Here’s 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.
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.
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.
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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