting, or fish a private stretch of the River Moy (as Tiger Woods and Mark O’Meara did when they stayed here).
Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links (County Dublin)
There are two terrific courses in Portmarnock, just north of Dublin. One is the celebrated Portmarnock Golf Club course, a narrow, twisting, testing links that dates back to 1894 and has been attracting trophy-hunters ever since. The other is the Portmarnock Links course at the Portmarnock Hotel, a newer course designed by Bernhard Langer that opened in 1995. Both are supremely enjoyable—as is the hotel itself, which was created on the grounds of the Jameson family estate. There’s an award-wining spa there, and the Jameson Bar is one of Ireland’s best places to sip a Jameson before setting your knife and fork to work on a salt-aged, bone-in ribeye or sea bass fillet.
Adare Manor (County Limerick)
Looking for something even more lavish? Book a visit to Adare Manor, where extensive renovations in 2018 have rendered this 840-acre estate one of the Ireland’s finest for golfers and non-golfers alike. The property’s golf course has hosted the world’s best players during the J.P. McManus Pro-Am, and it will be the site of the 2027 Ryder Cup—that’s how good it is. The rest of the resort is equally stellar, as witnessed by its Michelin star Oak Room restaurant.
Fota Island Hotel & Spa (County Cork)
At Fota Island, you get not only your own spectacular resort but your own island. This five-star resort makes the most of its achingly scenic location on Fota Island in Cork Harbour, and you’ll want for nothing once you’ve arrived. You’ll have three courses to choose from (or better yet, play them all)—each a unique challenge as you navigate your way through tall stands of oak and around numerous water hazards. Off-course, you haven’t lived until you’ve experienced their hydrotherapy pool and heated mosaic loungers, to be followed by cocktails in the tony Amber Lounge and dinners that are gastronomic adventures featuring the best of local producers. Note: The Jameson Distillery is nearby, too, should you wish to educate yourself—and your palette—on the finer points of Irish whiskey.
Mount Juliet Estate (County Kilkenny)
If you caught the 2021 Irish Open, contested on Mount Juliet’s 7,200-yard, Jack Nicklaus-designed parkland course, you know how excellent the golf is at this acclaimed five-star resort. Jack’s work here is considered one of Ireland’s finest parkland tests. But you may not know how extraordinary the rest of the resort is. Though the Manor House, with its sumptuous accommodations, dates back to 1750, the resort is decidedly modern in terms of its amenities and service levels. Its Lady Helen restaurant is a Michelin star venue, with cuisine that in many cases is sourced right from the estate. The wine list is equally impressive, while the equestrian facilities and associated experiences truly set Mount Juliet apart. There’s even a luxe 12-seat cinema should any liquid sunshine interrupt your golf.
Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort (County Wicklow)
Druid’s Glen is a five-star resort set in 360 acres of lush, Irish countryside between the Wicklow Mountains and the Irish Sea—just 30 minutes from Dublin. Here, you’re surrounded by nature, and even the smartly designed guest rooms have the feeling that they’ve brought nature indoors. The two golf courses here, Druids Glen and Druids Heath, are adventures in nature, with tree-lined fairways, lakes and streams, and brilliant floral displays your constant companions as you play. The Irish Open and Seve Trophy events have both been held here. Off the course, visit the spa and fitness facilities, which are among Ireland’s best, or dine at Hugo’s, a chic restaurant offering gorgeous woodland views.
Powerscourt Hotel Resort & Spa (County Wicklow)
Another Wicklow standout is the five-star Powerscourt Hotel, where in addition to a host of splendid activities and experiences you can enjoy one of the world’s top gardens—47 acres of formal gardens, terraces, and hollows replete with statues and ornamental lakes. Guests also enjoy preferential tee times at Powerscourt Golf Club, whose 36 holes are just a short stroll away. The East course here has hosted professional events, while the newer David McLay Kidd-designed West course features wickedly undulating (and fun!) greens, and a closing stretch that’s as scenic as it is challenging. The view of the Powerscourt Estate from the 18th tee is an Instagram moment waiting to happen.
Slieve Donard (County Down)
This legendary Victorian Hotel sits at the foot of the Mourne Mountains, with a stretch of beautiful golden beach to one side and famed Royal County Down Golf Club on the other. Royal County Down needs no introduction to LINKS readers; suffice to say it’s one of the world’s best links golf experiences. But if you go to play there and don’t spend a night at the Slieve Donard, you’re missing one of the world’s premier hotel experiences, as the luxe accommodations, superb dining, and splendid spa facilities of this grande dame dating back to 1898 are in a class by themselves. This is Game of Thrones country—you can visit many of the series’s filming locations right nearby.