As the author of The American Golfer’s Guide to Ireland, Bill Ruskin knows just how hard it is to pick between our famous greens – we are the ‘Emerald Isle’ after all. He offers some advice and tips for the American golfer in Ireland.
Maybe the great game of golf was not invented in Ireland but to most visitors it certainly seems that way.
That’s a line from Joe Byrne of Tourism Ireland from the forward of my book which I wrote with Dublin golf writer Brian Keogh, after a decade of planning golf tours to Ireland.
During my research I found the staff and players on Irish courses – even the ones that have hosted major championships – refreshingly unpretentious. You won’t be able to avoid blending golf with the social side of Ireland, and nor should you want to. Combine a few of the wonderful courses with the 19th Hole pub banter and delicious restaurant meals, then take in a local festival or heritage site, and you’re onto a winner.
Picking which courses to play will be a bigger challenge than the rough grasses. Names such as Portstewart, Royal County Down, Baltray, The European Club, Old Head, Waterville, Ballybunion, Tralee, Lahinch, and Doonbeg will all sound familiar to those who have been dreaming of Ireland’s greens for years.
However, there are dozens of lesser-known courses, sometimes referred to as “worth playing if you are in the area”, that should be sought out. You could build a golf tour entirely around these beautiful, inexpensive hidden gems scattered throughout the island.
Ardglass Golf Club in County Down is a must-play. The clubhouse is a 13th Century castle ruin and the oldest known structure used for that purpose.
Around Dublin, we liked Glencullen Golf Club, a 9-hole parkland course with amazing views of Dublin Bay and next to the famous Johnnie Fox’s Pub, the parkland gems of Grange Golf Club and Castle Golf Club.
Naturally the ‘Garden of Ireland’, County Wicklow, had some great courses. Bray Golf Club set on the side of Bray Head has excellent views of the mountains and coastal areas. Delgany Golf Club, set further down the coast, is a long and sloping parkland course offering challenging long and short holes for the average golfer. It also has the distinction of being the only course in Ireland where one plays the 17th hole before the 16th. A very long par 5 sweeps through a glen before straightening out for the view of the 19th hole… the bar!
Read more about Bill Ruskin’s book The American Golfer’s Guide to Ireland
Northern Ireland is famous for its fairways of heaven, check out the courses Rory McIlrory calls his backyard.