Golf Digest Ireland's Top 100 Ranked Irish Golf Courses 2020

By Linton Walsh

Blessed with beautiful countryside and stunning coastlines, it comes as no surprise that golfers from all over the world come to play our local courses. We have some of the best golf courses in the world, not only links but parkland as well.

What makes a great golf course? Ben Hogan once said when asked, “That’s as tricky as a flop shot over a creek from a hardpan lie”. To paraphrase an old saying, “I can’t define a good golf course, but I know it when I see it”. These comments reveal how difficult it can be to define the merits of a great golf course.

Is the success of a design the result of following the basic principles and applying them to the course? Simply put, yes. However, as in the game of golf there lies the rub of golf course design. Assembling these principles to create an original, quality playing field, while dealing with unforeseen conditions and ambiguous details that the books rarely mention is the challenge. Countless choices must be made. Each architect – whether it is Jack Nicklaus, Pat Ruddy, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Tom Fazio or Jeff Howes – have a signature framework with which they assemble the choices that determine the golf experience.

The dimensions and characteristics of an individual golf course change from day to day, week to week and throughout the span of its lifetime and the differences between golf courses are infinite. 

As good as the best architects are the most important element of any great golf course is the site. It all begins here. It doesn’t matter how much you spend on a golf course or what designer you employ. If the site isn’t spectacular, the chances are the golf course won’t be either. At Tralee Golf Club, for example, Palmer was smitten at first sight and later went on to say: “I may have designed the first nine, but surely God designed the back nine.”

Great golf courses are the result of great sites. The aim is continuity of an experience. Robert Trent Jones Jr. said, “Like a good tailor, a routing plan must fit well to wear well. If it’s cut wrong to begin with the garment will never wear well.”

The personality of a golf course is determined greatly by the routing and should reflect and expose the best of the site features without theatrics. Golf holes should have variety, but also should feel like they belong within the family of 18. Changing bunker styles, drastic or distracting topographic features, inappropriate locations for water can ruin the aesthetic and systematically detract from the beauty of the golf experience. The outcome will be better if an idea springs from the landscape, thereby putting round pegs in round holes.

With this in mind, Golf Digest Ireland set about compiling a list of the 100 best golf courses in Ireland.

The Process

The Golf Digest Top 100 Ranked Golf Courses has been established since 2006 and is the industry standard for all Irish golf courses on the island of Ireland.

In terms of the process, each year Golf Digest Ireland writes to all Irish golf clubs to see if they have completed any upgrade work or if they would like a member of the panel to visit their golf club.

The replies are added to last year’s Golf Digest Ireland Top 100 ranked golf courses and the top 20 golf courses who did not make it into last year’s rankings. This list of circa. 140 golf clubs then becomes the list of golf courses to be accessed during the upcoming year.

The panel is made up of professionals from different sectors within the Irish golf industry: greenkeepers, general managers, PGA professionals, elite amateur golfers, tour operators, media and readers. 

Golf Digest Senior Ranking Panel 2020

Linton Walsh; Golf Digest Ireland, Mark Traynor; Golf Digest Ireland, Cid Harmon; Amateur Golfer, Readers Panel, Matt Sands; General Manager, Joe Whelan; Amateur Golfer, Readers Panel, David Power; PGA Professional, Fintan Brennan; Head Greenkeeper, Con O’Connor; Amateur Golfer, Readers Panel, John Eggleston; General Manager and John Dwyer; PGA Professional

At the end of the golfing season, the panel meets up for two days of discussion and debate. The rankings begin with the Top 10 golf courses from last year and the possible courses that could make it into the Top 10 positions. These are usually golf courses which were ranked 11-15 in last year list, but not always. Any letter received from any golf club in this bracket is read out.

Then, the golf courses in the Top 10 which could possibly slip out of the Top 10 are discussed. These are usually golf courses which were ranked 6-10 in last year list, but not always. Again, any letter received from any golf club in this bracket is read out. 

Following lively discussion and debate, a list of the top 15 golf courses is made and individually voted on. The result of this vote determines the golf clubs who will be in the Top 10 set (not in their actual position).

Then the clubs which could move out of the Top 5 and the clubs which could enter the Top 5 are discussed. These two sets (not final positions) are verbally agreed around the table. The clubs in the Top 5 set are then individually discussed. Once this is completed, a secret vote is made. The scores are added up and the result identifies the actual individual positions of the Top 5. This is repeated for the second set, places 6-10 and the results again identify the individual positions 6-10. This process is repeated for positions 11- 20 and then repeated again until The Top 100 rankings is completed. 

On behalf of Golf Digest Ireland Magazine and ,  the company would like to extend their sincere thanks and gratitude to everyone who took part in this year’s rankings and to all the golf clubs in Ireland, who graciously gave up the courtesy of their golf course.

Golf Digest Ireland's Top 100 Ranked Golf Courses 2020

100      Roganstown (NEW)

  DSC_4173_1Coming in at 100 is Roganstown in north Co Dublin, an elegant country house hotel with a beautifully manicured golf course, which features mature trees, lush fairways and plenty of water to test all levels of golfer.

99        Castleknock (NEW)

Castleknock PENINSULASQA scenic parkland course just outside Dublin city, Castleknock features a number of holes guarded by lakes. The course is excellently maintained from tee to green and features greens that have been constructed to USGA specification.

98        Dundrum House (UP 1)

dundrum 18 house closeThe impressive 18-hole Championship Parkland at Dundrum House has been woven into the fabric of a mature Georgian estate, designed by 1995 Ryder Cup hero Philip Walton. Using the natural features of woodland and parkland, it is a wonderful test.

97        St Annes Golf Links (DOWN 1)

Leos Course Pics 1st FairwayThis Dublin course shares Bull Island with Royal Dublin and offers a classic links test with wind a major factor on what is a tight course with holes nearby and parallel to each other. The final three holes will send you to the clubhouse with a smile.

96        Macreddin Golf Club (UP 2)

Macreddin 12 approach Oct 2014_5261This Paul McGinley design in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains is a beautiful course through mature woodland with spectacular views along the way.

95        Blainroe Golf Club  (SAME)

Clubhouse 1_1A seaside parkland course just outside Wicklow Town, Blainroe offers seas views from all 18 holes and this fantastically located golf course is certainly worthy of a visit.

94        Rathsallagh (SAME)

Rathsallagh_1Under new ownership since 2015, Rathsallagh has been restored to its previous splendour. It is a magnificent course designed by Peter McEvoy and Christy O’Connor Jnr that sits in 530 acres of parkland near Dunlavin.

93        Killarney Golf & Fishing Club (DOWN 2)

  Killarney JGibson-14 copyThe less famous of the two Killarney golf clubs, Mahony’s Point shares many of the characteristics of the Killeen course, and is located at a superb venue, with a spectacular finish to enjoy.

92        New Forest Golf Club (SAME)

New Forest 4New Forest boasts of having a truly spectacular course that is both a joy to the eye and a pleasure to play.The undulating and natural forested surroundings bring an outstanding quality to the course, with some of the finest putting surfaces, tees and fairways in the country.

91        Woodenbridge Golf Club (UP 2)

ch_oct06_158 copyThis picturesque Wicklow course has been described as ‘Ireland’s Augusta’. It makes wonderful use of the Avoca and Aughrim rivers that run throughout, which makes it very worthy of a place on this list.

90        Grange Golf Club (DOWN 1)

Grange_Web_04Resting at the footsteps of the Dublin Mountains, Grange has produced golfers like Paul McGinley, which is testament to its excellent greens and course playing conditions.

89        Laytown & Bettystown Golf Club (DOWN 1)

Screenshot 2020-04-29 at 16.24.08
Occupying a narrow expanse of links land adjacent to the golden sands of Laytown beach, Laytown is a short course by modern standards but remains a formidable course when the winds inevitably pick up.

88        Druids Heath (UP 2)

druidsheath_007_2ndThe second course at the outstanding Druids Glen resort is a tough challenge which requires pinpoint accuracy to hold the invariably raised green sites, with the golden fescues and gorse defining the course.

87        Castle Golf Club (UP 3)

9th view of greenOne of the oldest clubs in the Greater Dublin area, it has been updated a number of times over the years. There are over 75 bunkers and mature trees line both sides of every fairway.

86        Mullingar Golf Club (UP 1)

  10th Hole 2Home to the famous Mullingar Scratch Trophy, this James Braid classic winds its way through this wooded parkland setting providing a solid championship challenge with an enjoyable atmosphere.

85        Dundalk Golf Club (DOWN 3)

Screenshot 2020-04-29 at 16.46.50A former host of the AIG Ladies Cups and Shields, this well-established parkland course offers magnificent views of the Cooley and Mourne Mountains, the Irish Sea and Dundalk Bay.

84        Galway Golf Club (UP 1)


This excellent parkland course is just five kilometres outside Galway City. It is home to some amazing views of Galway Bay and the Burren from its elevated site.

83        Castlemartyr Hotel & Golf Resort (SAME)

Castlemartyr_No9Set on an old sprawling woodland manor estate, Castlemartyr is a great example of an inland links course. Always in great condition, this Ron Kirby design is almost on par with his works at Gleneagles and Old Head.

82        St Margarets Golf Club (UP 2)

 St Marg Clubhouse big skyDesigned by Tom Craddock and Pat Ruddy, this parkland course has hosted many tournaments. Under new management, the golf course has been restored to its former glory.

81        Farnham Estate Hotel & Golf Resort (DOWN 2)

4th GreenFarnham is one of the best courses in Cavan, situated on 500 acres of rolling, peaceful countryside, with challenging greens and water hazards aplenty.

80        Tulfarris Hotel & Golf Resort (UP 1)

Tulfarris Golf CourseLocated in a lovely spot overlooking the Blessington Lakes, the beauty of the landscape is matched by the quality of the course on this top-class resort in Wicklow.

79        Knightsbrook Hotel & Golf Resort (UP 1)

D2X_0319With undulating fairways, testing greens and demanding water features, Knightsbrook is a considerable test. It was designed by the late Ryder Cup legend Christy O’Connor Jnr and has hosted the AIG Ladies Cups and Shields National Finals and the PING Junior Solheim Cup.

78        Westport Golf Club (DOWN 5)

7th green_2 copyThere is breathtaking golf on the back nine at Westport, peaking at the par-5 15th that plays over and around Clew Bay to a distant green. The finish is strong but a slow start hurts the ranking.

77        Ballinrobe Golf Club (DOWN 2)


This Eddie Hackett design is a good example of a challenging yet forgiving parkland located in the west of Ireland. The course boasts some great par 3s which are praised by the likes of Padraig Harrington.

76        Shannon Golf Club (UP 1)

Clubhouse5This course has matured into one of the best inland tracks in Munster. Measuring just under 7,000 yards the course features tree-lined fairways and greens that are protected by some tricky bunkers and water hazards.

75        Ardglass Golf Links (UP 3)

ardglass 1This memorable seaside course is starting to get the credit it deserves. The first five holes at Ardglass run along the rugged coastline and are as good as any opening five in Ireland. The 19th hole is a restored castle which makes for a pleasant end to a round.

74        Esker Hills Golf Club (SAME)

Esker HillsShane Lowry’s home course in Offaly is a challenging layout and plenty of character makes this course worthy of a visit and its place in the Top 100.

73       Glasson Lakehouse Golf Club (DOWN 2)          

18th Green 2Glasson has been revitalised recently and lakeside scenery and tour quality conditions are what make this course a perennial top 100. The beautiful rolling hills and views of the water just outside Athlone make this Christy O’Connor Jnr design a wonderful day of golf.

72        Dingle Golf Links / Ceann Sibheal (UP 4)

 Ceann Sibeal2With excellent turf and open drains and streams adding to the mental challenge for the golfer, the Ceann Sibheal is a perfectly natural course that shows that low-lying micro-undulations can provide just as much fun as their big dune brothers.

71        Galgorm Castle Golf Club (DOWN 2)

Galgorm 3rd_greenGalgorm Castle is an excellent, well-manicured parkland in Ballymena, Count Antrim. It is long enough for the tour pro and forgiving enough for the club player. It hosts the annual NI Open on the European Challenge Tour.

70        Castletroy Golf Club (DOWN 2)

  11th Hole          

This charming tree-lined course was redesigned in 2006 and continued improvements see it gain two places this year. It offers some testing holes and splendid views, evident when you see the spectacular panoramic from the 14th tee.

69        Powerscourt Golf Club (East Course) (UP 3)

 footer-backgroundThe East course at the Powerscourt Estate is well worth playing. Following the contours of the historic landscape, Pete McEvoy designed an impressive course that is a testing and rewarding challenge.

68        Tullamore Golf Club (UP 2)

tullamore NEWLocated right in the heart of Ireland, this classic parkland course provides a challenge to all who play it. Massive clusters of century old oak, beech and chestnut trees along with intricate bunkering make this quite the test. www.

67        Rosslare Golf Club (SAME)

  Rosslare GC 3Rosslare is an established performer and one of the standout venues in the Southeast. The original Hawtree design is a great example of a traditional links and has hosted many high profile championships down the years.

66        Clandeboye Golf Club (SAME)

Screenshot 2020-04-29 at 17.59.23Firmly established in Ireland’s Top 100, the championship Dufferin Course at Clandeboye in County Down that is a largely wooded layout that offers golfers a genuine and demanding test.

65        Mount Wolseley Hotel & Golf Resort (SAME)

 46271Host of the Irish Challenge on the European Challenge Tour, Mount Wolseley is a great parkland played through mature woodland on one of the best maintained golf courses in the country that is ideal for Stay & Play packages.

64        Powerscourt Golf Club (West Course) (SAME)

 18th West CourseThis course is a tricky parkland mixes up wildly undulating greens with strategic bunkering and deceptive approach shots. Add in breathtaking views of the old estate house and Sugarloaf Mountain and you have the recipe for a great golf course.

63        Strandhill Golf Club (SAME)

4thGreenAt just over 6,300 yards in length, Strandhill is short by modern standards. Yet it is a links course with a terrific variety of challenging shots and dramatic scenery to provide one of the west coast’s most beautiful links settings.

62        Arklow Golf Links (SAME)

Arklow Golf 6x8 membership package-1Situated on a compact and flat piece of linksland that has receded over the years, Eddie Connaughton’s green designs are a marvellous collection, rolling raucously and undulating violently in some places. At just under 6,400 yards, Arklow is a traditional links test.

61        Dromoland Castle Golf Club (SAME)

Dromoland CastleA
Dromoland Castle Golf Club has benefitted from considerable and consistent investment in its facilities, on what has been one of Ireland’s premier resorts for over 40 years. On grounds which span almost 150 hectares of woodland, there is a fantastic finale to golf at Dromoland.

60        Ballybunion Golf Club (Cashen Course) (SAME)

 ballybunion-cashen-16-wideDespite being in the shadow of the most illustrious Old Course, the Cashen course at Ballybunion is a fine test of golf. If you want a challenge, with Cashen’s minuscule greens perched on tiny crevices, then this is the place to play in the beautiful Kingdom.

59        Royal Belfast Golf Club (SAME)

Royal-Belfast-Golf-Club_1557857611The oldest golf club in Ireland, a visit to Royal Belfast offers a step back in time. Situated on the scenic southern shore of Belfast Lough, this Harry Colt gem has seen less tinkering than most since its inception. A unique and enjoyable place for a great game of golf.

58        Portumna Golf Club (SAME)

 17th Hole Golf Course Shots 17thA beautiful parkland course that sweeps its way through forest and woodlands close to Lough Derg, the last and largest lake on the River Shannon. Its mature and graceful trees backdrop the full range of seasonal colour to provide a different challenging experience throughout the year.

57        Seapoint Golf Club (DOWN 6)

Seapoint (New) 17 thA cleverly designed course that will test every golfer in County Louth, Seapoint is an enjoyable challenge along the Irish Sea. A links that rewards good shots, it includes one of the best finishing stretches in Irish golf.

56        Hermitage Golf Club (UP 1)

Hermitage 14th par 4The Hermitage is a quality parkland test in Dublin. It is blessed with a verdant, rolling setting within the part of the beautiful Liffey Valley known as the Strawberry Beds.

55        Bunclody Golf Club (UP 1)

20090905This beautiful open parkland course features mixed terrain that will challenge golfers for the entire round. The course’s true value can be seen with a string of quality holes that culminate with a tree-lined par-5 18th.

54        Luttrellstown Castle Golf Club (UP 1)

Luttrellstown Castle4Situated within the 567 acre walled estate of Luttrellstown Castle, only 20 minutes’ drive to the centre of Dublin City, it is an 18-hole Championship course with McKenzie/Steele design, featuring magnificent mature trees and links-style bunkers.

53        Galway Bay Golf Resort (UP 1)      

DSC_1853This brilliantly designed Christy O’Connor Jnr course. It is situated on the stunning backdrop of the bay and the rugged curves of the Atlantic coastline with mature trees, water hazards, concealed bunkers and world-class putting surfaces.

52        Belvoir Park Golf Club (SAME)

Belvoir GC 14636 belfast_northern_ireland_300dpi_largeThis Harry Colt masterpiece is situated just two miles from Belfast City Centre and is still one of Irish golf’s best kept secrets. Any golfing visit to the north’s capital should include a round at Belvoir.

51        Dun Laoghaire Golf Club (DOWN 3)

Dun L putting green lr-4This 27-hole championship course was designed to allow for the combination of three different nine-hole loops. With the beautiful Wicklow Mountains as the backdrop, you can be sure that a thrilling golf experience awaits, as was the case in the 2016 Curtis Cup matches.

50        The Heritage Golf Club  (Up 3)

 Heritage 18thThe great Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros’ only golf course design in Ireland is a real treat and this Co Laois golf club, set in the tranquil surrounds of a five-star hotel, will test the very best, with water a consistent feature.

49        Royal Portrush Golf Club Valley Course (Up 1)

4th valleyThis unique test is riddled with humps, hollows and undulations that helped make Graeme McDowell the golfer he is today.

48        Carton House Hotel & Golf Resort (O'Meara) (DOWN 1)           

Carton Hse 16th OMeara_1O’Meara course at Carton House is situated at the home of the Golfing Union of Ireland. Set amid rolling meadows and mature trees, you will get the five-star experience when playing at the course designed by the 1998 Masters champion.

47        Tramore Golf Club (UP 2)

_OS_1973 edOne of the oldest courses in Ireland, it is also one of the premier parkland courses. Tramore provides the player with a variety of challenges throughout. This was certainly the case for the elite amateurs at the 2015 Irish Close Championship.

46        K-Club (Smurfit Course) (SAME)

K Club new Smurfit ClubThe less famous of the two K Club courses, the Smurfit Course is nevertheless a fine parkland kept in immaculate condition. Described as an inland links course with dune-type mounding and dramatic landscapes, if coming to play the Ryder Cup course, make sure to play the Smurfit as well.

45        Carlow Golf Club (Down 6)

imagedisplay.aspxFounded in 1899, this classic course is always in great condition and is playable all year round. Watch out for the 8th where the tee shot is played to the West into the setting sun from the highest point on the course down to a sloping fairway below. Many tee shots have been lost here and legend has it that they are taken by the “little people” from the raths or fairy rings.

44        Palmerstown Stud (DOWN 1)

image for listingLocated on the grounds of the historic Palmerstown House estate, this tree-lined course is known for its impressive bunkering and exquisite use of water that provides a true challenge. Palmerstown is renowned for the quality greens and has many great holes to test every club in the bag.

43        Malone Golf Club (UP 1)

Malone 15 LHS tee 6648One of Belfast’s premier parklands, this immaculate course weaves its way through a picturesque estate. Just five miles from Belfast, it has a number of large lakes and water hazards, which place a premium on accuracy through the round.

42        Hogs Head (UP 3)

 -methode-sundaytimes-prod-web-bin-1e4dbf54-58c1-11e7-806b-08bec0454923         The first Robert Trent Jones II design in Ireland occupies a site that once housed Skellig Bay, a golf course built in 2006 that failed financially. The course is sand capped, yielding firm and fast conditions, and is carpeted in fescue from tee to green, so it plays like a links, complete with wind and water

41        Carton House Hotel & Golf Resort (Montgomerie Course)   (DOWN 1) 

 81 MONTY_18Cut through the rolling meadows and punctuated by native fescue, Carton House’s Montgomerie Course perfectly combines the pristine parkland setting with the exciting qualities of links golf. A great test of golf, and watch out for those strategically-placed bunkers.

40        Headfort Golf Club (UP 2) 

Headfort new#4The New Course at Headfort is one of the country’s finest. Headfort New offers variety throughout the round with water featuring prominently, while mature woodland places a premium on accuracy from the tee all the way to the greens.

39        Lough Erne Resort (DOWN 4)

Lough erne 17 Legend_largeThe Championship course at Lough Erne, just outside Enniskillen, is a true beauty. It has the marks of Nick Faldo all over it, and it provides a strategic challenge, nestled on a 24-hectare peninsula between Lower Lough Erne and Castle Hume Lough. Lough Erne is in play on 11 holes of course. www.

38        Connemara Golf Links (SAME)

  ConnemaraThere is no other landscape quite like the boulder strewn sand hills that form the basis of the unique links at Ballyconneely. The ubiquitous Eddie Hackett was at the helm for design duties. The individuality of this finish and the unique terrain goes a long way to explaining Connemara’s place in the rankings.

37        Slieve Russell Hotel & Country Club (UP 4)            

 slieve-russell-13th-back-pmThe premier golf course in Cavan, Slieve Russell is dominated by its lakes, and provides a challenging, yet peaceful setting for golf on a parkland that is as pristinely kept as any on the island. Whether you are in search of a quick golfing break or a nice resort get-away, this place has it all.

36        Killarney Golf & Fishing Club (Killeen Course) (DOWN 5)

Killeen Selected Photos (3)The wonderful lake and mountain views here make for a spectacular backdrop to one of Ireland’s best parkland courses. The Killeen Course has hosted multiple European and Ladies European Tour events, most recently the 2011 Irish Open.

35        Concra Wood Golf Club (DOWN 1)

3A5X0298concra woodsDesigned by golf legends Christy O’Connor Snr and Jnr, this strikingly beautiful course features a brilliant landscape that has been carefully sculpted around Lough Muckno in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan. One of O’Connor’s finest creations, it will be sure to leave you wanting for more.

34        Castlerock Golf Club (UP 3)

9th greenDown two places this year, Castlerock is another jewel on the Causeway coast. This scenic links course features eye-catching views of Donegal and, on a clear day, the Isle of Islay towards Scotland. It is a testing layout that is both challenging and fun to play for golfers of all levels.

33        Fota Island Hotel & Golf Resort (Deerpark) (DOWN 1)

Fota _8 CU

Set amid a stunning 780-acre island, this popular Cork venue is maturing nicely and features tricky bunkering and engaging greens. The Deer Park course was designed by Christy O’Connor Junior.

32        Cork Golf Club (UP 4)

3rd holeOne of Ireland’s oldest courses, Dr Alister MacKenzie’s work at Little Island might not be as well-known as what he did at Augusta National or Royal Melbourne but it is truly stunning. With a variety of scenery and diverse landscape, this challenging course takes you on a ride, and with an unforgettable finishing four, it is well worth a round.

31        Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort (Old Tom Morris Course) (UP 2)

RP.ValleyWinding its way along a high dune ridge parallel to Sheephaven Bay, Pat Ruddy’s design is uncompromising and difficult to tame, yet remains a joy to play in this scenic part of Donegal. Every year, the links seems to get tweaked a little more to enhance its playability.

30        Narin And Portnoo Golf Club (SAME)

20 - Narin and Portnoo LinksA hidden gem in the North West. A classic, picturesque course, spectacular sea views can be enjoyed on a terrain that draws around sharp doglegs. Crisp iron shots to par 3s over cavernous terrain and accurate tee shots down snake-like fairways are needed on this wind-swept links course.

29        Killeen Castle Golf Club (SAME)

Killeen Castle MorningDown two places this year is the 2011 Solheim Cup course Killeen Castle but it is still inside the top 30 for a reason. The Meath course is another wonderful Jack Nicklaus design that was only opened in 2009. Killeen Castle also hosted the Ladies Irish Open. With beautiful views of the Co. Meath countryside throughout the 600-acre estate, players will never become bored of the golfing test that is provided.

28        Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort (SAME)

Druids Glen 18thOne of the country’s premier parkland courses, Druids Glen has seen the likes of Sergio Garcia and Colin Montgomerie lift the Irish Open there. Always in pristine condition, the course is loved by the shotmaker, with views over the Irish Sea, fantastic facilities and surrounding woods making for a wonderful golfing experience.

27        Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort (Sandyhills) (SAME)           

Rosapenna Golf Resort from the air (4)One of Ireland’s newest 18-hole links courses is undoubtedly one of its most spectacular. Winding its way along a high dune ridge parallel to Sheephaven Bay, Pat Ruddy’s design is uncompromising and difficult to tame, yet remains a joy to play in this scenic part of Donegal. Every year, the links seems to get tweaked a little more to enhance its playability.

26        Donegal Golf Club (Murvagh Links) (DOWN 3)

  DonegalGC_6BZOften referred to as the Muirfield of Ireland, Murvagh in Donegal is a challenge to even the most accomplished golfer. Panoramic views of the Atlantic and Donegal Bay make this a truly enjoyable course and one which Darren Clarke rates very highly. The memorable 5th hole, aptly named ‘The Valley of Tears’, has brought many a great round to a halt.

25        Portsalon Golf Club (SAME)

 11947910_432067780323901_3025644149314916742_o          Portsalon is one of Donegal’s unsung heroes and is a beautiful links in the North-West. The par 4 second is one of the world’s great holes with the 14th – named Matterhorn – not far behind. The undulating greens are eccentric whilst the quirky nature of some of the holes means there is a surprise around every corner.

24        The Royal Dublin Golf Club (UP 2)

 Aerial - Small Rd. 3One of Ireland’s grand old courses has risen two places this year. Royal Dublin was designed by Harry Colt on Bull Island, and is a challenging yet fair course that is full of character and charm. Just a short distance from Dublin’s city centre, it is a super test of classic links golf.

23        Trump International Golf Links - Doonbeg (DOWN 1)

Doonbeg_05_no_5The world renowned 18-hole championship course at Trump International Golf Links & Hotel™ Doonbeg, spans 1.5 miles of crescent shaped beach and century old sand dunes along Doughmore Bay. The course has been transformed recently by Dr. Martin Hawtree to one of the ‘must play’ golf courses on the international circuit.

22        Dooks Golf Club (UP 2)

dooks  9Dooks Golf Club has plenty of links competition in Kerry, but manages to stand out itself thanks to a magnificent conditioning and wonderful scenery. Founded in 1889 it is one of the five oldest links in Ireland. The McGillycuddy’s Reeks and the Dingle Mountains provide a scenic backdrop to a course that features a fantastic atmosphere.

21        K-Club (Palmer Course) (SAME)

44 ckA golf course with all the daring risk-and-reward shot selection of the late Arnold Palmer, the Palmer Course at the K Club is one of the best parkland courses in the country. Rory McIlroy’s heroic shots to win the 2016 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open showcased to the world a course of plush conditions and great challenge. Its Ryder Cup pedigree makes it one of the most dramatic parkland finishes that you can play in Ireland.

20        Ballyliffin Golf Club (Old Links) (SAME)

Old14thteeThe Old Course at Ballyliffin has undergone significant change in recent years. Initially heralded as a supreme example of natural linksland, it was partially compromised when the neighbouring Glashedy was built in the 1990’s. Nick Faldo’s interest led to the club appointing him to oversee a major renovation a few years ago, the end result is a huge success with the original rippling fairways being supplemented by strategic bunkering on one strong hole after another.

19        Belmullet Golf Club (Carne Golf Links) (DOWN 2)

CarneCarne Golf Links on the western tip of County Mayo is a unique must-visit venue. The remote beauty of the Mullet peninsula and inquisitive holes are laid out through some of golf’s largest dunes. It is the epitome of adventurous golf. The back nine in particular provides as interesting of a nine holes of golf as can be found anywhere in the country. The finish is particularly strong - the 15th and 17th are great par 4s with a dizzying drop-shot par 3 in between.

18        Mount Juliet Golf Club (UP 1)

  #10hThis stunning Jack Nicklaus design is the third highest-ranked parkland course on the list for good reason. It has hosted many high profile events over the years including two WGCs, won by Tiger Woods and Ernie Els respectively. When Tiger won in 2002, he said the greens were the best he’d played on all year which is testament to the quality of this picturesque but challenging layout, seamlessly blended into the landscape of this old estate. It now also features a Paul McGinley designed Academy.

17        Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links (UP 1)

Screenshot 2020-05-03 at 11.48.37The Bernhard Langer-designed Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links is a beautiful championship course, which is a natural test of golf along the Irish Sea. Located on the original Jameson estate, it provides an enjoyable round of links golf, combining all the charm of a traditional style layout with the challenges of the modern game.

16        Old Head Golf Links (SAME)

OldHead Headland newBuilt along the rugged coastline jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, Old Head is one of the most spectacular settings to play golf in the world. Nine holes play along the clifftops and all 18 provide an ocean view. It is easy to see why this Kinsale course is a bucket list venue for many international tourists.

15        Portstewart Golf Club (Strand Course) (SAME)

106372197Portstewart Golf Club was a fantastic host of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in 2017, as the whole world saw the superb Des Giffin-designed Strand Course, set on Ulster’s famous Causeway Coast. The front 9 is a particular treat, with high dunes complemented by stunning views across the bay.

14        The Island Golf Club (SAME)

Island 2015Winding and twisting its way through rugged terrain and some of the biggest dunes you will find anywhere, this century-old links course is golf at its best. This award-winning links venue adjacent to the Broadmeadow estuary is simply one of Ireland’s most demanding and finest links courses.

13        Enniscrone Golf Club (SAME)

Enniscrone_1Links 06 (10)This is a must play course for anyone looking a traditional track surrounded by stunning scenery. Located on the beautiful shores of Co Sligo, this Eddie Hackett design is steeped in history and will test the very best. As well as holes in the open flatland, there will be those ranging through the sand dunes with the occasional dog-leg adding to the attraction.

12        County Sligo Golf Club (SAME)

5R6A9955Rosses Point is a traditional links course that is undergoing upgrades to keep up with modern day demands. Each hole brings a new challenge as golfers navigate along the Atlantic and Benbulben Mountain. This course, perennial home to the West of Ireland, is where Rory McIlroy won back-to-back titles as a teenager. It shows off all that is great about Irish links golf, and is a true test in high winds.

11        Ballyliffin Golf Club (Glashedy) (SAME)

20110711-_DSC3695-Ballyliffin_GolfAnd2more As if the beautiful Inishowen Peninsula wasn’t reason enough to visit Donegal, here’s one more - the Glashedy Links course at Ballyliffin. A delightfully challenging course that is both difficult and fun to play all year round. The changes that have been made over the past few years have really enhanced the course, and it is definitely a ‘bucket list’ course.

10        Adare Manor (SAME)

The Par-3 16th hole on The Golf Course at Adare ManorCelebrated golf architect Tom Fazio has taken what was already an Ireland’s highest ranking parkland golf course and transformed it into parkland perfection, which will host the 2026 Ryder Cup. Masterfully designed, magnificently maintained, and perfectly set within the glorious estate of one of Europe’s most spectacular manor house hotels.

9          The European Club (SAME)

10th green European ClubA popular spot for Padraig Harrington to prepare for Open Championships, Wicklow’s European Club is a challenging course that requires great imagination and shot-making. This Pat Ruddy-design has a number of outstanding holes. Supreme routing builds up to the seaside stretch in the middle of the back nine with the idiosyncratic greens at the 12th and 13th. However, it is the downhill par-5 3rd, the much photographed 8th and the dune enclosed par- 3 14th that are perhaps the best holes on a golf course that has no comparison anywhere else in the world.

8          County Louth Golf Club (Baltray) (SAME)

County Louth 13th-15th(2)This peaceful links course located on Ireland’s east coast is a snapshot of the way golf should be. The serene atmosphere gives way to towering dunes, treacherous rough and long holes that will make use of every club in the bag. It hosted the best players on the European Tour at the Irish Open in 2009, which Shane Lowry famously won as an amateur.

7          Waterville Golf Links (Down 1)

waterville17Following a Tom Fazio facelift in recent years, Waterville has blossomed into a perennial Top 10 course and is likely to remain there for quite some time. Situated on the shores of Ballinskelligs Bay in beautiful Co Kerry, the course is loved by American tourists and why not? It provides a true links golf experience, complete with rolling dunes, firm fairways, sod-faced bunkers and unpredictable weather.

6          Ballybunion Golf Club (UP 1) (The Old Course)

ballybunion-11-bayWith very few man-made elements, it’s the natural surroundings that provide a challenging yet exciting round of golf. One of golf legend Tom Watson’s favourite courses, it boasts a unique layout featuring back-to-back par 3s and par 5s. An unparalleled back nine and countless interesting and testy approach shots are what bring this club to such a high ranking.

5          Tralee Golf Club (SAME)

Screenshot 2020-05-03 at 14.18.47This spectacular Arnold Palmer designed course is arguably one of the most majestic courses you will ever encounter. The front nine features some spine-tingling holes that navigate the rocky Atlantic coast, but it’s the back nine’s massive dunes and challenging tee-placements that will leave a lasting impression. Tralee has also put in upgrade work on a Hawtree designed par 3 course, and a state-of-the-art practice area. It will enhance the experience of one of the most beautiful courses in the world.

4          Lahinch Golf Club (SAME)

Image 7 Paradise Green (6th Hole)One of Phil Mickelson’s favourite golf courses in the world, golf at Lahinch dates back to 1882 and it’s hard not to marvel at how well the early pioneers carved out so many great holes from the natural terrain. Today, Lahinch plays host to the South of Ireland every year and the course is one of the spiritual homes of Irish amateur golf. With its naturally rugged linksland, overlooking Liscannor Bay, Lahinch is worthy of its place within the Top 5.

3          Portmarnock (SAME)

 Kevin Murray Pictures 087The Old Course at Portmarnock falls behind its northern rivals for best course in Ireland, and has not been able to recapture its top position from 2014, but there’s no doubt that it’s still one of the standard bearers of Irish golf. This traditional links may not have the same instant appeal as some of the dune courses of Ireland’s west coast but the routing – which changes direction on every hole – and the subtle ripples and undulations combine to create a supreme test from start to finish. This iconic course has hosted the best players in the world, from Arnold Palmer to Tiger Woods. It is still the Republic’s premier championship course.

2          Royal Portrush Golf Club (SAME)

32932_Royal_Portrush_Golf_Course_Renowned course architect Harry Colt once remarked that Royal Portrush was his best ever layout, and the changes have helped accentuate its original design, which hosted the Open Championship back in 1951 and again in 2019. The course is seamlessly integrated into the natural landscape, providing golfers with a vast range of shots that will test skill and patience along the gorgeous North coast.

1          Royal County Down (SAME)

  76019789Royal County Down is the Rolls-Royce of golf courses, and deservedly regains top spot in this year’s rankings. . Voted best course in world by Golf Digest, the Old Tom Morris layout dates back to 1889. Several blind shots on the course always cause conversation but one thing is for sure, there are few better settings for golf in the world. With Slieve Donard providing a beautiful backdrop, standout holes include the stunning par-3 fourth and two par fours, the ninth and 13th. A must-play.

Honourable Mentions 2020

Millicent Golf Club, Balbriggan Golf ClubRoyal Tara, Moyola Park Golf Club, North West Golf Club, Wexford, Roe Park, Athlone, Hilton Templepatrick, Royal Curragh, Dunfanaghy, Newlands, Ring of Kerry, Bantry Bay, Kirkstown Castle, Birr, Lisburn, Faithlegg, Woodbrook, Moyvallley.


            1          Royal County Down

            2          Royal Portrush Golf Club

            3          Portmarnock Golf Club

            4          Lahinch Golf Club

            5          Tralee Golf Club

            6          Ballybunion Golf Club (The Old Course)

            7          Waterville Golf Links

            8          County Louth Golf Club (Baltray)

            9          The European Club

            10        Ballyliffin Golf Club (Glashedy)

            11        County Sligo Golf Club

            12        Enniscrone Golf Club

            13        The Island Golf Club

            14        Portstewart Golf Club (The Strand Course)

            15        Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links

            16        Belmullet Golf Club (Carne Golf Links)

            17        Ballyliffin Golf Club (Old Links)

            18        Dooks Golf Club

            19        Trump International Golf Links - (Doonbeg)

            20        The Royal Dublin Golf Club

            21        Portsalon Golf Club

            22        Donegal Golf Club (Murvagh Links)

            23        Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort (Sandyhills)

            24        Narin And Portnoo Links

            25        Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort (Old Tom Morris Course)

            26        Castlerock Golf Club

            27        Connemara Golf Links

            28        Royal Portrush Golf Club (Valley Course)

            29        Seapoint Golf Links

            30        Ballybunion Golf Club (Cashen Course)



            1          Adare Manor

            2          Old Head Golf Links                                       

            3          Mount Juliet Golf Club                                               

            4          K-Club (Palmer Course)

            5          Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort

            6          Killeen Castle Golf Club

            7          Cork Golf Club

            8          Fota Island Hotel & Golf Resort (Deerpark)

            9          Concra Wood Golf Club         

            10        Killarney Golf & Fishing Club (Killeen Course)           

            11        Slieve Russell Hotel & Country Club

            12        Lough Erne Resort

            13        Headfort Golf Club (New)

            14        Carton House Hotel & Golf Resort (Montgomerie Course)

            15        Hogs Head

            16        Malone Golf Club

            17        Palmerstown Stud

            18        Carlow Golf Club

            19        K-Club (Smurfit Course)

            20        Tramore Golf Club

            21        Carton House Hotel & Golf Resort (OMeara Course)

            22        The Heritage Golf Club

            23        Dun Laoghaire Golf Club

            24        Belvoir Park Golf Club

            25        Galway Bay Golf Resort

            26        Luttrellstown Castle Golf Club

            27        Bunclody Golf Club

            28        Hermitage Golf Club

            29        Portumna Golf Club

            30        Royal Belfast Golf Club







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