The top golf courses on the Emerald Isle, handpicked by industry leaders
Ireland is home to some of the world’s most outstanding and masterful golf courses, attracting more than 200,000 golfers from overseas every year. Golfscape, an online golf reservation service, last year collaborated with the region’s leading golf properties and invited US golf sensation Katie Kearney to review the top golfing destination. The result is a comprehensive Ireland golf guide, handpicked by industry leaders, highlighting the top golf courses, from seaside escapes to forest retreats.
Whether you’re looking to experience the East, Southwest, or Northwest of Ireland, you’ll explore some of the region’s finest greens, challenge the fairways and truly experience Ireland golf like never before at one, several or all of these top golfing destinations. So without further ado, here are the picks of the crop for your golfing journey across the Emerald Isle, that could see you stand in the footsteps of golfing legends like Rory McIlroy.
Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links, Dublin
Can’t decide between Dublin or the coast? Then look no further than Portmarnock. Just fifteen minutes away from Dublin International Airport, Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links is the only coast resort and links course in Dublin, giving golfers a fresh sea breeze between strokes on the green. As one of Bernard Langer’s magnificent designs, the course is set in the grounds of the old Jameson Estate of St. Marnocks.
The 16th is known as the ‘signature hole’, which requires an accurate shot from an elevated tee box. This is undeniably one of the most challenging holes at Portmarnock. If the challenge of the 16th proves more disappointing than fulfilling, or if you need a victory prize, the hotel’s incredible amenities are sure to sooth body and soul.. Including, but not limited to, an award-winning spa and two highly awarded restaurants, guests can spend the day or evening relaxing on the hotel grounds to recharge for the following day on the green, in Dublin, on the beach or at the hotel.
Katie Kearney, US golf sensation and model has described Portmarnock as “such a wonderful place. Those greens; the entire golf course is spectacular, and in perfect condition.”
Carton House Resort, Dublin
Only a 25-minute drive from the city centre and Dublin International Airport, Carton House Resort is a serene getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city while still within reach of Dublin’s culture and pub experiences. Whether you’re looking for a challenging inland links-style course or a classic parkland experience, Carton House Resort’s two golf courses are sure to set a challenge like no other. As one of the most sought after golf courses in Ireland, the Montgomerie offers numerous bunkers and impeccable greens. Diversely, the O’Meara surrounds golfers in ancient woodlands. O’Meara is also home to a golden river and a breathtaking, historic backdrop on the 18th hole.
With three outstanding eateries, wellness facilities and a premium spa, Carton House Resort presents guests with a memorable experience where historic charm meets contemporary luxury. Restoration that began in January 2020 at the estate ensures that Carton House simultaneously presents guests with an authentic experience and the newest amenities.
Fota Island Resort, Cork
Just a 20-minute drive from Cork, Fota Island Resort is home to three world-class championship golf courses – Deerpark, Belvelly, and Barryscourt. Beautifully set in parkland scenery, guests will find themselves wandering through tall oak trees and magnificent woodlands. Professional golfer Padraig Harrington’s favourite hole is the 18th island green on the Deerpark course – one of Ireland’s most remarkably picturesque golf holes. Speaking of the 18th at Deerpark, Harrington gushed, “The setting is gorgeous… you get to the top of the hill and it is all presented to you… the clubhouse, the lake, mature trees, bunkers, shrubs – magnificent. And doesn’t everybody like being faced with a downhill shot to a big green!”
Adding to the exceptional beauty of Fota’s three courses is the resort’s varied luxury amenities. Fota Island Resort has a luxurious 5-star hotel & spa, which offers such treatments as hydrotherapy on Ireland’s only walking river, chocolate baths and hen party options. Guests can choose to stay in private rooms or residential lodges that offer 2, 3 and 4 bedroom options. An exceptional golf academy for those looking to learn new techniques or brush up on their skills.
Trump International Golf Links & Hotel, Doonbeg
Spread across miles of crescent-shaped beach, Trump International Golf Links is a world-renowned championship golf course. The course earned its ‘must play’ status internationally following Dr Martin Hawtree’s design philosophy of ‘least disturbance’. The design results in flourished land as well as enhanced playability. With distinguished identities for each hole, players simultaneously feel rewarded and challenged. Golfers have the opportunity to experience the unusual combination of five par 3s and five par 5s. Moreover, the luxurious 5-star hotel suites, furnishings, and mesmerising antiques leave guests in ultimate grace and comfort.
Adare Manor, Adare
Recently reopened in April 2018, The Golf Course at Adare Manor brings a new standard to Irish championship golf courses. With fewer bunkers than any other design by famed golf course architect Tom Fazio, Adare Manor is a challenging but fair test. All 18 greens benefit from SubAir Aeration System, which removes moisture and guarantees firm play every day—a near necessity for greens in such damp locales. Adare Manor is one of three golf courses in the UK & Ireland to implement this system and the only such course to grace this list.
Located in the charming village of Adare in County Limerick, Adare Manor gives its guests front door access to a nationally acclaimed heritage town. Adare consistently tops lists of Ireland’s prettiest towns, adding colour and charm to the possible adventures for Adare Manor guests. Harking back to days of yore, Adare Manor offers visitors the possibility of experiencing the unique connection between humans and labradors that can emerge during finding and retrieving games of the Irish Gundog Experience. Guests to one of Ireland’s top overnight stays are immersed in this historical luxury from Irish flat cap to Labrador tail.
Castlemartyr Resort, Cork
Designed by world-renowned golf architect Ron Kirby, the Castlemartyr Resort houses an 18-hole inland links-style course. Both a visually pleasing and challenging experience, the course offers an excellent round for players of all abilities. Golfers can learn from PGA Pro, Alan Gleeson, in beginners’ sessions, timed sessions, links lessons and half-day clinics.
Nestled in an old manor estate in East Cork, guests can enjoy walking trails while witnessing the birdlife within the beautiful grounds of the estate. The 5-star escape not only features an oasis of calm at the spa but also an array of activities that include—but are not limited to— carriage rides, fishing, and clay pigeon shooting!
County Sligo Golf Club, Sligo
Originally designed as a 9 hole course in 1894, County Sligo Golf Club is now a modern 27 hole complex with an outstanding clubhouse and state of the art facilities. County Sligo is home to many prestigious events, such as the West of Ireland Championship, played and won by Padraig, McIlroy, and Lowry. Here, guests can experience antique charm at the clubhouse that still retains the graceful Tudor style facade from the original architecture. Furthermore, the golf club has a nine hole course and a superb driving range.
County Sligo is adored by professional golfers worldwide and, as Tom Watson stated, is “a magnificent links and the stretch of holes from the 14th to 17th that run adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean are one of the best finishing stretches in golf.”
Tralee Golf Club, Tralee
Known as Arnold Palmer’s jewel, Tralee Golf Club is a daring course settled on a charming rugged coastal stretch just eight miles from Tralee in southwestern County Kerry. From towering dunes to clifftop tees, this golfing paradise is widely acclaimed as one of the world’s finest links courses. Guests can enjoy the magnificent views of the Sliabh Mish mountains backdrop from the clubhouse and practice your game in the purpose-built Academy. Speaking about Tralee Golf Club, Arnold Palmer boasted, “I may have designed the first nine, but surely God designed the back nine.”
Where to Stay
Not sure where to stay during your golf trip? Luckily, Portmarnock, Carton House, Fota Island, Trump Doonbeg, Adare Manor and Castlemartyr Resort all include exceptional hotel facilities. In particular, Portmarnock’s Fire & Ice spa treatment will transport you to a sea of calm with a complete holistic experience. Golfers recommend trying the traditional afternoon tea at the charming Seaview restaurant. Coupled with a panoramic view, you’ll never want to leave. If you prefer to participate in outdoor activities, Fota Island Resort will leave you spoilt for choice. From archery to target practice, you’ll be sure to have your days filled with adrenaline and excitement.
However, if you’re looking to stay outside the course, there are many more options available. While Dublin International Airport may be your starting point on your visit to the Emerald Isle, you can spoil yourself at the refined Merrion in the heart of Dublin. This stylish hotel is home to Ireland’s only two Michelin star restaurant. It is also a short walk from museums, pubs and galleries. If you’re planning to spend most of your time on the course rather than in the hotel, you can browse countless options on Airbnb all over the country! Find yourself a cosy place to stay and relax in your home away from home.