The pride of Northern Ireland golf, The Royal County Golf Club tops many prestigious lists as the No.1 course in Great Britain & Ireland, if not the world. Founded in 1889, the current course is made up of two nine-hole loops that finish at the clubhouse and has had input from the greatest golf architects throughout time. These include; Old Tom Morris, James Braid, JH Taylor, Harry Vardon, Ben Sayers, Harry Colt, Donald Steel, and continued consulting and tweaks by Mackenzie & Ebert to the present day.
The original 9-hole course at Royal County Down was laid out by George Ballie, a Scottish school teacher by trade, that came to Belfast on a mission to create golf courses. Old Tom Morris made the trek to inspect and advise on the proposed second nine and was paid 4 guineas for his efforts. The most notable input to the course was during the years between 1900-1913 until Harry Colt arrived in 1925. Colt’s contributions included enhancements to the 9th hole with its views over the fairways to the Mourne Mountains, rivaling the 7th at Pebble Beach as the most photographed hole in golf.
The course has been famous or infamous, as one of the only true championship links with multiple deliberate blind shots that characterize the design. Usually a deterrent to hosting championships, Royal County Down wouldn’t be Royal County Down without them, and the Club has played host venue to a variety of key amateur events and a smattering of professional ones.
Blind shots and all, it is still the favorite of many of today’s professional golfers such as Rory McIlroy, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods. Often played in preparation for The Open and for the sheer enjoyment of links golf in its purest form.
Unlike Sunningdale, Walton Heath, and Wentworth whose second course is also highly regarded, Royal County Down’s second course, Annesley Links, to date was barely acknowledged even by many Irish golfers. Recently the firm of Tom Mackenzie and Martin Ebert has done wonders in bringing the course to its true potential on the landscape.
The course always played hide and seek among the dunes of the Championship course but suffered from a mundane start. The flat opening landscape has been transformed into a much-needed practice range and the course received three new holes further out in the dunes. While it is still very short by modern standards at just over 4,500 yards, its six par 3’s would be at home on any championship links and it combines to make a perfect 36-hole day on any Northern Ireland golf trip.
Bernard Darwin summed up a day on the links at Royal County Down as, “…the kind of golf that people play in their most ecstatic dreams.”
However, with the reputation of the Championship course, any visitor tee time at Royal County Down is at a premium and usually sells out more than a year in advance, so plan accordingly so as to not be disappointed and have your golf dreams come true.
Northern Ireland is a golfing utopia. With breathtaking views, rolling countryside, and around 100 courses across the small country, it is often considered the go-to destination for a luxury golf vacation.
6 nights accommodation and 6 rounds of golf
Prices starting from $4,750