Golf in Ireland awarded!

In this post you will find 2 Articles: one good news and some ideas based on golf along the Wild Atlantic Way

  • Royal County Down named as the new number one golf course in the world
  • Golf along Ireland’s ‘Wild Atlantic Way’

Royal co. Down

Royal County Down named as the new number one golf course in the world

46 of the Top 100 are courses on seaside venues. That includes Northern Ireland’s Royal County Down, a surprising though deserving new No. 1…
Much as life on earth, golf first emerged from the sea, taking root on sandy deltas and shorelines, what golfers now call linksland, where it remained for generations before moving inland. As the game moved closer to population centers, those who staked out golf holes sought sandy soil whenever possible, for good reason: Sand would sprout springy turf, which bounced the golf ball and quickly drained after heavy rain.

Invariably, where there was sand, there was wind, pushing and shaping landscapes onto which golf holes logically fit, carving out dips and hollows that served as bunkers. Wind was also an essential element. Without it, golf was simply pub darts.

Grand early courses clung to the coastlines. Those that couldn’t tried to emulate the look, feel and experience. That changed in the middle of the past century, when courses became a major sales tool of housing developers on ill-suited sites. The game became aerial and heroic, over chasms and lakes, down rocky hillsides and canyons. Architects used bulldozers as their pencils, some producing layouts with no more artistry than road builders.

That dark period is behind us, halted by the collapse of the housing economy and by a new generation of golf architects who are endeavoring to bring golf back down to earth. They seek seaside settings for their work, and though precious few are still available in the United States, elsewhere on Planet Earth, ocean waves lap against some of the most gorgeous layouts ever seen.

That’s clearly evident in Golf Digest’s second biennial ranking of the World 100 Greatest Golf Courses. Forty-six of the Top 100 are courses on seaside venues. That includes Northern Ireland’s Royal County Down, a surprising though deserving new No. 1, replacing New Jersey’s Pine Valley, which has plenty of sand but no ocean and is now No. 3 on our exclusive list. Royal County Down, on rugged, windblown topography along the Irish Sea and beneath the Mountains of Mourne, features snarling bunkers edged by marram grass and dates from 1889.

The course hosted the Duty Free Irish Open last year, which was also sponsored by The Rory Foundation.

Golf Digest noted that Royal County Down was a “surprising but deserving new number one.”

They said: “Royal County Down, on rugged, windblown topography along the Irish Sea and beneath the Mountains of Mourne, features snarling bunkers edged by marram grass and dates from 1889.”

Tourism Ireland were delighted at the announcement.

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “It is a fantastic accolade for Royal County Down to be voted number one golf course in the world – beating other world-renowned courses such as Augusta National, venue for the US Masters, and Pine Valley, New Jersey.”

“And I am delighted to see another local course, Royal Portrush, come in at number 27 on the same list.

“This wonderful endorsement presents Tourism Ireland with another invaluable opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland to golfers and prospective visitors around the world.”



Source /


Downhill par-3 at Portstewart GC-2

Golf along Ireland’s ‘Wild Atlantic Way’


Two years ago, when I first discovered Irish links golf and Ireland in general, I knew I wanted to return someday. I just didn’t realize how much.

After six mostly gorgeous July days of breathtaking scenery, great food, inordinately friendly people and bucket-list golf, I know that now. Trust me on this: golf in Ireland, and the country as a whole, is an adventure that only makes you want more of it.

Checking the savings account, and … yep. I’ll be back.

My first experience came in 2013, at the behest of John Garrity, a golf writer/correspondent with Sports Illustrated and one of the nicest (and tallest, at 6-7) sports writers around. In 2009, he wrote “Ancestral Links,” about searching for his family roots in Belmullet, a village of 3,000 on a wild, windswept portion of the western Irish coast in County Mayo. He also discovered Carne Golf Links, a fabulous, rustic and otherworldly course that, along with all 3,000 locals who know him, keeps him coming back year after year.

In 2013, I was one of a dozen golf writers who spent five days with Garrity touring a tiny portion of what is now billed as Ireland’s “Wild Atlantic Way” (, a 2,500-kilometer (1,600 miles) stretch of the Atlantic coastline that Failte Ireland (Tourism Ireland promotes as a largely unexplored, spectacular tourist destination. We played three days at Carne, two rounds at other courses – a mere taste.

This time, we would see and enjoy more. Following the Open Championship at St. Andrews, I flew to Belfast to join nine others on the tour bus and play six links courses in as many days, on a route wrapping around the northwest corner of Ireland. Based on the amazing views, that stretch encompasses some of the wildest parts of the Wild Atlantic Way.

At the end, Carne remained my favorite; it’s hard to ignore your first love. But the previous stops – Portstewart, Ballyliffin, Portsalon, Rosapenna and County Sligo – all are now on my must-see/must-play list. And there are another 25 links courses along the Wild Atlantic Way, running south to Kinsale near the city of Cork, meaning more discoveries remain.

So here’s one itinerate writer’s report on what a fellow bus rider called “the golf trip of a lifetime.” To which I replied: Hopefully, only until the next one.



Looking for a missing taxi in Belfast International Airport is hardly the ideal way to start a trip, but a friendly young man with a cell phone helped find my ride, and I was on my way to meet the others at Portstewart, just up the road from its more famous cousin, Royal Portrush. Stevie, my loquacious cabbie, kept me entertained for the 90-minute ride, which ended with me scrambling to get to the first tee on time.

Thanks to Kevin Markham, an Irish writer whom I met in 2013, a spare set of his clubs awaited me. Kevin – whose book “Hooked: An Amateur’s Guide to the Golf Courses of Ireland,” is a must-have guide to all 350 18-hole courses – also had the dubious pleasure of playing along with and watching me spray balls into Portstewart’s towering, grass-covered dunes.

In “Hooked,” Kevin refers to Portstewart as “Ireland’s Front Nine,” and the view from the elevated first tee – with the ocean and nearby village off to the right – confirmed that designation. We hit our tee shots down into a dunes-lined, dogleg left valley – the first of eight doglegs in the opening 11 holes – and were off.

While the first few holes seemed one up-and-down trek after another, the course eventually offered more gentle slopes, but no less penal rough. I lost too many balls in six days to count, and Portstewart claimed its share. But the par-5 seventh hole was site of my first warm Irish memory: driver, 5-iron, 8-iron to an elevated green, and a 30-foot putt that dropped for a birdie.

We had our first taste of Irish weather (cold, sideways rain) – the rest of the trip would be, remarkably, almost rain-free and around 60 degrees Fahrenheit – and several of us skipped the final two holes to see the end of the delayed Open, watching Zach Johnson’s playoff win while our rain gear dried out. A beachfront joint for fish and chips (and sticky toffee pudding for dessert), and we were off to our hotel. One day down, five to go.



John Farren, Ballyliffin’s general manager for 11 years, has been a club member “all my life,” so he knows his course – actually, courses; the Old, established in 1973 (when a second nine was added to the original nine, which dates to 1947), and the Glashedy, a 1995 project by Pat Ruddy, an architect with many renowned Irish courses to his credit, including the European Club near Dublin.

The original course was built after a dozen farmers sold 367 acres of dunes land to the club’s founding members, who designed the course with advice from the late Eddie Hackett, the godfather of Irish golf architects. Ruddy has updated Glashedy’s bunkers in recent years, and Sir Nick Faldo did an upgrade of the Old in 2006.

Farren would love to see more tourist rounds played – 20,000 of 80,000 annually; the rest are played by the 1,000 members – up to 35,000. “This club is the main economic driver in the area, and a major tourist attraction,” he said. “You can play the courses every day of the week, and they’ll be different (due to) wind, rain and the contouring of the course.”

Of the courses on the itinerary, Ballyliffin was perhaps the most consistently visually spectacular. Climbing one uphill par-5, you could look at the green set between two towering dunes, then look behind you at the island-sized Glashedy Rock in the bay, and imagine a giant “bowling ball” plowing through the dunes and down the fairway before sinking halfway into the water.

Ballyliffin is Ireland’s northernmost golf club, Farren said, yet the two courses are open 365 days a year. “We’re the gateway to the Wild Atlantic Way,” Farren said. “The gates to Heaven.” It’s difficult to disagree.



By now, you may have figured out that course names can be confusing. Many Irish courses are identified by both the club and the course names (similar to Scotland’s Royal & Ancient, the club, and the Old Course). Portsalon calls its course Cathal, and it held trip honors for both the narrowest fairways (and perhaps the thickest, nastiest rough areas) and the friendliest membership.

By the time club captain Paul Armstrong had gifted us with caps, club histories (two volumes) and club ties with the distinctive boar’s head crest, memories of lost balls were forgotten. Kevin Markham designates Portsalon (pronounced Port SAL-on) as one of his “Top Ten Must Play” courses, and views of mountains and water alone justified that.

“We’re rising in the (Irish golf) rankings” – 22nd; Golf World rates the course 31st – “and we have to do it with light resources,” Armstrong said. The course dates to 1891, and was bought in 1896 by the Barton family (whose crest is the boar’s head) for the equivalent of 64,000 euros (about $70,000 U.S.).

One Irish golf tradition is that the game’s best players stay involved with the country’s courses, and former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley (whose father, Mick, has local ties) has advised Portsalon on needed changes, including widening a few fairways.

Armstrong says clubs such as his in the sparsely-populated northwest have to band together to survive. “(The Wild Atlantic Way) gives us that mechanism,” he said. “This will allow those of us under the radar to increase awareness of our courses.”

One unique Portsalon feature is the large engraved stone alongside one fairway, dating from the British occupation, which translated from Irish/Gaelic read: “On this place, holy mass was celebrated at the time of penal laws,” 28 prohibitions that kept Catholics from exercising their religion and their rights as citizens.

Wow: golf and history, all in one spot.



If you’re a single-digit handicapper, or someone who enjoys the cruelties the game can throw at you, Rosapenna is the place. For many of us on the writers’ tour, it was simply too much: too much elevation change, too much wind, too much gnarly rough. That doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy it, but we had to work at it.

The club has great bloodlines: Old Tom Morris laid out the original course in 1891, and Harry Vardon and James Braid added length and bunkering in the early 1900s. The club’s second course, Sandy Hills – the one we played – opened in 2003, another Pat Ruddy design, and Golf World ranks it 11th in Ireland, second only to No. 10 Carne on this adventure.

We saw a statue of Old Tom near the first tee, and the joke was that we could beg him for sympathy, but he wouldn’t listen. How tough was Sandy Hills? One member of our crew, Craig Smith of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, tore a calf muscle climbing to one of the elevated greens. Interestingly, the only hole on the front nine where I recorded a usable score was the par-5 eighth – the site of my second (and last) birdie.

As at Ballyliffin and Carne, the towering dunes and winds are Rosapenna’s claim to fame, as well as its undulating, devilish greens. Our calm, low-key Irish guide, Rory Mathews, rolled one putt just past the hole, then watched (and uttered a few angry oaths) as his ball continued off the green into a bunker.

That said, Rosapenna’s resort hotel is fabulous, the rooms larger (and nicer) than apartments I once rented. Mine had a porch overlooking the beach, a good spot to relax – and, after the golf, recover.



In the U.S., we’d call it, oh, maybe “Flattop Mountain.” Here, it’s the Benbulbin, a massive land formation that looms over every view of County Sligo/Rosses Point, which Kevin Markham designates a “Top 10 Links” (Golf World rates it No. 12 in Ireland). Not quite as hilly as Ballyliffin or Rosapenna, its fairways are flanked by large (but not huge) dunes and views of Drumcliff Bay, including an offshore lighthouse visible beyond the green at the 12th hole – which is named, fittingly, “The Lighthouse.”

After we survived the brutal par-4 17th (a severe, uphill dogleg left) and the blind-tee-shot 18th, club general manager David O’Donovan explained how the course – originally built by Harry S. Colt in 1894 and redeveloped by Pat Ruddy, who “played here as a kid” – was deemed too short for modern equipment and a candidate in 2014 for lengthening and toughening.

“Pat met with 196 members, and 191 voted for the changes,” O’Donovan said. Those were made “on a shoestring,” a common lament for northwest courses, and were helped by an overseas benefactor. Tourists account for 12,000 rounds a year, a number he’d like to see climb to 23,000.

O’Donovan is a natural promoter, saying Irish golf is a perfect destination for U.S. golfers, given the strength of the dollar to the euro (almost one-to-one) vs. the UK pound. He believes County Sligo should be ranked with Royal County Down, Ballybunion, Lahinch and Ireland’s other world-class courses.

“Our golf courses are just as good,” he said. The Wild Atlantic Way initiative is helping inform visitors of that, he said. “They come for the tourism, and they find the golf,” he said. “We’re a hidden gem, but we don’t want to be hidden.”



Most of the writers’ tour departed for Dublin after County Sligo, but three of us followed John Garrity and his buddy, Philadelphia writer Mike Kern, to Belmullet to stay overnight. Two – Craig Smith and Greenville freelancer Trent Bouts – would be seeing Carne for the first time; I was making an eager return.

I wrote about the pleasures of Carne two years ago, so suffice to say, the 27-hole course puts the “wild” in Wild Atlantic Way. The dunes are the largest in Ireland; the winds are capricious; the fairways and greens are rustic but smoother and more manicured than my last visit. It is like golf nowhere else.

Three of us (Smith rode along in a cart, or “buggy”) played the original Eddie Hackett-designed back nine and the Kilmore nine, built by Scotsman Ally McIntosh. You stood on the first tee of both nines and aimed at fairways set between towering dunes that made you think of the Himalayas. You hit a tee shot, headed off after it – and didn’t stop smiling the entire round.

There were other delights discovered over six days. The tiny pub, McFeeley’s, in Clonmany, near Ballyliffin, where Eamon Sweeney, town councilman and local butcher, treated four of us to 12-year-old Jameson whisky (not “whiskey”); the pub owner who drove all of us to our hotel after we closed his place one night; the huge, delicious dinner at Fun Bobby’s in Belmullet, where the chef, John Comry, is a former “Ireland Chef of the Year” who moved back from Dublin because he missed his hometown; the fish chowder that makes a meal by itself; the sticky toffee pudding (in two restaurants) that we declared the greatest dessert on earth; and always, the scenery.

You could not play a single round of golf, and still fall in love with Ireland – but why would you do that? It’s a different game than in the U.S., and a fantastic difference at that.

Once every year or so, however often one’s finances can afford it, players owe it to themselves to discover that – or, even better, rediscover it.


Top ten best golf courses in Ireland

It is no surprise that Ireland has been listed as one of the top destinations for golfing tourists.
We’ve put together a list of the top ten golf courses around Ireland:


1. Royal County Down (Co. Down)

Located in Newcastle at the foothills of the Mountains of Mourne, Royal County Down enjoys a drier climate than the rest of the Emerald Isle.

The course has attracted many professionals. Tiger Woods and Tom Watson have played there for preparation for the Open Championships Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland’s current star, often plays a round. Royal County Down will host The Irish Open in 2015.


2. Portmarnock (Co. Dublin)

The Canada Cup, The Walker Cup, and The Irish Open are just some of the championships that have been played at this course located outside of Dublin’s fair city. The practice facilities boast of a driving range, short game area, putting and chipping green, which are all at a championship standard.


3. Royal Portrush (Co. Antrim)

The Royal Portrush, which is the only club in Ireland to have hosted The British Open, houses both the challenging Dunluce Links championship course and the lesser known but also challenging Valley Links course. The Dunluce Links were voted number 12 in the world by Golf Magazine.

4. Waterville (Co. Kerry)

Located in the south of Ireland, Waterville hosts a practice facility and short game area with fantastic views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding hills. The practice facility is surrounded by hedge walls, which provide some relief from the winds which prolongs the playing season.


5. Ballybunion (Co Kerry)

The Old Course features challenging holes nestled in grassy dunes and has been frequently rated among the top courses in the world. The Cashen Course on Co. Kerry’s shoreline is a more wild looking course with rolling dunes.


6. Lahinch (Co Clare)

Called the “St. Andrews of Ireland” by Herbert Warren Wind, Lahinch features some two challenging courses and hosted the South of Ireland Championship. Also on the green are some goats that are descended from goats owned by an old Lahinch caddie.

7. Tralee (Co Kerry)

The Tralee Golf Club was named to the Top 10 Ocean Courses with good reason. Each hole has a picturesque view and a story behind it. Designer Arnold Palmer said about the course, “I designed the first nine [holes] but surely God designed the back nine.”


8. K Club (Co Kildare)

Arnold Palmer designed the two courses at this club located in the Kildare countryside. The courses provide plenty of challenges with water hazards, rolling fairways, and long greens. After a round of golf, guests can stay at the five star Kildare Hotel, Spa, & Country Club.

9. County Louth (Baltray, Co Louth)

County Louth, sometimes called Baltray, has hosted both National and International events at the amateur and professional level. The natural beauty of the area combined with the strength of the course led “Golf World” magazine to call the course, “one of the best kept secrets of Irish golf.”


10. Adare (Co Limerick)


Robert Trent Jones, Sr’s masterpiece sits against the backdrop of the Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort. The 18 hole championship course features aquatic challenges of a 14 acre lake in the first nine holes and the River Maigue throughout the course. Adare is a short drive from Shannon Airport.


Northern Irish gems – 10 top things to see on a trip to Belfast.

1. Go back in time with a visit to the moving Titanic Museum.
Stunning architecture, and a museum which houses the world’s largest display of Titanic memorabilia.

2. Walk in the footsteps of TV stars from Game of Thrones on the Game of Thrones tour!

3. Discover one of the best beaches in the world. Murlough’s wide, flat 6km long sandy beach is a 50 min drive from the city.

It’s backed by an ancient sand dune system and is an excellent area for walking and bird watching due to its spectacular location at the edge of the Mourne Mountains.

4. Get cosy in the Crown Liquor Saloon. Don’t miss this Victorian pub in Great Victoria Street.
It was once a Victorian Gin palace but today offers great beer and pub food. It also has stunning stained glass windows, wooden booths and a great atmosphere. A historic gem.

Giant's Causeway

5. See a show at the Waterfront Hall Conference and Concert Centre.
The impressive, circular building, nestling on the water front was built in 1997 and has been a Belfast favourite ever since.
See the opera La Traviata there in April, or groove with 80’s band Hot Chocolate, plus The Three Degrees in May.

6. Tuck into soda bread. It’s an Irish speciality.
TV celebrity chef Paul Rankin helped make it popular, and you can buy it everywhere in Belfast.

7. Walk the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim.
The amazing hexagonal-shaped columns of rock were formed from a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago and it’s the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland.
Four stunning trails to walk and an easy drive from Belfast. Park at Bushmills village and, from now until October, use the ‘park and ride’ service.

8. Go whiskey-tasting at The Old Bushmills Distillery, on the coast road, not far from the Giant’s Causeway.
It’s been lovingly made here since 1608 and you’ll find it on Distillery Road.

9. Chill out and find a great buy at the Sunday craft and vintage stall at St George’s Market, Belfast.

10. Stay and play with a golf break at Hilton Belfast Templepatick Golf & Country Club.
It’s home to one of the finest parkland courses in Ireland and the Ulster PGA Championship has been hosted here six times.
It’s an ideal base to discover why Northern Ireland is the home of golfing champions.



Powerscourt’s a Winner


From Powerscourt Estate

We are thrilled that Powerscourt Golf Club has been voted the best Parkland Course in Ireland for 2014 by the Golfers Guide to Ireland.

The annual awards are organised by the Golfers Guide to Ireland, one of the most popular golf magazines in Ireland, to recognise outstanding performers in the Irish Golf Industry. Paddy McCarthy, Publisher of the Golfers Guide to Ireland commented: “Powerscourt Golf Club situated in the magnificent Powerscourt Estate offers the golfer a choice of two terrific courses with stunning scenery and beautifully manicured greens and fairways. Its location only a short distance from Dublin City makes it a popular choice for visitors who are assured of a five star experience from start to finish. It is therefore no surprise that Powerscourt has been voted Best Parkland Course overall in the 2014 Golfers Guide to Ireland Awards.”

“To be honoured with such a prestigious award is a true testament to both the quality and service which is synonymous with Powerscourt Estate. This award is representative of all the hard work, effort and commitment to excellence put in by the entire team at Powerscourt Golf Club”. Bernard Gibbons, Golf Manager.

We encourage golfers and non-golfers alike to visit and get a sense of something truly spectacular on the grounds of the 1,000 acre Powerscourt Estate in County Wicklow.

1 City 5 ways

from Delta Airlines Sky Magazine

There’s more than one way to discover Dublin.

Where to Stay // The Brooks Hotel
The Ormond Hotel from James Joyce’s Ulysses is no more, but you’ll find this friendly little boutique hotel in central Dublin to be the perfect base for any Leopoldian dawdling.

Morning // Reading Room at the National Library
Stephen Dedalus is Joyce’s Telemachus to Bloom’s Odysseus; he has an epic conversation about Shakespeare in The National Library’s as-impressive-in-real-life Reading Room.

Afternoon // James Joyce Tower & Museum
Take the DART train to Sandycove to the Martello Tower, site of the opening scene in Ulysses and now a charming museum dedicated to the writer.

Dinner // Davy Byrnes
In Ulysses, Joyce’s masterpiece about Ireland’s daddy issues, Leopold Bloom stops in here for a glass of burgundy and gorgonzola sandwich.

Where to Stay // Ballyfin
After a painstaking eight-year restoration, Ballyfin is a reminder of Ireland of the 1820s, when Jane Austen/Downton Abbey-style gentlefolk lived just outside of sooty Dublin.

Morning // Golf at Portmarnock
The website talks of “those dimpled fairways threading their way through that classic fescue.” We wish we had a decent brogue to do it justice —not to mention swing.

Midmorning // Kevin & Howlin
Since 1936, the Kevin family has been providing the finest Donegal tweeds for Irish sportsmen and women. For some new duds, head here.

Afternoon // The Curragh
Whether draught or sport, a true Irish gentleman knows his breeds in The Land of the Horse. The Curragh in Kildare remains Ireland’s most important Thoroughbred racetrack.

Where to Stay // Four Seasons
This lovely hotel is located in the Ballsbridge neighborhood, possibly the best habitat in the city for the beautiful Georgian-style “Dublin doors.”

Morning // Book of Kells at Trinity College
The Kells is a magnificent 1,200-year-old illuminated Bible. Honor the monks who labored over it by taking a few notes in its dimly lit room.

Lunch // Fade Street Social
Dylan McGrath’s gastropub on Fade Street celebrates the character of Irish food through an innovative small-plates menu.

Afternoon // Tibradden Wood Zip Line
Zip around and commune with the bird life above Tibradeen, the highest point in Dublin’s old pine forest 15 minutes from Dundrum Town Centre.

Where to Stay // The Dylan Hotel
In south City Centre, The Dylan is a smart little hotel tucked near the first British army barracks to surrender to Michael Collins in 1922.

Morning // GAA Museum
In Ireland, hurling isn’t just a game; it’s a creed and a movement. This museum in Croke Park is a shrine to the Gaelic Athletic Association’s contributions to the culture and its goals.

Afternoon // Glasnevin Cemetery
This is one of the first cemeteries to allow the burial of both Catholics and Protestants, including many Irish rebels and statesmen such as O’Connell, Parnell, Collins and De Valera.

Evening // Abbey Theatre
Opened in 1904, Ireland’s national theater led the cultural revival of Yeats and Synge. It remains relevant, producing new work by Elaine Murphy, Pat Kinevane and more.

Where to Stay // The Clarence Hotel
Bono and the Edge bought the Clarence back in their Zooropa days and transformed it into one of Dublin’s premier boutique hotels.

Evening // Olympia Theatre
Tom Waits recorded “The Piano Has Been Drinking” in this beautifully restored theater. And whether it’s Die Antwoord or Tame Impala, it still books the best gigs.

Dinner // 777
Right in the center of Dublin’s “Hipster Triangle,” 777 is a tequila bar that caters to the new variety of fully sleeved punter. Try the oysters with chili sauce.

Late Night // Whelan’s
Whelan’s is a Dublin music-scene institution. And it stays open late—you know, late enough for “one more.”

View all these locations on our map: Locations