Top 10 Courses: Northern Ireland

Heres our list of the top 10 courses across the Atlantic in Northern Ireland

1. ROYAL COUNTY DOWN (CHAMPIONSHIP), County Down

This postcard-perfect beauty, nestled between the Irish Sea and the Mountains of Mourne, can also be a beast, as blind tee shots, punishing rough, and deep bunkers conspire to create an unrelenting challenge.

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Royal County Down (Championship) – Photography by Kevin Murray

2. ROYAL PORTRUSH (DUNLUCE), County Antrim

The site of the only two Open Championships outside Scotland and England, this Harry Colt masterpiece perched on a headland above the Atlantic Ocean is links golf at its rugged, windswept best.

3. PORTSTEWART (STRAND), County Londonderry

The front nine of the Strand—one of three courses at the 130-year-old Portstewart club—has been called the finest nine holes in the British Isles, its fairways dipping and weaving through massive dunes set idyllically between the Atlantic and the River Bann.

4. ARDGLASS, County Down

Its dramatic holes unfurl over terrain that ranges from clifftop to seaside to open ground, with constant views of the Irish Sea, all culminating at the world’s oldest clubhouse, a 15th-century castle.

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Ardglass (photo by Kevin Murray)

5. CASTLEROCK (MUSSENDEN), County Londonderry

This is a true links that has everything—a river/seaside location, massive sandhills, fierce rough, blind shots, well placed pot bunkers, an insidious burn, firm and fast greens, and even a railway running alongside. Add the ever-present breeze and you have all you can handle.

6. ROYAL PORTRUSH (VALLEY), County Antrim

It may live in the shadow of the championship Dunluce, but the Valley presents the same sort of test, its low-lying fairways meandering through dunes and heathery rough en route to vexingly contoured greens.

7. LOUGH ERNE, County Fermanagh

A century younger than all the aforementioned courses, this 2009 design opened as part of a lakeside development that is nowhere near the sea. That said, water comes in play on 11 holes, calling for the precise and strategic attack exemplified by its designer, Nick Faldo.

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Lough Erne, Faldo Course (photo by Kevin Murray)

8. MALONE (DUMBRIDGE & BALLYDRAIN NINES), County Antrim

A parkland beauty set on a 330-acre estate five miles south of Belfast. Two lakes and thousands of mature trees add to the charm and challenge of an always immaculate championship course.

9. BELVOIR PARK, County Antrim

Another parkland charmer, this one set in a private oasis whose course has seen little change since its design by Harry Colt in 1926. Rolling treelined fairways lead to greens guarded menacingly by steep-faced bunkers.

10. ROYAL BELFAST, County Down

Set on a hillside overlooking Belfast Lough, this is Ireland’s oldest golf club, home to Belfast’s elite. Lush fairways, gentle elevation change, and three holes beside the lake make this course easy on the eyes while also a full test of the game.

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Royal Belfast (photo by L.C. Lambrecht)

Thank you for supporting our journalism. If you prefer to read in print, you can also find this article in the Winter 2024 issue of LINKS Magazine. Click here for more information.

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