18 of the most formidable and iconic holes across the world-famous links and parkland courses. Introduced by our golfers who know how to play them the best...
Nestled amid sand dunes on the stunning Causeway Coastal Route, you'll find one of links golf's hidden gems, Castlerock Golf Club. Castlerock Golf Club has two great courses: the 9-hole Bann Course, named after the river which flows past several holes, and the 18-hole Mussenden Course, with its views of the nearby, much-celebrated Mussenden Temple. During your round, you'll also be able to look across at Donegal, Scotland and the Isle of Islay. Coastal Castlerock is located along what is considered to be one of the most beautiful railway routes in the world.
Portstewart Golf Club hosted the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, and it's easy to see why. There are three courses, each with 18 holes. The challenging Strand Course, with its Atlantic view, has been labelled 'the sleeping giant', complete with rolling dunes and testing manicured greens. Elsewhere, the Old Course is well-suited to groups and relatively new golfers, while the Riverside Course boasts views along the banks of the River Bann. Post-round, grab a drink at the Spike Bar overlooking the putting green, or tuck into some light bites or catch of the day at the Strand Bar and Lounge."
Home to this year's 148th Open Championship - the fastest-selling championship in the Open's history - Royal Portrush also played host to the first Open Championship to take place in Ireland, 68 years ago. It has two 18-hole courses: the famously challenging Dunluce Course, where the Open is being held, and the Valley Course. On the Dunluce Course, test your mettle at so-called Calamity Corner, the 16th hole with a gaping chasm between the tee and the green. You're following in the footsteps of golf royalty in this seaside town; former US Open winner Graeme McDowell is a native.
Situated on the shores of the dramatic Causeway Coastal Route, Ballycastle Golf Club enjoys great views of Rathlin Island, the hills of Donegal, and, on a fair day, the Mull of Kintyre. The course is comprised of both parkland and links holes, with the first five parkland holes nestled among vegetation and hills, and the Rivers Margy and Carey, and the 13 remaining links holes running along the coast line and between sand dunes and gorse. Keep an eye out for the particularly atmospheric second hole, which is flanked by the ruins of the Bonamargy Friary.
Located north of Larne near the seaside village of Ballygally, Cairndhu Golf Club is a coastal course set in extensive parklands. The first five holes enjoy views out to Scotland's Mull of Kintyre and the islands of Jura and Islay. Elsewhere, the course boasts an impressive range of trees and shrubs, likely due to the land originally being owned by Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon, a keen botanist. Cairndhu's first Pro Am was held in 1976, and is now an annual event. After a round, relax at the club house with its panoramic views, or grab a bite to eat in the restaurant.
Water is all around you in this prestigious golf course, set in the tranquil surrounds of the Galgorm Castle estate. The Maine and Braid Rivers feature on numerous holes, in addition to a handful of beautiful lakes. The course, set in 220 acres of parkland, is home to the Northern Ireland Open and is regularly ranked among the top three parklands in the region. It's also one of the newest golf kids on the block, opening in 1997. Aside from the 18-hole championship course, there's also a Castle Kitchen bar and restaurant (with signature cocktails including the Lady Captain).
You're spoilt for choice at Malone Golf Club, with 27 holes to enjoy, comprised of the Drumbridge, Ballydrain and Edenderry nines (with Edenderry being the hilliest). The club is situated on 330 acres of land, with mature trees featuring at many holes. Interestingly, the estate was once used as a safe house for US and British forces during the First World War. It's also excellently located, just 15 minutes' drive from the centre of Belfast. But the real jewel in Malone's crown is its natural trout lake, which spans for 27 acres and forms the focal point of the course.
Belvoir Park Golf Club in South Belfast was founded in 1927 and designed by the celebrated golf course architect Harry Colt. The parkland course winds its way through lush mature woodland, with its well-maintained fairways lined with trees. Previous tournaments hosted include the Irish Open and the Irish PGA championship. Its relaxed restaurant, The View, is named after the sweeping views it offers of Belfast, Cave Hill and the Divis and Black Mountains. But perhaps the biggest selling point of this course is its proximity to Belfast, less than three miles from the city centre and reachable from both Belfast airports.
At Holywood Golf Club in County Down, you're following in the footsteps of golfing royalty. It was here that future Open Championship winner Rory McIlroy learnt his trade, having applied to join the club aged just seven. The 18-hole parkland course is located in the Holywood hills and overlooks the Antrim Coast and Belfast Lough. Its fairly quick first nine holes are an easy walk, with a tougher back nine. You should get around the course in under four hours. The clubhouse is home to a special display of McIlroy's golfing memorabilia, photographs and a replica US Open trophy.
On the tranquil shores of Belfast Lough, you'll find Ireland's oldest golf club. The Royal Belfast Golf Club dates back to 1881, and was made Royal in 1885 when the Prince of Wales was asked to be its patron. It moved to the 19th century Craigavad House and estate after the First World War and is steeped in history, with a sumptuous clubhouse dating back to 1852. Its 18-hole parkland course is well-manicured and carefully maintained with challenging holes, plenty of bunkers and excellent shoreline views. Make time to visit the clubhouse and check out the fascinating golfing memorabilia.
Given its location on the coast of County Down, overlooking the Irish Sea, you can expect a warm and windy welcome at Kirkistown Castle Golf Club. The seaside breeze is just one of the enticing challenges of this links course, Ireland's most easterly 18-hole golf course. Here, you'll find elevated tees and greens, and a great range of holes to test even the most experienced of golfers. From the high points of the course, you can see the Isle of Man, Scotland, the Scrabo Tower and the celebrated Mourne Mountains. Additional facilities include practice greens, a putting green and swing net.
Ardglass Golf Club in County Down has the honour of possessing the oldest building being used as a clubhouse in the world. Parts of the building date back to 1405, when it was used as a fortified warehouse and haven for importers and exporters. The seaside/links course itself is a more recent addition, with its first incarnation in 1896. The course is dramatically perched on the north east coast, and the Irish Sea is visible from all 18 tees. There are hard fairways, firm greens, and, as you'd expect, windy conditions to test your mettle. Rugged, rocky, and always rewarding.
Royal County Down is regarded as one of the best, and most beautiful, golf courses in the world. In fact, the magazine Golf Digest has named it the world's number one course. You'll find it to the north of Newcastle, nestled in the foothills of the famous Mourne Mountains. There are two courses to choose from: the challenging Championship links, with its heather-bedecked fairways, bearded bunkers and photogenic 9th hole, and the significantly shorter, but still difficult, Annesley links. You'll be in good company; golf legends including Tiger Woods, Tom Watson and Rory McIlroy have all teed off here.
2011 Open winner Darren Clarke helped design this parkland course, and its ninth, signature hole is named after him. A native of Dungannon, Clarke started out his golfing journey as a junior member of Dungannon Golf Club and is now an honorary life member. The club itself dates back to 1890, and a new clubhouse was opened by Clarke in 2000. It houses an award-winning restaurant and outdoor terrace. On the course, the back nine will challenge even the best golfers, while the fairly flat front nine provide easier golf for players of all abilities.
There are an impressive 36 holes to choose from at Lough Erne Resort near Enniskillen, with the Faldo Course, designed by Nick Faldo, the Castle Hume golf course, and the golf academy, where lessons are available from PGA professionals. There's also an all-weather floodlit driving range. The Fermanagh Lakelands offer a serene setting for the Faldo Course, with the Lough's waters coming into play on more than half of the 18 holes. Meanwhile, the Castle Hume course enjoys great lakeland views, plus more than 7,000 trees and 30 bunkers. Finish up with a treatment at the resort's Thai spa.