With its green rolling hills, dramatic seaside vistas, and centuries-old courses, Ireland is a golfer’s paradise. Golf has been played here since the late 19th century, and today there are over 400 courses throughout the country. From world-famous championship links like Royal County Down to small 9-hole tracks tucked away in remote villages, Ireland offers diverse and exciting golf for all skill levels.
If you’re planning a golf trip to the Emerald Isle, this guide will provide everything you need to know. We’ll cover the best regions and courses to play, costs and fees, travel tips, and even some basic etiquette for playing golf in Ireland. So grab your clubs and let’s tee off on this magical island!
The Top Golf Regions in Ireland
When planning your Irish golf adventure, the first big decision is where to go. Ireland’s courses are spread out over diverse landscapes across the island, each region offering a unique flavor. Here are some of the top golfing regions you’ll want to consider:
The southwest is home to world-famous links courses that hug Ireland’s rugged Atlantic coastline. This is where you’ll find gems like Ballybunion, Lahinch, Waterville, and the acclaimed Old Head Course, which perches dramatically on a cliff top over the sea. The windswept dunes and views create an unforgettable, quintessentially Irish links experience.
Just across the border, Northern Ireland boasts the highest concentration of acclaimed links courses in the world. Royal County Down and Royal Portrush have hosted The Open Championship, while hidden gems like Ardglass and Castlerock offer memorable seaside tests. The dramatic coastlines, mountain backdrops and legacy of top championship golf makes Northern Ireland a must-visit.
Dublin & East Coast
Ireland’s capital city provides a convenient base for golf. Within an hour’s drive in counties like Wicklow, Meat, and Kildare await parkland masterpieces such as The European Club and K Club, host of the 2006 Ryder Cup. Links courses like County Louth also allow Dublin visitors to sample Irish seaside golf.
Though often overlooked by visitors, the rural Midwest region features converts like Lahinch, home to legendary greens and stunning views of the Atlantic and the Cliffs of Moher. Other hidden gems include Doonbeg, Enniscrone and Carne Golf Links, with its epic stretch of sand dunes.
Connemara Golf Course
Image result for connemara golf course
The wild and rugged West Coast not only offers spectacular scenery but also some of Ireland’s most creative and quirky links courses. With holes winding through dunes, furze bushes and even a ruin castle, courses like Connemara and Carne challenge you to make every shot count. Wind and rain are often part of the charm in this magical region.
Ireland’s Top Golf Courses
From Harry Colt to Alister Mackenzie, Ireland boasts designs by all the giants of golf architecture across various stunning settings. Though subjective, these courses regularly rank among the world’s finest:
Royal County Down – Perched on a cliff overlooking the Irish Sea, Royal County Down offers an iconic links test through dunes and gorse, with views of the Mountains or Mourne. It’s often voted the world’s top course.
Royal Portrush – Home to The Open in 1951 and 2019, the Dunluce Links at Portrush is one of the greatest championship courses ever conceived, with an epic closing stretch hugging the Antrim Coast cliffs.
Ballybunion – There’s a good reason Ballybunion always appears on best-of lists. Its crusty seaside turf, thrilling blind shots and beautiful setting on the Shannon Estuary make it many a golfer’s favorite Irish links.
Waterville – Hugging Ballinskelligs Bay, Waterville was a beloved course of Tiger Woods. Its tight dunes and version greens offer a fun, fair links challenge with jaw-dropping views overlooking the Atlantic.
Tralee – Arnold Palmer famously called the 7th hole at Tralee his favorite par 4 anywhere on earth. With nine holes right on the ocean, Tralee is an Irish links highlight reel all its own.
Costs and Fees for Golfing in Ireland
Average green fees in Ireland range from €30-€40 at local courses to over €300 at world-famous venues during the summer high season. Northern Ireland offers some great value, with green fees around €100 even at prestigious championship links during peak months.
In general, you’ll find the lowest rates on weekdays and twilight times, with major surcharges on weekends and holidays in summer. Booking well in advance always saves money. Multi-round packages and club rentals can also offer savings.
Some other typical costs to account for:
- Caddie fees: €40-€80 per round, plus tip
- Pull/push cart rentals: €5-€10
- Club rentals: €30-€50 per round
- Golf cart rentals: €40-€80 per round
So realistically, playing 18 holes as a visitor in Ireland may run anywhere from €50 for an obscure daily-fee to over €500 for an icon like Royal County Down in high season with all services. But there are deals to be found!
Getting Around Ireland for Golf
Ireland’s regions are best explored by rental car, allowing you flexibility to navigate from course to course on your own schedule. Manual transmission cars are cheaper and more common. Just remember to get used to driving on the left side of the road!
Guided Golf Tours
For travelers who prefer leaving logistics to the experts, many tour operators offer pre-planned guided golf trips around Ireland. They take care of course bookings, equipment, hotels and transportation between regions – often on luxury buses. Irish golf pros will sometimes join for commentary and tips.
While less convenient than driving, buses and trains can get you between most major towns and cities if you don’t mind navigating multiple modes of transport. Just beware of hauling golf bags long distances!
Key Golf Travel Tips
Pack for variable weather – Irish weather fluctuates rapidly, so bring layers as well as rain gear. Waterproof shoes are handy for early morning dew.
Leave the dress code at home – Most courses have relaxed rules, but call ahead about polices just in case.
Think beyond golf – Ireland offers amazing historical, cultural and natural sights. Schedule some non-golf days to experience them!
Bring pre-paid international roaming or unlocked phones – Finding courses and booking tee times on the fly requires internet access.
Prepare for unique Irish course conditions – Old-school Irish links feature quirky bounces, hidden greens and shots through the dunes and gorse. It’s all part of the magic!
Proper Golf Etiquette in Ireland
Like anywhere in the world, knowing basic golf manners and customs will ensure you make the best impression on your Irish hosts. Here are some key tips:
- Double-check course policies – Some are sticklers on attire, course access, etc. When in doubt, ask.
- Repair all divots and ball marks – Irish courses don’t have huge grounds crews, so patching up your own mess preserves conditions.
- Rake bunkers cleanly – Follow bunker raking patterns and leave the rake outside when done.
- Keep pace of play – Be ready to hit when it’s your turn. Wave faster players through if falling behind.
- Say “fore” loudly if errant – Yell “fore right/left!” if you hit a wayward shot near other groups.
- Don’t worry about score – Visitors won’t be judged playing their first Irish links horrendously over par! Just soak up the magical experience.
Whether you’re a play golf nut seeking bucket-list trophy courses or a casual player looking for beautiful backdrops, Ireland delivers the complete package. Each region provides diverse landscapes and unique tracks steeped in legacy, from windswept gems like Ballybunion and Lahinch to links newcomers along the rugged west coast to parkland masterpieces around Dublin.
Just be ready for changeable conditions, the occasional hidden green, and rain that will turn from nuisance to delight when the clouds part to reveal emerald vistas. Ireland’s one-of-a-kind courses inspire you to embrace the moment rather than chasing scorecards.
So come experience golf in the homeland where the game truly began. May the luck of Irish be with you! Just remember to book early, pack properly, and mind the strong possibility it may rain. But storms soon pass to reveal rainbows over Ireland’s glorious greens. Sláinte!
Now grab another Guinness, tweak your swing for gusty seaside shots, and get ready to make memories lasting a lifetime on the links of the Emerald Isle.