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When it comes to places all golfers must visit in their lifetime, Ireland is at the top of everyone's list.

The Courses

Royal Portrush (Dunluce Links) - #15 in 2013 Golf Magazine's World Top 100

Royal Portrush consistently rates as one of the world's top 10 golf courses - and with good reason. As the holes tumble between the sand dunes on a stretch of links land washed by the Atlantic Ocean, the overwhelming feeling that this is what links golf is really about is all consuming and highly intoxicating. Poor golf shots are penalised at Royal Portrush, whether by sand hills, gorse and other seaside shrubbery, bunkers or out of bounds. The course really doesn't need the Atlantic winds to bolster its defences but it is rare to find a day when there is anything less than a strong breeze here.

The championship links, also known as the Dunluce Links, opens with a terrifying tee-shot that must be hit between two out of bounds lines that run the entire length of the fairway. The target is no more than 60 yards wide. There is no staying short and no blasting over it. Straight or it's your third shot without having taken a step! From the 1st to the mighty 18th, a par 4 of 450 yards with OOB all the way up the right hand side, Royal Portrush tests your game to the limit in a thoroughly beguiling fashion. Once in trouble there is usually a chip out and you are back on track, while every error leaves you with a sense that it could have been done better.

Portrush Valley

Royal Portrush (Valley Links)

As its name suggests, the Valley Links is situated between the huge sand hills immediately along the Atlantic shore and the higher ground on which the Championship course is laid out. That is not to say the holes of the course are routed over anything like plain, level lying land - far from it, as the Valley has more than its fair share of the humps, hollows and undulations.

The 6,304-yard, par 70, Valley is a very fine test of links golf, with greens, in particular, every bit as well tended as on the Dunluce. Harry Colt is credited with designing the course three years after the Dunluce and he was never known to put his name to many, if any, poor courses. Two feature holes on the card are played back-to-back on the front nine and they are situated at the furthest point from the clubhouse. They epitomise all that is good about golf at Portrush. The 336 yard, short par 4, 5th hole is played from an elevated tee in the sand hills to a green framed by towering dunes and protected on three sides by menacing bunkers. The 237 yard, par 3, 6th hole is then played slightly uphill and semi-blind to a green hidden by natural mounding.


Portstewart (Strand) – Ireland's "Hidden Gem"!

Founded in 1894 and redesigned by Willie Park Jnr in the 1920's, this championship links course received its greatest makeover with the purchase of land known as "Thistly Hollow" in 1981. This enabled the club to build a stunning new seven holes through towering dunes and fabulous and natural links land. Designed by local school teacher, Des Giffin, the Strand Course is the jewel in the Portstewart portfolio.

Portstewart has played host to many major Amateur and Professional Championships over the years including the British Girls Championship in 2006. Portstewart Golf Club is proud to offer 54 holes of golf spectacularly set on Ulster's famous Causeway Coast.


Castlerock - yet another "Hidden Gem"!

The coastal village of Castlerock is home to a stunning links course of the same name, crafted through the beautiful rolling sand dunes. The River Bann flows alongside, and the course affords tremendous views of the Isle of Islay, adding immense aesthetic pleasure to the astounding links. Founded in 1901 as a nine hole course, Castlerock was completed seven years later by legendary Scottish club maker Ben Sayers. Further modifications were carried out in 1925 by the esteemed Harry S. Colt, and the character of the Mussenden has remained the same ever since.

Frequently used for national events including the Irish PGA Championship, Castlerock is affected acutely by the wind, and is sure to test even the finest players. Great banks of rough and whins are abetted by hidden burns and the humps and hillocks that are so characteristic of seaside golf. Ranked among the very best that Northern Ireland has to offer, Castlerock is a genuine links gem.

Royal County Down- #6 in 2013 Golf Magazine's World Top 100

Royal County Down is one of the oldest Golf Clubs in Ireland with traditions dating back for more than 100 years. Situated in Newcastle, where in the immortal words of Percy French, "The Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea", Royal County Down is not only a fine test of golf but has spellbinding scenery.

Royal County Down is a pure links, in the truest sense of the word. This course (regularly recognised as the greatest outside the US) is dominated by its intriguing blind shots as much as the beauty of the flowering gorse and heather and the backdrop of the Mountains of Mourne. Old Tom Morris certainly earned his four Guinea fee when he laid out this track back in 1889 - millions of golf pilgrims have been thanking him ever since. Let's leave the last word to Tom Watson: "My advice to anyone playing this great course is to keep it very straight off the tee - stray from the fairways at your peril! It is a tremendous test of golf and the outward half especially is as fine a nine holes as I have ever played."

Portmarnock – #54 in 2013 Golf Magazine's World Top 100

Portmarnock has been the venue for some of the game's great events, from the British Amateur Championship of 1949 to the Canada Cup of 1960, quite apart from the 1991 Walker Cup and 12 stagings of the Irish Open. The Canada Cup was especially notable because it provided Arnold Palmer with his first experience of links golf. As it happened Palmer and Snead captured the trophy for the USA and Palmer's learning skills were later reflected in his successive Open titles in 1961 and 1962. Founded in 1894, the championship course offers a classic, traditional challenge. Indeed the celebrated writer, Bernard Darwin, was prompted to comment: "I know of no greater finish than that of the last 5 holes at Portmarnock". When Tom Watson played here as part of his preparation for the 1981 Open he remarked on the fairness of the layout. There are no tricks or nasty surprises – only an honest, albeit searching test of shot making skills. The course lies within the curve of the coastline formed by Howth Peninsula and it offers stunning views of Ireland's Eye and Lambay Island, rising sharply from deep waters. But, above all, there is the charm of its delightful turf, the wildness, the solitude of the sand hills and the sea, and the ever – present challenge of the wind.

European Club- #86 in 2013 Golf Magazine's World Top 100

The links of the European Club has developed into one of Ireland's finest golf courses in a relatively short period of time. The combination of rugged dunes, deep bunkers, sea breezes and large undulating greens requires the golfer to play every shot in the book. Fast running fairways, greens that invite the pitch and run approach, acres of tall, waving grasses and gorse as well as the opportunity to slice your ball onto the beach are, of course, the very essence of links golf – and all remain in abundance at the European Club. Some of the most famous names in the world of golf have given permission for individual holes to be named after them. This gives you some idea of the utmost respect afforded in top golfing circles to this course. Thus the 8th is named after Arnold Palmer, the 11th after Gary Player, the 6th after Lee Trevino and the magnificent 17th after Tom Watson. One feature hole, the 2nd, a par 3 of some 160 yards, is played from an elevated tee to an elevated green, surrounded by sand dunes on three sides and fronted by the most fearsome bunker you might ever see.Island

The Island Golf Club – 17/20 in Peugeot Golf Guide

The Island Golf Club is one of Ireland's premier links courses. It is located just north of Dublin across from the quaint village of Malahide. It sits in splendid isolation, surrounded by the Irish Sea, Donabate Beach and Broadmeadow Estuary. Nestling between the highest sand dunes of any links course in Ireland, it's rugged beauty cannot fail to impress. In the past you could only reach the course by boat – hence the name. The original layout was built here over a century ago but it has been remodeled since by Fred Hawtree and Eddie Hackett.

The Island has hosted many major events including British Open qualifiers, The Irish Ladies Amateur and European Youths' Amateur Championships. In 2004 it was voted "Course of the Year" by Ireland's Golf Tour Operators' Association. In 2005 Golf World magazine announced: "The Island - best golf course in Ireland you've never heard of".

Old Head Golf Links 

Unrivalled in terms of the magnificent beauty and setting of the site located in the southwest of Ireland, Old Head Golf Links continues to take the golfing world by storm. The brainchild of John and Patrick O'Connor, the Club has developed into one of the most recognised and sought after golf experiences anywhere on earth.

Old Head Golf Links is built on a 220 acre diamond of land, jutting out over two miles into the Atlantic Ocean. The promontory is almost an island with numerous caves running beneath your feet as you play the course. The links and practice area occupy 180 acres and the remaining 40 acres of unspoiled cliff (rising in places to over 300 feet) frame the course. Nine holes play along the cliff tops and all eighteen holes provide stunning ocean views. With the ever-changing sea breezes, the course provides a stern test to the touring pro and the high handicapper alike.


Waterville Links – 19/20 in Peugeot Golf Guide

The earliest structured golf at Waterville has been traced back to 1889 when it came under the umbrella of the extremely active Waterville Athletic Club. A modest nine hole layout occupying the flat eastern section of the present championship links, it was created on behalf of the Commercial Cable Company. Over the next 50 years membership numbers fluctuated to the point that the club ceased to exist in the 1950's.

Subsequently, John Mulcahy, Eddie Hackett and Claude Harmon combined to design a course to be "the most testing in the world". It opened in 1973. The title of the 1st hole, "Last Easy", tells you what to expect from the rest of the course. Over the years the game's best players have journeyed to Waterville – most notably Payne Stewart, Tiger Woods and friends on their annual Open warm-ups. Stewart was, in fact, a past Captain of the club and a life sized bronze statue pays tribute to one of the club's favourite sons.

Ballybunion (Old) – # 17 in 2013 Golf Magazine's World Top 100

"After playing Ballybunion for the first time a man would think that the game originated here. Located on the Shannon Estuary, it is a true seaside links course, virtually treeless and a course of sharp contours throughout. There appears to be no man-made influence. It looks like a course laid out back in the 10th Century. There is a wild look to the place – the long grass covering the dunes that pitch and roll throughout the course making it very intimidating. Yet the course is eminently fair.

"Playing Ballybunion is similar in many respects to playing Cypress Point and I like that style of golf. It's the best way to play. Combine all this with the winds that are prevalent here and you have a magnificent challenge. It is a course that will test your patience. It is not a course that favours one style of play over another but one that rewards good play and good shots. It is a course you will always enjoy and never tire of playing. I know I never will. In short, Ballybunion is a course on which many golf architects should live and play before they build a golf course. I consider it a true test of golf."

(Tom Watson - Past Captain of BGC)

Ballybunion (Cashen)

Designed by Robert Trent Jones Senior, and first opened for play in 1982, the Trent-Jones Cashen Course is Ballybunion's magnificent new course, located among amazingly high sand dunes at the mouth of the River Cashen. To say the course looks natural in its setting is to do it an injustice. The course flows with the land and uses the natural contours to full potential. This is a dateless golf course which after playing makes you ask yourself if you've ever played amid quite such surroundings. Rated in the Top 100 by Golf Magazine, the vast majority of Cashen's green positions have been copied by many new course designers. Spectacular and supremely challenging, what can never be copied is the majestic landscape and fresh sea air that is distinctly part of the Ballybunion experience.

As a golf course it is probably more spectacular and probably a tougher test of golf that the Old Course and that's the rub. The only answer to which course is "better" is to play both and decide for yourself. Some will relish the challenge; others will say it's unfair! Nobody can be right, nobody can be wrong.

Tralee -18/20 in Peugeot Golf Guide

Opened in 1984, Tralee was the first European design effort by Arnold Palmer. When he first saw the area upon which his company was to build the links he was ecstatic about the possibilities: "I have never come across a piece of land so ideally suited for the building of a golf course ", he said. "I designed the first nine but surely God designed the back nine", Palmer explained.

Comments from other notables include : "The setting is quite the most magnificent backdrop for a golf course that I have ever encountered " (Peter Dobereiner , golf writer ) ,"In terms of spectacle , the Tralee links is unique , defying comparison overall with any golfing stretch" (Dermot Gilleece, Irish Times) and "If heaven is not like this , I don't want to go there " (Wayne Westner, Touring Professional) . Among many other accolades, Tralee Golf Club was voted "Course of the Year" in 2007 by Ireland's Golf Tour Operators' Association.

Lahinch – # 40 in 2013 Golf Magazine's World Top 100

Lahinch occupies a special place in Irish Golf – its location; history & layout all contribute to a really special experience for any golfing enthusiast. Lahinch Golf Club is located on the edge of the small seaside resort of Lahinch in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland. The culture of the sport so imbues the township that it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between the town and the golf course - giving rise to its title of "the St Andrews of Ireland ".

The club was founded in 1882 out of the cooperation of the Limerick Golf Club and officers of the Black Watch Regiment. The natural sand dune terrain was turned to good advantage by Dr Alister McKenzie when he remodeled Old Tom Morris' original layout in the 1920's. However, Old Tom's most famous original holes, "Klondyke" (#4) and "Dell" (#5) remain untouched.

Doonbeg – 18/20 in Peugeot Golf Guide

Doonbeg plays along three kilometers of beach and dunes. The ocean is visible from the tee, fairway or green of 16 holes. The par 72 layout features a single loop of 9 holes out and 9 holes back and is the product of the creative genius of Greg Norman augmented by the experienced golf design team of Kiawah Island Partners. Designed along the towering dunes of a crescent of Ireland's famed south western shore between Lahinch and Ballybunion, Greg Norman says, "This is the best piece of property I have seen anywhere in the world". Doonbeg was first considered as a site for a golf course over 100 years ago, but, due to better accessibility and transportation, Lahinch was chosen instead.

Allan Shipnuck (Sports Illustrated) comments: "You guys have outdone yourselves with Doonbeg. It is absolutely mind blowing and destined to become a neo-classic. On reflection I'm not sure I've ever played a course that begins and ends with such memorable holes. In between the knockout punch of 1 and 18 are three of the best holes of Ireland – the 5th , playing down to the sea, the little par 3 14th, which is the most fun you can have with your spikes on, and the unforgettable 15th, playing to that green set against an amphitheatre of dunes. Of course, these are just my favorites. There isn't a weak hole on the course".