The 2024 Irish Golfer Top 100 Courses In Ireland Ranking

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Whether you prefer link or parkland golf, Ireland has something for everyone. We are so blessed with the quantity and variety of golf courses in Ireland, there really is something for everyone. What’s your favourite golf course in Ireland? Ask one hundred people and you’ll likely get 70 different answers. The reasons vary from person to person, some like links, some like parkland, some like water features, some don’t, the personal criteria we use to decide what we like the most varies, and who’s to say who is right or wrong.  So to try and take some of the guesswork out of it here at IGM we’ve created a list of voting criteria (Click HERE to read the digital magazine with all the info) and it is these criteria that we use to examine golf courses.
A lot goes into creating these rankings, and before you start reading through them there are some notable clubs and items that you should kepe an eye out for. The first of these is that Druids Glen is back in the fold having opened for play in 2023. It makes a big splash as one would expect. There are two clubs that have been removed, Hogs Head, as it is a private members club and not open to regular play and the Valley Course at Royal Portrush as it has been closed for redevelopment works.
There are some new entries to watch out for too with Spa Golf Club making it’s first appearance in the list while Blainroe also comes in after some solid work on the course.. There are some big movers too Clandeboye Dufferin one of the biggest and there is also some movement inside the Top 10 to watch out for!

100. SPA Superb views of the Mourne Mountains accompany you throughout your round at this parkland course that sits adjacent to the Montalto Estate. The par-4 11th is the highlight and the new bunker upgrades take it to another level. (NEW ENTRY)

99. CASTLETROY A suburban parkland ever-so neatly routed across gently curving terrain between calm avenues of trees. A strong back nine lifts this above the average… and the 14th recently made our list of 50 Toughest Par-3s. (DOWN 3)

98. MALAHIDE The past few years have seen significant improvements at Malahide, one of Dublin’s big (27 holes) parklands, with clearing work revealing much of this parkland’s true character. And now the conditioning is very much the focus of attention. (UP 2)

97. MOYOLA PARK Who wouldn’t enjoy this lazy parkland course, easing over an old estate where trees tower, rivers gurgle and a central hill drips with thrills and spills! The par-3 17th combines all of these elements and is unforgettable.(UP 1)

96. BLAINROE Blainroe has been on the edge of our rankings for years but with the complete rebunkering of the course, this seaside parkland finds a well-deserved foothold. The front nine flows over a hill, the back nine takes you out to and along the clifftops. (NEW ENTRY)

95. NAAS Naas shines as a parkland of adventure with many delicious driving opportunities: the 1st is a case in point although the towering 13th pips it. Conditioning is always good and the final six holes are now being rebunkered to complete a very tasty set. (DOWN 1)

94. DUNDALK The dark and brooding flanks of trees make this a parkland where restraint may be your best strategy, especially as you can’t always see what lies over the crest or around the bend… other than quality greens. (UP 1)

93. BALLINROBE For newcomers, Ballinrobe will delight with its scale and sophistication. Everything you could ask of a flashy parkland here, it’s just that Ballinrobe doesn’t brag about it. You might assume that this is a good country parkland; it’s actually a great one. (UP 4)

92. ROYAL CURRAGH A gem of heathland flourishes and shapes with pines, birch and gorse constantly appearing. The 1st is a beautiful par-5, dropping down over a fairway with a storied history, and the constant changes in the terrain keep you guessing as well as entertained. (SAME)

91. NORTH WEST A founding member of what is now Golf Ireland, only hints at the history of a sweet-flowing, low-lying links that is packed with intrigue and strategic value. North West is a wonderfully natural course which has had to adapt to what nature has thrown at it. (DOWN 2)

90. KILLARNEY (MAHONY’S) You won’t find a better parkland setting than this one… unless it’s the Killeen alongside. This is golf in a postcard setting of mountains, lake and deer. The old school charm of the course and its calm rhythm fits the occasion only too well and then there’s the remarkable 18th hole. (UP 1)

89. MACREDDIN Big at heart and big in scale, Paul McGinley’s Ma- creddin washes over two sides of a valley with wild abandon and a collection of thrilling holes. Pine and gorse and rhythmic mounding define the front nine; repeat on the back but throw in a river for good measure. (DOWN 4)

88. GLASSON LAKEHOUSE The ‘new’ Glasson has settled in very tidily indeed and the closing stretch of holes, so visible from the driveway and the hotel terraces, is a class act. Sitting between two loughs, this Westmeath parkland oozes class as well as some stunning views. (UP 2)

87. HEADFORT (OLD) There’s something about Headfort Old that is utterly charming. It could be its old classic parkland feel. It could be the endless mature trees that give the course such sweet structure and punish the wayward. Or it could be that this very tidy course has no ponds or lakes and lets the landscape do the talking. (SAME)

86. LAYTOWN & BETTYSTOWN  L&B combines links holes that favour big and bumpy one moment and then low and sleek the next. The recent re-routing has split up the more out-and-back layout and now tests you constantly with the shifting terrain and direction. Those crumpled shapely beauties above the beach are what you will remember most. (UP 2)

85. CLANDEBOYE (DUFFERIN) This Northern Ireland parkland is one of Ulster’s best and yet it remains relatively unsung across the border. Perhaps a hefty upward bump will help correct that. It has big scale, lots of shape and even more colour. It is parkland through and through – and don’t miss the Ava course, either. (UP 8)

84. ROYAL COUNTY DOWN (ANNESLEY) The changes that took place on this ‘little’ links have helped to push it up the rankings. It’s a gem of a course and, to be blunt, it is the perfect miniature of the giant it resides next to. What a way to warm up for the main event. No par-5s and a strategic test of accuracy and common sense. (UP 2)

83. DRUIDS HEATH The Peter McEvoy/Jeff Lynch makeover has altered Druids Heath in so many ways. The routing has not changed but the feel and challenge have. The bunkering was overhauled and more than halved and this has allowed the big, swift greens to shine. (UP 1)

82. ST. MARGARET’S Another smartly routed course on the outskirts of Dublin city and one that remains very popular. It has all the parkland elements with a calm landscape, attractive water features and a professional, smart feel. The par-3s are particularly good. (UP 1)

81. DUN LAOGHAIRE Boasting three nines sweeping ever higher across a gentle hillside, this modern parkland has a strong variety of holes and challenges and, impressively, a different feel to each nine. The par-3s are especially strong. (DOWN 4)

80. MULLINGAR  It’s too easy to forget just how good Mullingar is. With classic parkland traits, it rumbles over joy- ously shifting terrain that offers up one sweet shot after another. Trees will taunt you, as will the terror of the par-3 second. (UP 1) 

79. POWERSCOURT (EAST) Powerscourt East begins and ends with bursts of parkland brilliance and promises plenty more in between. The course is known for the quality – not to mention the challenge – of its greens and its idyllic setting (SAME)

78. CASTLEMARTYR Castlemartyr has a sweet, flowing rhythm and the course almost surrounds the five-star resort, with a new driving range completing the circuit. Designed by Ron Kirby as a links-style course, the fairway edges are drenched in golden fescue. (SAME)

77. SEAPOINT A closing stretch of links holes to rival the best. Seapoint starts slow, relaxed and inland before picking up both the pace and the challenges as you head for the thundering finish. The Legends Tour takes place here in June. (UP 3)

76. ST. ANNE’S A links on Bull Island that requires careful strategy when you step onto the tee. Low links fairways ripple constantly and big greens shine throughout the round. Strong conditioning and recent tweaks give it a good upwards bump. (UP 6)

75. ESKER HILLS Esker Hills is one of our unique inland experiences, playing over explosive eskers that see you rising and falling constantly to greens in glorious settings. The common refrain that suggests you take a buggy doesn’t make this course any less riveting. (DOWN 2)

74. GALWAY Alister Mackenzie’s name gives this club a real edge in the bragging and quality stakes. A smooth opening transitions to hillier holes and it ensures there is lots of variety in store. One thing that always remains the same is the quality of the greens. Oh, and views over Galway Bay. (DOWN 2)

73. MOYVALLEY Moyvalley is an intriguing course of ever-rolling fairways, wide spaces and few trees. Its big greens also dominate and even embellish the spaciousness of the course. The finishing stretch is excellent. (UP 3)

72. FARNHAM ESTATE A modern parkland wrapped up with a plush resort and a new(ish) clubhouse to give it some independence. This is a tale of two nines and a fascinating mix of holes which starts on a more open, rolling landscape before tossing you up into the forest. (UP 3)

71. TULFARRIS It is all too easy to get wrapped up in the beauty of Tulfarris. Set on the edges of the Blessington Lakes, holes lead you out to the shoreline time and again, and the pace and shape of the course just blend into this glorious setting. (UP 3)

70. GRANGE This suburban course is full of colour as you play through swathes of mature trees and splashes of woodland. The course has that easy, intuitive parkland routing and feel, and there are an additional five holes if you haven’t had enough after your first 18. (UP 1)

69. WESTPORT Westport’s location on the edge of Clew Bay may be part of its draw but from the seventh hole on you will appreciate why it is so highly regarded. And holes 11 to 15, under the watchful eye of Croagh Patrick, are simply superb. (SAME)

68. ARKLOW Arklow’s stature continues to grow. It is a links brimming with adventure and sparkling greens. There are five excellent par-3s, too, and this course of low dunes is all on show from the car park or – even better – the clubhouse. It seriously whets the appetite. Constantly improving. (UP 2)

67. CASTLE Castle flexes its muscles as the top parkland inside Dublin’s M50. The rhythm of fairways and pine-lined corridors is hypnotic and promises one strong hole after another. It may play over level ground but that only seems to enhance its flow. (UP 1)

66. NEW FOREST A modern and glamourous parkland routed around a spectacular clubhouse. Perfect fair- ways glide through the estate’s surprisingly wild setting and the contrasts this creates add to the thrills. Wild marshes and deep woodland will do that.(UP 1)

65. DINGLE ‘Low-lying’, ‘devious’, ‘strategic’ and ‘out-on-the- edge-of-the-earth’ are all used to describe this links in one of Ireland’s beauty spots. A wind- swept landscape and a challenge to take your breath away. (SAME)

64. RATHSALLAGH An unfortunate slide for Rathsallagh, with plenty of investment being made by the courses now above it. It’s a shame for a club that flows so easily, so elegantly through beautiful woodland where trees make a charming nuisance of themselves. (DOWN 4)

63. CONCRA WOOD Lough Muckno is the centrepiece for this modern lakeside parkland of big holes and high drama. Created by O’Connors Junior and Senior, it frequently plays along the shores of the lough and the views from up high are spectacular.(DOWN 1)

62. Maturing in style, Bunclody also promises immaculate conditioning thanks to a strong greenkeeping team. The holes down by the Slaney may shine brightest but the entire package is a delightful one. It all adds up to a rise of four places. (UP 4)

61. THE HERITAGE A big bump up last year is followed by a smaller one this year as the course and facilities continue to improve. Big and expansive and created from nothing, the course is maturing very tastily indeed. (UP 3)

60. ROYAL BELFAST The oldest golf club in Ireland has Harry Colt to thank for a design that flows down to the shores of Belfast Lough. Mostly open, with trees giving you room to play, there are some lovely angles to holes and strong, new bunkering. (DOWN 1)

59. ROSSLARE There’s a lot to enjoy on this links in Ire- land’s south-east corner and views of the sea have become more prominent to add to the experience. A nice upward bump and this is also what you’ll feel when you start playing the excellent stretch from three to seven. (UP 4)

58. K CLUB (PALMER SOUTH) A constantly moving landscape is home to holes of hypnotic shape and frequent drama. Much of it is manufactured in an effort to accommodate a course that is very different to the Palmer North. There are trees but the course is open and spacious, allowing big sweeping greens to shine. (DOWN 1)

57. TULLAMORE Four new greens will help to improve surfaces in 2024, but, in the meantime, Tullamore’s reputation is as secure as ever. James Braid’s design demands clear thinking and patience from golfers as holes constantly bend right or left, and trees present numerous challenges. (UP 1)

56. CARTON HOUSE (O’MEARA) Despite lots of mature trees, the O’Meara boasts an open and playable accessibility for much of the round. There may be a rather tame first and 18th but these are countered by the exhilarating ‘Amen Corner’ stretch of three holes on the River Rye. Host venue for the KPMG Women’s Irish Open in 2024. (SAME)

55. BALLYBUNION (CASHEN) There are big plans for the Cashen course, with Tom Watson and Graham Webster at the helm. They will have towering dunes to work with as well as the holes already rampaging through them. One to watch. (DOWN 1)

54. PALMERSTOWN HOUSE ESTATE Renowned for its water features – and their frequency – Palmerstown House stretches over a vast estate dripping in colour. It possesses one of the best sets of par-5s on the island, not to mention the new-ish island green par-3 10th. (DOWN 2)

53. HERMITAGE All the work of recent years has cemented Hermit- age’s reputation as a parkland of perfect conditioning, reinforced by the superb quality of its greens. Its heaving landscape and parkland maturity date back to 1905. (UP 2)

52. POWERSCOURT (WEST) The West may pip the East in our rankings but it’s a fine margin. The landscape for both is very similar with the West cavorting over higher ground and the greens having even more intrigue than the East’s… and that’s saying something. (UP 1)

51. BELVOIR PARK Designed by Harry Colt, this course oozes old-school charm and quality. It also has a wonderful rhythm that carries you through the avenues of mature trees and, on the back nine, across a tricky swale. Visit the clubhouse balcony for the perfect appetiser. (DOWN 4)

50. GALWAY BAY Another of our very individual courses, Galway Bay has muscle that flexes with heaving, gorse-drenched shoulders chaperoning fairways as they sweep out to the waters of Galway Bay itself. Barren and wind.swept it still has a beauty to it, helped no doubt by immaculate conditioning and big, adventurous greens. (DOWN 2)

49. KILLARNEY (KILLEEN) Host to an Irish Open or four, the Killeen course’s setting is majestic, thanks to the Killarney National Park of mountains and lakes. But there’s lots of drama on this parkland, too, with strong holes and an air of elegance. (UP 2)

48. PORTUMNA The quiet, blissful forest setting of Portumna sets the tone for a round of delicious parkland golf. The old estate is marked by mature oak anchoring holes while stone watchtowers add a novel twist. Play early or late and enjoy the deer as playing partners. (UP 2)

47. ROSAPENNA, OLD TOM MORRIS The design of the old holes remains revered as it uses original, untouched dune terrain, to create a classic links. These are combined with nine mod- ern holes from the imagination of Pat Ruddy. The two nines are divided by Sandy Hills, and offer an intriguing view of old vs. new. (DOWN 3)

46. LOUGH ERNE A colourful lakeland adventure designed by Nick Faldo and wrapped around a top class resort in Fermanagh. The shorelines of two loughs play host to a feast of holes – the short par four 10th most notably – and these combine with forest, high ridges and dramatic tee shots to give you a big day out. (DOWN 3)

45. DROMOLAND CASTLE Home to the KPMG Women’s Irish Open in 2022 and again in 2023, Dromoland Castle plays over a charming old estate, bringing the famous castle into view time and again. The constant improvements of recent years (ahead of the Open) are still continuing – hence another strong rise in our rankings – with significant aesthetic and strategic improvements, especially on holes such as the 11th, 16th and 18th. (UP 4)

44. ARDGLASS You launch yourself off the 1st tee with cannons pointing the way, and play clifftop holes, links holes and spacious holes spread over open terrain. It is a heady mix with charming views over the sea accompanying you all day. Still rising. (UP 2)

43. GALGORM CASTLE Galgorm Castle’s rise continues, thanks to an investment programme that never seems to stop. The improvements are as relentless as the course’s parkland rhythm. Big changes in 2023 brought more of the course’s two rivers and water features into play. So much so that holes nine, 11, 13 and 14 have been splashed with added drama… and difficulty.  (UP 2)

42. HEADFORT (NEW) Host to the 2023 Irish Challenge this is another big Irish parkland with lots of water, grand trees and, in Headfort’s case, an island at the centre of it all. Water embraces a dozen holes and these kick-start the thrills but this is part of a 36-hole venue and there is much to be enjoyed here. (DOWN 1)

41. CASTLEROCK Located on the same coastline as Royal Portrush and Portstewart, Castlerock offers a different and highly entertaining links experience… and one upgraded by Martin Hawtree a few years back. He oversaw the addition of some new greens and a bunkering upgrade programme. (DOWN 2)

40. CARTON HOUSE (MONTGOMERIE) The ‘Monty’ was designed as a links-style inland course. The exposed landscape feels almost barren with only a few trees roaming its hypnotically rolling terrain. It is certainly very different… as is the prolific array of punishing bunkers and dramatically shaped green complexes. This is a big challenge and golfers should choose the appropriate tee. (DOWN 2)

39. LUTTRELLSTOWN CASTLE The length, scale and lazy flow of Luttrellstown Castle make this a star attraction for golfers, as does its famous clubhouse. This is classic modern parkland with rivers and lakes laced across an old tree-drenched estate. There are no climbs here which only adds to its accessibility and appeal. A bunker upgrade programme continues. (UP 1)

38. CARLOW Carlow is one of Ireland’s best inland courses, a naturally and intuitively routed parkland, winding around a hill. Its setting is a charming Irish land- scape and the qualities bestowed upon it by its original designers – Tom Simpson and Molly Gourlay – are equal to that setting. Little has changed here in recent times, meaning the course has fallen behind its peers. (DOWN 2)

37. MALONE This renowned Belfast parkland has seen considerable upgrade work in the past few years. The new short game area and a reimagined 14th that sees the green moved to the edge of the large lake are the stand-out attractions… but Malone is impressive all over with a particularly thrilling back nine. (SAME)

36. DONEGAL The setting for the course at Murvagh (aka Donegal) couldn’t be better: this is a wide sprawling piece of linksland set on a peninsula in Donegal Bay. The smooth, spacious rhythm of the start and close are countered by the exceptional stretch using the biggest dunes, running from the famous par-3 fifth (‘Valley of Tears’) to the 11th. The names of Eddie Hackett and Pat Ruddy fill the design column – both fans of length – and Donegal runs to a par of 73. The club has been quiet of late, without much forward momentum, and some challenges from the greens add to Murvagh’s slide. (DOWN 6)

35. FOTA ISLAND 27 golf holes adorn this idyllic and vibrant landscape, tucked away on an island. It is enchanting golf and it comes with big credentials. Fota Island has held the Irish Open three times so you have quality in spades. The slopes, the natural water features, the green locations all contribute to a charming round of golf that is both thrilling and accessible for all. There is an excellent golf academy here too, next to the newest of the nines. (DOWN 3)

34. STRANDHILL Many golfers label Strandhill as a ‘quirky’ links, but that is to belittle its brilliance and beauty. Holes fall and rise towards and around a central high ridge, with a somewhat eccentric flow of dune shapes: low and cunning on the perimeter; big and breathless in the middle; and everything else is unconventional and unique. This is natural links golf with glorious greens often flowing out of the land. It continues to be improved and rises yet again. Its location with sea on two sides and a mountain looming overhead adds to the drama… and, yes, the quirk! (UP 1)

33. CORK Few courses enjoy such shifts in style and pace as Cork Golf Club. Few courses have the legendary Alister MacKenzie designing a layout that ties those holes together in a perfect bow. The famed limestone quarry holes remain the club’s signature, along with the preceding two holes (four and five) on the edge of Cork Harbour, and these beauties – eight in all – are tucked out of sight of the clubhouse. Significant clearing work opened up the quarry to make these holes even more dramatic and they take many golfers by surprise. It shouldn’t: Cork is highly rated for good reason. (UP 1)

32. MOUNT JULIET Hosting the 2021 and 2022 Irish Opens gave the famous Jack Nicklaus-designed Mount Juliet serious bragging rights. The course coasts through an estate of towering trees with a grace that makes playing here an absolute joy. Despite water features on eight holes, you do not feel too threatened – rather you feel welcomed and embraced. That only enhances your enjoyment. Put it this way, can you point us towards a golfer who has left Mount Juliet in a bad mood? (DOWN 1)

31. ROSAPENNA (SANDY HILLS) The softening of Sandy Hills in recent years has helped this behemoth become more recognised and popular. Yes, it remains formidable, but it has found a more caring side with wider fairways and more clarity off the tee. There are still plenty of teeth but now it’s more smile than grimace as holes dip and roll like a rollercoaster. It is part of a first-class golf complex that contains the new St Patrick’s Links and, intriguingly, there are plenty of golfers who visit and rate Sandy Hills the best of the resort’s three links. (UP 2)

30. CONNEMARA The folklore around Connemara is as mystical as the golf course itself. Designed by Eddie Hackett, the links is as natural as can be, using a low running front nine to whet the appetite before the dramatic back nine kicks things off at a higher level… literally. The backdrop of the Twelve Bens and the Atlantic Ocean contributes greatly to Connemara’s allure, as does the fabled rocky landscape that surrounds you. It gives this club a unique links feel and one that is so evident on arrival. The par-3 13th is the stuff of legend. (DOWN 1)

29. NARIN & PORTNOO Gil Hanse renovated Narin & Portnoo in 2020, when the club was taken over. His expansive, shapely new greens have recharged this links while new holes, including three new par-3s, have changed the par from a 73 to a 70. Surprisingly though, the new short holes are all of a very similar length. Some changes to the routing have also given this links a different look. The Co. Donegal location remains earth- shatteringly beautiful and you simply can’t avoid it, including a tee box so close to the sea you can dip your hand in it. (DOWN 2)

28. KILLEEN CASTLE You drive through the golf course on the way to one of Ireland’s most comfortable but understated clubhouses. The views along the driveway show off the vast expanse that is home to this powerful Jack Nicklaus-designed parkland, and the castle beside the clubhouse is a spectacular sight. Hitting straight at those castle walls on your approach to the 18th is a remarkable way to finish. Here you will enjoy generous fairways which make driving a delight but Nicklaus placed a serious premium on finding heavily guarded greens. Considering all that space it is no surprise at how peaceful it all feels. (SAME)

27. PGA NATIONAL IRELAND SLIEVE RUSSELL This course has everything a lover of parkland golf could ask for and that’s all thanks to designer Paddy Merrigan. Vibrancy and colour envelop you from the moment you stride to the first tee. You are swept up in this parkland’s beautiful surroundings, picking your war around hypnotically rolling terrain, forever playing towards the resort’s centrepiece: Lough Rud. This is wonderful parkland from start to finish and it establishes a momentum that never lets you down. Facilities are improving and, through thick and thin, Slieve Russell has remained in excellent condition.(DOWN 1)

26. PORTMARNOCK JAMESON GOLF LINKS The new name of ‘Jameson’ imparts some rich history and the considerable renovations on the course – six new holes – certainly suggest a new chapter has begun for this links. The purpose of the upgrades was to create views out to sea and enhance the routing – both very much achieved. The overall result sees considerable alterations to the final 10 holes, with the 17th to be changed from a par-3 to a par-4 in 2024. The jury remains out, for now, and it will be intriguing to watch how the new course settles in this year. (DOWN 1)

25. OLD HEAD The thrill of Old Head is indisputable and it remains one of the world’s great golf experiences. You can quibble over the design if you want but the exhilaration of playing over those cliff tops will live with you forever. This is glamour golf at its best and the elegant, generous design makes it a course anyone can play. That’s assuming you can handle the drama of the clifftop holes, of which there are nine. Old Head boasts a world-class, bucket list attraction and anyone who has played here will be quick to tell you about it.(DOWN 1)

24. DOOKS Dooks is blessed by being laid out on a gloriously crumpled landscape in one of Ireland’s most beautiful and scenic locations. It is surrounded by bays, sea and endless mountains, and it is a colourful links that brims with entertainment. It falls this way and that, has delicious green sites, keeps you guessing and has a toad for a logo. What more could you want? The second green may be the most dramatic place to stand in Irish golf but the allure of Dooks goes well beyond that. (DOWN 1)

23. DRUIDS GLEN Closed for 16 months for a comprehensive restoration, Druids Glen came back into our lives with a bang in 2023. The original routing remains – with a new fourth green site – but it is now super-polished with new greens, new bunkers, new bridges, new everything. This is an idyllic parkland that hosted four Irish Opens, and who’s to say it won’t host another in the near future. It charges in at 23 but with tidying up work to be completed – Woodstock House is being converted for accommodation – the future is bright. (NEW ENTRY)

22. BALLYLIFFIN (OLD) In a similar fashion to Powerscourt, the battle for ‘top dog’ between Ballyliffin’s two courses stirs much debate. The Old may sit just behind the Glashedy in our ranking but it is fine margins and each has its fans. The Old promises electrifying links golf over low, rumpled terrain where fairways needle you constantly and bunkers lure your ball. What the Old has in its favour is the sparkling run of holes beside the sea, starting at the 14th, which promises a thrilling run for home. (DOWN 1)

21. PORTSTEWART (STRAND) There are major plans for the Strand, with European Golf Design (EGD) brought in to upgrade the course and the back nine in particular. Work is underway on a links revered for its first nine and, indeed, its first hole. The famed dunes of Thistly Hollow, host a stretch of holes often labelled Ireland’s ‘best front nine’ and it’s little wonder as you embark on a wild adventure through towering dunes. The closing section of the course may be more sedate and this is where EGD will be focussing their efforts.(DOWN 1)

20. PORTSALON Double greens, flowing dunes, enchanting views and a second hole that rates as one of the best – and toughest – in Ireland. Lough Swilly is mag- nificent and much of Portsalon’s front nine runs riot through rugged dunes above Ballymastocker Strand. Two double greens emphasise how the terrain has been cleverly used and holes smartly routed, and this extends across the course, even to the more inland holes. Greens often lie low on the land emphasising this links’ natural feel and heart. (DOWN 1)

19. ROYAL DUBLIN Royal Dublin has risen up the rankings by three places. Given the quality of its peers that is one impressive jump… but then so too is the rebunkering programme by design firm of Clayton DeVries & Pont. It has helped Ireland’s oldest links reignite its Harry Colt roots, centred not just on the bunkering but also the strategy of links golf. This low-lying links boasts a classic out-and-back routing where wind intimidates constantly, and bump-and-run rules. Its reputation is stronger than ever and it possesses one of the most famous finishing stretches in Irish golf. (UP 3)

18. BALLYLIFFIN (GLASHEDY) One of Ballyliffin’s greatest assets is its desire never to rest on its laurels. There is constant change and progress at the club, and the introduction of solar power is only one of its recent efforts. The Glashedy course takes the lead here with clever routing that takes both nines into the biggest dunes. Here you will find two superb par-3s (five and 14) with tee boxes looking down on greens and the startling Glashedy Rock parked in the sea beyond. This is tougher than the Old because subtle doglegs and tight greenside bunkering make accuracy essential. (SAME)

17. K CLUB (PALMER NORTH) The Palmer North course is so well known at this stage that introductions seem superfluous. But for our rankings we must! Considerable recent investment has elevated the course’s reputation and it was all on display during the 2023 Horizon Irish Open, won by Vincent Norman after a stellar closing 65. The re-laid and sometimes re-shaped fairways added class and the overall ambience of The K Club shines through with big fairways, sweeping greens and charming water features including the Liffey. Excellent facilities, too. (SAME)

16. TRUMP INTERNATIONAL DOONBEG Doonbeg is locked-in in the mid-teens of our rankings. The blend of Greg Norman (old) and Martin Hawtree (new), as well as ongoing smaller upgrades, has created an impressive modern links of high drama above Doughmore Strand. The farthest point – the ninth green – shows off the spectacular setting, as well as the hotel around the curve of the bay. There are some remarkable holes here with the first, fifth, sixth, 13th and 14th particularly noteworthy as they use the best the dunes have to offer. From one end to the other, Doonbeg stretches for almost two miles above the beach. It’s a glorious walk. (SAME)

15. ENNISCRONE It’s quite something when you realise that County Sligo has three links in our top 35. Enniscrone, at 15, comes in right behind Harry Colt’s Co. Sligo, and yet they are so different… as is Strandhill, at 34. Enniscrone is bodybuilder stuff and shows off its muscles early in the round. It plunges into a giant cascade of dunes rumbling along the shores of Killala Bay. Much of the back nine also plays in these dunes which, in terms of scale, are second only to Carne. And, in terms of blind shots, it is second only to Royal County Down. (SAME)

14. THE EUROPEAN CLUB This famous – some might say notorious – links bristles with energy and high drama. Sleeper-faced bunkers may have their detractors but there’s no question that this links carries a unique reputation. And that’s thanks to its creator who has added elements you won’t find elsewhere. The course builds to a crescendo in the middle of the back nine where the holes almost touch the Irish Sea but there is so much to enjoy across all 18 holes… or 20, as is the case here. The European Club is an unforgettable experience and it always demands the best from every facet of your game.(DOWN 1)

14. COUNTY SLIGO The fabric of Harry Colt’s design runs deep in the veins of this superb links. It fills every step and inspires every swing. The terrain promises so much variety with the opening holes taking you up high before you descend to a lower plain that’s all on show from the fifth tee. Take a moment and breathe it in – there aren’t many views like this… unless you did the same thing on the third tee. The variety is astonishing but also hugely appealing as there’s always something new to consider. Colt knew how to test golfers’ abilities and this shines through at Co. Sligo. (UP 1)

12. CARNE (WILD ATLANTIC DUNES) Take the biggest dunes you could possibly imagine and thread 18 holes through them, over them and around them. Pile on the views, add in the remoteness and now toss another nine holes on top and you end up with Ireland’s greatest golf odyssey. The Wild Atlantic Dunes layout is Carne’s preferred routing, which intertwines Eddie Hackett’s back nine with Ally McIntosh’s newer nine (2013). There is no question that this is the biggest and most explosive links in Ireland and its soul is buried deep in raw, natural terrain that presents challenges you’ll never have encountered before. (SAME)

11. ROSAPENNA (ST PATRICK’S LINKS) For such a young course there is an other-worldliness to St Patrick’s Links. The design is vast and it feels different to our other links thanks to a modern design by one of the best in the business. Tom Doak created something that is elegant and effortless, with holes rambling through big and broad dunes, leading out to the sea. The green sites are sensational and there are different routes to reach them as hole shapes embrace different strategies. This is magical stuff… which also describes the Co. Donegal setting. A drop of two follows excellent work at The Island and Waterville (DOWN 2)

10. THE ISLAND The Island nudges its way back into the Top 10 for the first time since 2021, when new holes and other changes were not universally adored. Now though, the conditioning and definition has given this Dublin links an impres- sive lift. The course is blessed with character and it continues to boast one of Ireland’s finest back nines, including holes 13 to 15. It is an astounding stretch of three holes, just across the water from Malahide. The remodelled par-3 fourth offers a dramatic new signature hole that breaks up the previous run of eight par- 4s, while the new eighth and ninth add considerable bulk to the front nine’s finish. (UP 1)

9. TRALEE When you think of Ireland’s most beautiful locations for a golf course, Tralee typically springs to mind. Add in a links that easily matches that location and you’re looking at a majestic golf adventure. Recent improvements to the front nine have closed the gap on a revered back nine, as well as cementing Tralee’s reputation for having the best set of par-3s on the island – with Druids Glen in hot pursuit – with the 16th being a superb hole named ‘Shipwreck’. Tralee also offers an impressive range of facilities, including a clubhouse balcony with sweeping views over the course and ocean. (DOWN 1)

8. WATERVILLE Waterville sits in an irresistible setting on the Ring of Kerry, its sublime rhythm creating a links that tugs at the heart strings at every turn. First you find yourself chaperoned by the River Inny, then, later, by the Inny estuary as you head for home. In between is a layout of indescribable beauty with highlights appearing as frequently as the hares. There are no climbs yet the landscape always moves and twists… it’s as though this terrain could serve no other purpose than to host a golf course. (UP 2)

7. THE GOLF COURSE AT ADARE MANOR As the Ryder Cup now becomes the European centre piece for 2027, Adare continues to polish the edges of its golfing masterpiece. The attention to detail lavished on the course is second to none with its sub-air technology raising pulses everywhere. Tom Fazio’s re-design is hypnotic in its rhythm with raised greens and vast aprons of run-offs catching the eye. They are dazzling targets. The bunkering is bright and unmissable, framing fairway corridors and threatening constantly around greens. It may be easier to be in a bunker than to run the gauntlet of those aprons which can sweep your ball 30 yards away. And yet its playability is one of Adare’s great strengths. (DOWN 1)

6. COUNTY LOUTH (BALTRY) The layout at Co Louth is a purist’s delight, its subtleties revealing themselves a little more with each play. It is similar to Portmarnock in that regard, although here you also have the famous stretch of big dunes that hosts four delicious holes (12 to 16). And while you might consider this to be the best stretch there’s actually another that is just as good: holes three to seven are a perfect foil to the stretch on the back nine and, right there, you have eight electrifying holes. Is it any wonder the course is so revered. The strategies and intricacies around Tom Simpson’s design – and the greens in particular – open up a myriad of choice and opportunity for shots. And following a major recent irrigation overhaul, the links is in superb condition. One final thought: on account of a few of the inland holes, some feel it lacks the wow factor of other links but this is to miss the essence and calm brilliance of Co Louth. (DOWN 1)

5. BALLYBUNION (OLD) The most dramatic move in our Top 10 sees Ballybunion move up two places. It has taken the Co. Kerry club a few years to get back into the top 5 but it is fully deserving of its new position. A course’s brilliance does not depend on length, rather it depends on routing and layout, and how holes combine with the natural setting. Notwithstanding the Old Course at St. Andrews, Ballybunion is widely regarded as the most natural links golf course anywhere, and certainly the most natural with towering dunes. The shapes of these dunes have created perfect doglegs, high tees and magical green settings, some set in bowls, some set on plateaus, still others protected by sentry dunes. And yet there are no blind shots. The par 71 of 6,350 yards (white tees) may seem short by today’s standards but the course’s route- ing is both challenging and fair… and accessible to all golfers. The back nine are all fired up, steering through the biggest dunes. You’ll want to be on the fairway to take advantage of the many ‘hero’ shots that await look no further than the par-4 11th. The links enjoys remarkable conditioning making every inch of the place glow with quality and it promises an electrifying adventure with the routing taking you out to the ocean’s edge on both nines. (UP 2)

4. LAHINCH With holes four and five, Lahinch has a golf course that drifts into the realms of folklore. With holes three, six, nine, 12 and 13 this Co. Clare links packs in more punch and drama than most top courses can manage over 18 holes. Never mind the dune system over and through which it plays, Lahinch is blessed with a tempo that sings. The ridge of big dunes that hosts the front nine and press up to the sea heave in every direction creating sublime channels for holes to flow between. Such natural routing presents a layout where wind tests golfers from every angle but also accommodates some blind shots and fabulous quirks (The Dell, most notably). Farther inland, where the dunes are more subdued, the back nine is little different: perfect routeing takes you to startlingly natural green sites. Indeed, the back nine demand more guile from the golfer, especially on approaches. What Old Tom Morris started, Gibson advanced, MacKenzie reimagined and Hawtree restored is now recognised as one of the world’s greatest links. Alister MacKenzie’s name looms largest, but Hawtree deserves plaudits for his restoration of MacKenzie’s original vision. He rebuilt green sites, updated the bunkering for the modern age and added two new par-3s. He also pushed greens out to the ocean’s edge to enhance the links experience. In an age when links courses have little room to expand, Hawtree found other ways to promote Lahinch’s challenges. (SAME)

3. ROYAL COUNTY DOWN  Host to the Irish Open in 2024, Royal County Down (RCD) will be shining brightly on the world stage once again. Not that a course often recognised as the best in the world has ever stopped. There’s no question that RCD is one of golf’s greatest experiences – it is unlike anything on the planet with those heaving, gorse-drenched dunes and bearded bunkers – but where it falters in our rankings is in its playability. This is a beauty but it is also a beast. Blind shots – many of them severe – and those terrifying bunkers makes RCD a stern test for even the best players. Jack Nicklaus certainly thought so. It is simply not as playable as the two courses ranked above it. Please take that as a challenge and find out for yourself. However you play, it will leave you reeling and breathless for RCD remains the ultimate, adrenaline-fuelled links with a heritage that embraces Old Tom Morris and a landscape that has been played over since 1889. Those blind shots are what many golfers remember most but this stretch of tumultuous links land is home to superb green settings and surfaces that roll like velvet. The perfect framing of wild rough, heather and gorse, and the strategic options available make RCD the epitome of a bucket list destination… and always will do. Watch the Irish Open and see how the Pros tackle this incredible course. (SAME)

2. PORTMARNOCK Portmarnock is the epitome of a course that improves and thrills the more you play it. This isn’t about massive dunes and dramatic looking holes: rather it is the guile and strategic nous you need to unlock Portmarnock’s charms because this low-lying links and the word ‘subtlety’ are entwined. Yes, some visitors will miss the nuances of this terrain on a single visit, but there is immense reward on repeat plays as all 18 holes (all 27, in fact) slowly reveal their secrets. Nuances such as the deceptive ridges on holes three, 13 and 17, and the blind tee shot on five add to the fun, but it is the peerless routing that provides the bones for this exceptional championship layout. It’s worth noting that the skeleton of the course remains the same as when it was extended to 18 holes in 1896. The only significant addition being the famous par-3 15th above the beach, introduced in the 1920s. Portmarnock is big, not in terms of towering dunes but in the size of its greens and hole corridors. The holes fit so perfectly into the landscape and the routing flows so easily, so intuitively. There is no finer example than the revered closing stretch of five holes, a loop that many a golf writer considers to be one of the best in golf. The condition of the course is also second to none, the fine turf allowing firm and fast surfaces that encourage the ground game and will reward you handsomely if you employ it correctly. (SAME)

1. ROYAL PORTRUSH The Open returns in 2025 and isn’t everyone a-flutter! And who could blame them as the previous iteration revealed Royal Portrush as a true masterpiece. It remains at No. 1 in our ranking for another year… and no one is surprised. This is classic, golden age course design from the 1920s. The best architects of the day had started to build features rather than rely wholly on nature and Harry Colt was a virtuoso practitioner. At Portrush, he created what remains the best set of greens in Ireland. Indeed, Colt considered the Dunluce course his masterpiece and it’s easy to see why: the holes sweep elegantly through an undulating dunescape, never so violent that the golf is compromised yet never so calmly that one’s guard can be lowered. We all know the best of them, the fifth doglegging towards the sea and the 16th, Calamity Corner, being one of the most famous par-3s in the world. But, in truth, almost all of the holes are strong, beautifully following the land and taking the golfer on an adventure to each corner of the property. The course is in a permanent battle with Royal County Down for the top spot in Northern Ireland, with each offering a very different experience. In preparation for the return of the 2019 Open Championship, however, Portrush removed its weaker 17th and 18th holes – commandeered for the tented village – and created two outstanding new holes (the par-5 seventh and par-4 eighth) to give it a vital edge over RCD. The visual appeal and challenge of the new holes have been an overwhelming success and these are being enhanced further for the 2025 tournament. (SAME)

This feature appears in the 2024-2 print edition of Irish Golfer – CLICK HERE – to read it in full

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5 responses to “The 2024 Irish Golfer Top 100 Courses In Ireland Ranking”

  1. Mark avatar

    Love these lists and always controversial, 5 courses from last year gone (As far as I can tell) and the 2 notable ones are Royal Portrush (Valley) and Hog’s Head. Wonder why such a fall for both?

    1. Eoin avatar

      Hogs head gone private and Valley is closed for renovations.

  2. Mark avatar

    Sorry 3 new entries so only 3 fell off list. Mount Wolseley being the 3rd.

  3. Simon Russell avatar
    Simon Russell

    Why do we never talk about our 9 hole courses we have some beauties

  4. Gerry Quinn. avatar
    Gerry Quinn.

    How are courses judged. Does someone visit courses.

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