Ireland – North East – Royal County Down – 6779 yds – Par 72
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Royal County Down the very words are enough to send a shiver up your spine. Laid out beneath the imperious gaze of the Mountains of Mourne and enjoying a magnificent setting along the shores of Dundrum Bay, Royal County Down is truly one of the world’s finest links golf courses. Designed by Old Tom Morris for the princely sum of four guineas back in 1889, Royal County Down, as well as being one of the most beautiful courses in the world, is also one of the most challenging.
It may be a well worn cliché, but if ever there existed a natural piece of land upon which to build a golf course, then the links turf of Newcastle was it. This strip of dune land was 90% along the road to being a golf course before the hand of man made some adjustments in the leveling of teeing grounds, moulding of greens and digging of bunkers. It’s no surprise that within four years, Royal County Down was considered good enough to stage the Irish Open Amateur Championship and by the dawning of the 20th century, the course was rated as the finest course in all of Ireland.
Ireland – North East – Royal Portrush – 6845 yds – Par 72
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Simply put, the Dunluce course at Royal Portrush is one of the world’s finest links courses. Known as the County Club when first formed in May 1888, it became the Royal County Club in 1892 and finally, Royal Portrush Golf Club in 1895, with the Prince of Wales as patron. The links has undergone many changes during the course of its existence. The initial nine holes were extended to eighteen by 1889, while the renowned golf architect, Harry Colt, designed the present course. Upon completion of his work at Portrush, Colt remarked that it represented his best ever layout.
As befits a golf course of such quality, Royal Portrush has hosted many major events over the years. The Irish Amateur Championships were inaugurated here in 1892, while the first professional event on Irish soil was also hosted at Portrush in 1895. It wasn’t until July 1951 though, that Royal Portrush made real headlines on the world stage, when it became the first and only Irish golf course to host the British Open Golf Championship, an event won by Max Faulkner with an aggregate score of 285 over four rounds.
The course will host the Open Championship again in 2019
Ireland – North East – Portstewart – 6779 yds – Par 72
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As with many Irish links courses, Portstewart boasts a long history. While the origins of golf in the area date from 1889, the club was not founded until 1894. Such was the interest in the game; the club was forced to move from their original nine hole layout to a larger site at the opposite end of the town.
Further expansion was undertaken in the 1960’s following the acquisition of more land, while in 1992, the extension into the area of dunes known as “Thistly Hollow” yielded the Strand Course, a links which is today widely considered as one of the finest in Ireland.
Measuring 6,779 yards from the championship stakes, the Strand Course at Portstewart, which is set in classic links country amidst towering sand dunes, is a difficult but fair links layout and offers magnificent views of the Donegal Hills, Atlantic Ocean, Strand Beach and River Bann. And in days when development of new courses can run into millions of pounds, it is to the credit of Portstewart Golf Club, that their own staff has largely created the layout at the Strand Course.
Situated within minutes of Portstewart and Royal Portrush, Castlerock Golf Club is a classic links course set amid towering dunes and is a more than worthy neighbour to both these great Irish links.
Founded in April 1901, the original course comprised nine holes and was laid out on the western part of the present course. Additional land was leased in 1908 and Ben Sayers, the professional from North Berwick in Scotland, was commissioned to design an eighteen hole layout.
Though better known as a club maker, Sayers produced a superb layout and insisted that the links of Castlerock would equal those at Troon, North Berwick and Sandwich.
Very close to the championship course at Royal County Down Ardglass is a beautiful course where there’s a warm welcome for visitors, with a clubhouse, parts of which date back to the 14th century.
The golf course romps over the most fantastic scenery found anywhere in Ireland – craggy cliffs with great clefts and folds that drop precipitously into the crashing surf. The course begins with no less than six spectacular holes laid out atop the cliffs, directly over-looking the sea — raw, rocky and dramatic.”
Malone’s first golf course was laid out on a former polo field in 1895 but within a year the demand had outstripped the facilities and a new site was found. Several other moves took place before the present course on the Ballydrain Estate was opened in 1962.
A 22-acre lake is the focal point of this really beautiful parkland course and it comes into play on a number of holes, notably the 15th, par-3 of 136 yards where both the tee and the green are built out into the lake with next to nothing but water between the two.
The course is just four miles from Belfast city centre and is bounded by the River Lagan on one side and a main road on the other. The trout lake comes into play again on the 18th where a fade or a sliced shot will find a watery grave and huge mature trees as well as a total of 42 bunkers are other hazards to avoid around the course.
The clubhouse, with its many rooms, is a gathering place at the end of a round and the bar and restaurants have cheerful and friendly staff.