Wind and rain are often viewed as flies in the ointment of the golfing cocktail, but Ireland showcases why the elements should be lauded rather than lambasted.
The Emerald Isle endures its fair share of storms and squalls, which carves and veneers the courses, like an artist working with clay. Without the apocalyptic weather patterns the country withstands, its golf courses would be a pale comparison to what we find today.
Ireland enjoys a gluttonous array of links and parkland courses boasting lush fairways, pristine greens, paralysing panoramas and like many of the people that call this land home, copious character.
It was a tough task, but we have whittled down 17 of our favourite courses in Ireland.
GOLF GUIDE: NORTHERN IRELAND
Located 30 miles south of Dublin, the European Club is a rugged links layout set amid sand dunes, offering superb views over the Irish Sea.
A varied and quirky layout, which is both a fun and demanding day out.
Length: 6,720 yards
Head to the European Club website for more information.
Ballybunion Golf Club (Old Course)
Located on the north west County Kerry coast, Ballybunion boasts a long stretch of sand dunes, and offers superb views of the Atlantic coast.
If the wind decides to blow, raise a glass at the end of play if you manage to play to your handicap.
Length: 6,802 yards
GOLF GUIDE: ST ANDREWS
Head to the Ballybunion Golf Club website for more information.
Established in 1892, County Louth, also known as Baltray, hosted the 2004 and 2009 Irish Open, and is home to the East of Ireland Championship.
Located on the border region on the east coast of Ireland, County Louth boasts some of the best greens in Ireland, and boasts an enchanting back nine.
Head to the County Louth website for more information.
The Island Golf Club
Situated on the fringes of Dublin, this classic championship links was founded in 1890, and until 1973 was accessed by boat from Malahide.
It sits in a peaceful peninsula, and is set among spectacular dunes. The layout is au natural, with very little man-made manicuring on show. Flowers and fauna line the fairways – a spectacular course.
Length: 6,636 yards
GOLF GUIDE: ALGARVE, PORTUGAL
Head to the Island Golf Club website for more information.
Set in 1,500-acres of Irish county estate, Mount Juliet enjoys lush parkland and an 18th century mansion for a clubhouse.
Trees line the fairways, while the River Nore snakes through the course, replete with salmon. The Jack Nicklaus design has an American feel, with water and sand prominent throughout.
Length: 7,000 yards (tips)
Head to the Mount Juliet website for more information.
County Sligo (Championship)
Based on the west coast, County Sligo provides views of the Darty Mountains and Benbulben, Sligo’s “Table Mountain”.
The course poses dramatic undulations, raised greens, burns, dunes, to name just a few of the issues golfers face.
Head to the County Sligo website for more information.
Ballyliffin Golf Club (Glashedy)
Ballyliffin is Ireland’s most northerly course, located on the Atlantic edge of the Inishowen Peninsula. Glashedy, the new course at Ballyliffin, was designed in 1991, and opened for play four years later.
Set among natural sand dunes, the club has earned the moniker “the Dornoch of Ireland”. The tough new track dovetails with the Old Course, and has large, undulating greens, which are well protected by bunkers.
Length: 7,220 (tips)
Head to the Ballyliffin website for more information.
Rosapenna (Sandy Hills)
This course tracks straight across the dunes, creating a memorable and unique layout. Based in Donegal, players can drink in panoramic views across Sheep Haven Bay and beyond.
Stray from the fairway and players are in trouble, often having to search deep in the dunes. The greens are frequently cut into the dunes or on elevated plateaus, which makes finding them elusive.
GOLF GUIDE: DUBAI, ABU DHABI
Head to the Rosapenna website for more information.
Founded in 1885, Royal Dublin is located on an Island Nature Reserve, fronted by five kilometres of Dollymount beach, just seven kilometres from Ireland’s capital.
The opening nine hugs the sea, before players turn for home, on this long, thin course. The sparse open area is susceptible to wind, and once the ball is on green the player's task is not much easier, as the putting surfaces are small and undulating.
Length: 6,680 yards
REVIEW: ROYAL DUBLIN
Head to the Royal Dublin website for more information.
Portmarnock Golf Club (Championship)
Open for play since 1894, Portmarnock has hosted 19 Irish Opens, a Walker Cup, Canada Cup (World Cup), and Irish Amateurs.
Located on its own sandy peninsula, this natural links course also boasts views of Ireland’s Eye island, while it also poses notoriously fast greens.
Length: 6,926 yards
Head to the Portmarnock website for more information.
Old Head is located on a narrow headland, that splinters the Atlantic Ocean. Tee boxes tower over the sea, offering dramatic panoramic views.
A truly memorable round, with bags of character.
Length: 6,860 yards
Head to the Old Head website for more information.
Old Tom Morris, who made improvements to the course in 1894, believed Lahinch to be the finest natural course he had ever seen, while Alister MacKenzie, who redesigned it in 1935, said the course is the best ever constructed.
The traditional “nine out, nine in” layout, is located next to Liscannor Bay beach, offering stunning panoramas.
Length: 6,613 yards
GOLF GUIDE: LISBON, PORTUGAL
Head to the Lahinch website for more information.
Carne Golf Links
Isolated on the Atlantic edge of County Meyo, Carne is situated on its own peninsula, in the middle of large sand dunes, with views across Blacksod Bay.
Opening for play in 1993, the course is both wild and natural, boasting harebells, sea holly and wild thyme throughout. Both nines meander their way through the dunes, with the wind being a key component in how the course plays.
Length: 6,700 yards
Head to the Carne Golf Links website for more information.
The K Club (Palmer Course)
Renowned for hosting the 2006 Ryder Cup, the K Club has an opulent hotel, and course to match.
Located 45 minutes’ drive west of Dublin, the Arnold Palmer design blends American sensibilities with Irish natural beauty. It’s long, with plenty of water and sand to boot, but is a fair test.
Length: 6,815 yards
REVIEW: K CLUB, PALMER COURSE
Head to the K Club website for more information.
Waterville Golf Links
Situated in a strip of land separating the Atlantic Ocean and Lough Currane, Waterville began its golfing life in 1889.
Surrounded by sea, the layout has views over Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountain and the Atlantic Ocean. The flat front nine is in stark contrast to the undulating, meandering back nine.
Head to the Waterville Golf Links website for more information.
This Arnold Palmer design was the King’s first design in the Emerald Isle, in an area known as the “Lake District” of Ireland.
Elevated tee shots feature throughout, at this rugged, natural course.
Length: 6,678 yards
Head to the Tralee website for more information.
Located on a promontory which juts out into Killala Bay, Enniscrone's Dunes course is bordered by Scurmore beach, regarded as one of Ireland’s most beautiful, and enjoys the Ox Mountains as a backdrop.
The fairways snake between dunes, while the greens are often plateud and protected by valleys and ravines. As you would expect, the wind often blows a gale here.
Head to the Enniscrone website for more information.