Northern Ireland’s Golfing Treasures: The 9 Must-Play Courses
Northern Ireland is home to some of the most spectacular golfing experiences in the world – offering lush, rolling countryside, towering sand dunes, dramatic clifftops, and stunning ocean views.
With around 100 courses to choose from – including some of the most iconic and historic across the globe – there’s an overwhelming choice of fantastic courses to play. We’ve put together a list of nine must-plays that should be considered on any Northern Ireland Golf Tour.
Championship Links, Royal County Down Golf Club
The Championship Links at Royal County Down is undoubtedly one of the best golf courses on the globe – frequently topping many prestigious lists. It’s also considered one of the most beautiful, positioned alongside Dundrum Bay at the foot of the majestic Mourne Mountains, in the heart of the Murlough Nature Reserve.
The course was influenced by incredible golf architects, such as Old Tom Morris and Harry Colt. And to this day, it’s one of the only true championship links with multiple deliberate blind shots. It’s also a favorite of professionals such as Rory McIlroy, Tom Watson, and Tiger Woods.
Newcastle in County Down – a former fishing village with one of the best sandy beaches in Northern Ireland. This charming seaside town is a popular family resort, with plenty of amusements and activities, as well as incredible bay views overlooked by the Mourne Mountains.
Length: 7,186 yards
Designers include: George L Ballie, Old Tom Morris, Harry Vardon, Harry Colt
Dunluce Course, Royal Portrush Golf Club
Royal Portrush is the only golf club outside Britain to host The Open Championship (1951 and 2019) and has been selected to host the 2025 Championship. It is consistently ranked within the top 20 golf courses in the UK and Ireland, and widely regarded as one of the most challenging and stunning links courses in the world.
Named after the nearby ruins of the medieval Dunluce Castle, this classic course continues to grow in popularity having undergone a series of redesigns as recently as 2015, with spectacular results.
Portrush in County Antrim – located on the very north peak of Northern Ireland on the Atlantic Ocean coastline. This seaside town is located in a relaxed setting, with plenty of stunning natural sights and coastal walks to enjoy. There’s also an abundance of water sports, arcades, restaurants, cafes, and shops, providing a vibrant atmosphere that attracts local tourists, with plenty to keep everyone entertained.
Length: 7,143 yards
Designer: Harry Colt
Strand Course, Portstewart Golf Club
The Strand Course at Portstewart Golf Club is nestled between the huge sand dunes of the north coast. The first nine are considered to be some of the most dramatic opening holes in golf, with the first considered the best opening hole in Ireland.
The undulating landscape and stunning views over the Atlantic to Inishowen offer a breathtaking experience – and one that every golfer should experience at least once in their lifetime
Portstewart in County Londonderry – a small town on the north coast. Portstewart’s many attractions include a stunning harbor, broad sandy beaches, a promenade, cafes, restaurants, parks, and a pleasure beach. One of the UK’s favorite seaside towns, this vibrant, yet classy destination is a popular tourist spot where you can enjoy both the thrills and the relaxation it has to offer.
Length: 7,118 yards
Designers: Willie Park, Des Giffin
Mussenden Course, Castlerock Golf Club
The Mussenden Course at Castlerock Golf Club is the hidden gem of Northern Ireland’s most classic links courses, with a beautiful layout set among towering dunes. The course never plays the same way twice – largely due to the persistent winds. But it also presents other challenges, including the 200-yard par 3, 4th hole (infamously called “Leg o’ Mutton”) that involves a teeing off over a river, and has a tricky railway track tucked to the right.
Castlerock Golf Club has been the proud host of many of Ireland’s important amateur and professional events.
Castlerock – a seaside village in County Londonderry, five miles west of Coleraine. Castlerock is located on the Causeway Coast, famous for its stunning beaches, dramatic clifftops, green glens, and mysterious coves. People travel here to enjoy the surfing, walks, ruins, and gardens – as well as the Mussenden Temple, which is one of the most photographed scenes in Northern Ireland.
Length: 6,780 yards
Designers: Ben Sayers, Harry Colt, Martin Hawtree
Ardglass Golf Club
Ardglass Golf Club sits on a peninsula overlooking the Irish Sea, making it particularly exposed to the elements. In fact, 8 of the 18 holes run along the coast, with the first two tee shots playing across cliff edges. The challenge of the course is matched only by its beauty, which explains its incredible appeal.
Home to the world’s oldest clubhouse, dating back to the 1400s, Ardglass is also a historical golf destination, and high on the bucket lists of golfers from across the world.
Ardglass – a picturesque coastal fishing village in County Down. Ardglass has many attractions, including six castles, a beautiful harbor, and several historical landmarks. County Down is home to the dramatic Mourne Mountains, Game of Thrones’ Winterfell Castle, and the largest sea lough in Great Britain and Ireland.
Length: 6,268 yards
Designers: Thomas MacAfee, David Jones
Valley Links, Royal Portrush Golf Club
The Valley Course at Royal Portrush rarely receives the recognition it deserves, often overshadowed by the more famous Dunluce Course. However, this really is an excellent course in its own right, and offers very different terrain.
As the name suggests, the course sits in a valley between enormous sand hills next to the Atlantic Ocean, with a fairway full of twists, turns, humps, hollows and undulations – so you never quite know what’s coming next.
This natural and traditional links course consistently features among the top golf courses in Ireland, and offers a challenging and fun round of golf for novices and professionals alike.
See Dunluce Course, Royal Portrush Golf Club.
Length: 6,346 yards
Designers: Harry Colt
Annesley Links, Royal County Down Golf Club
The Annesley Links course at Royal County Down is a masterpiece in strategic golf. Although it shares the same spectacular setting as the Championship Links, this course has a character all of its own.
With a tight fairway that twists and turns through the dunes, and incredibly small greens, this unusual course presents a challenge to even the most seasoned player. Coupled with incredible views of the ocean and mountains, we believe that this modest par 66 – with six par threes and no par fives – is a fantastic stop on your Northern Ireland Golf Tour.
See Championship Links, Royal County Down Golf Club.
Designers: Old Tom Morris, Donald Steel, Donald Steel, Tom MacKenzie, Martin Ebert
Faldo Course, Lough Erne
Located in the Fermanagh Lakelands, this course was designed by six-time Major winner Sir Nick Faldo. Situated alongside the shores of Castle Hume Lough and Lower Lough Erne, the picturesque terrain delivers 18 holes of stunning championship golf.
Water is in play across 11 of the holes – highlighted by the iconic 10th hole, ‘Emerald Isle’ where three sides of the green are surrounded by water. The course takes you from the lakeside, through densely populated woodland, and up to vantage points with incredible views, creating a challenging and visually stunning experience.
Enniskillen, situated on a small island separating Upper and Lower Lough Erne. Its waterside setting makes it the perfect base to explore the charms of County Fermanagh, and the town itself is full of rich history. County Fermanagh is famous for its beauty and wonderful lakes, providing the ideal opportunity to try out water sports and angling.
Length: 7,071 yards
Designer: Nick Faldo
Championship Course, Malone Golf Club
Malone Golf Club is one of the best parkland courses in Northern Ireland, with a superior 27-hole course. Although it’s only five miles from Belfast city center, the course is situated within serene and secluded countryside, and features a stunning 20-acre lake.
The layout presents many challenges, with mature trees and the large mass of water creating obstacles for the most skilled golfers, resulting in an interesting and challenging round of golf.
Belfast – the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, on the coast where the river Laglan meets the sea. Belfast is a cultural hotspot with an incredibly vibrant and welcoming atmosphere. It’s packed with an eclectic selection of attractions, sights, bars, pubs, restaurants, and shops – and overflowing with Irish charm.
Length: 6,689 yards
Designers: John Harris, Fred Hawtree
Booking Your Northern Ireland Golfing Adventure
Planning ahead will ensure you make the most of your Northern Ireland golfing experience. Premier Golf can do the hard work for you, booking your tee times, securing the best lodgings available and arranging ground transportation. Discover more about our Northern Ireland Golf Packages or contact us on 866 260 4409 to find out how we can help.
Northern Ireland Golf Adventure FAQs
There are more than 100 golf courses in Northern Ireland, making it an excellent destination for golf enthusiasts from across the globe. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, Northern Ireland has a golf course to suit your preferences and skills.
Founded in 1866, the Old Course at Royal Portrush Golf Club (County Antrim) is the oldest golf course in Northern Ireland – and one of the oldest in the world.
There are approximately 400 golf courses in Ireland and Northern Ireland, and the number is steadily growing as new courses continue to be developed across the region.