Planning a golf trip to Ireland? Here are 5 regions you need to visit

ballybunion in ireland

Ballybunion Golf Club in Ballybunion, Ireland.

Gary Lisbon

The Irish love their golf, of course, and they’ve got a deep connection to the game to prove it. Since the mid-1800s, when the country’s first known golf club — Royal Curragh — was established, the game has spread like springtime clover, giving rise to scores of world-class courses that have turned the Emerald Isle into a marquee destination for avid golfers far and wide.

“Golfers travel to Ireland with high expectations, based on their own experiences and stories from friends,” says Gordon Dalgleish, president of golf travel operator PerryGolf. “Invariably, those expectations are surpassed due to the genuine friendliness of locals, which, combined with the quality of the courses, delivers memories that only grow stronger with each passing day.”

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Given the breadth of options — which range from treasured sleepers to fabled championship links — the question isn’t whether a trip is worth it. It’s how to make the most of a getaway. To help with your planning, we’ve highlighted five golf-rich regions in Ireland and Northern Ireland, along with a sampling of the courses that await in each.

Southwest Ireland

“The jewel in Ireland’s golfing crown,” according to golf travel operator Golfbreaks, the Southwest sparkles with dozens of links gems. Ballybunion. Tralee. Lahinch. Doonbeg. Dingle. The list goes on, as does the coastline. Heaving with dunes and framed by dramatic bluffs, it yields dramatic vistas nearly everywhere you turn, whether you’re driving a ball on the arresting grounds of Old Head of Kinsale, famous for its cliff-edge fairways, or driving a car along the Ring of Kerry, one of the world’s most scenic seaside routes. An easy drive from the Shannon airport, the Southwest is also home to the Blarney Stone, which, when kissed, is said to endow the kisser with the gift of gab. That’s not a bad idea. You’re going to have plenty to gush about.

Lahinch Golf Club in Lahinch, Co. Clare, Ireland. Getty Images

Dublin/Capital region

As a vibrant cosmopolitan center, Dublin makes an ideal base for a golf extravaganza suited to all interests. The diverse constellation of sought-after courses includes pure links playgrounds (think Portmarnock Old, Royal Dublin, County Louth and the Island), pedigree parkland layouts such as Adare Manor and The K Club (host site of the 2006 Ryder Cup) and epic designs that defy strict definition (see: the European Club). Beyond the clubs and pubs, there is, of course, a major city’s-worth of attractions and diversions, whether it’s a visit to Trinity College or a tasting tour of the Guinness Storehouse, where you can see how all that good stuff you’ve been drinking gets made.

Portmarnock Golf Club in Portmarnock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Gary Lisbon

Northwest Ireland

Remote golf is all the rage these days. But in Northwest Ireland, it has never gotten trendy. It is simply the way golf has always been. When you pack your clubs for this rugged, unspoiled region, you are signaling both your interest in adventure and your eagerness to unplug. The far-flung links here are near and dear to the hearts of design aficionados, highlighted by the rustic likes of Ballyliffin, Donegal, Port Salon and Rosapenna, a 36-hole resort that recently cut the ribbon on St. Patrick’s Links, a Tom Doak design that ranks 49th on GOLF’s list of Top 100 Courses in the World. All around the Northwest, the turf runs fast but off the course, the pace of life is as leisurely as the hospitality is warm. Sometimes, getting away from it all is the same as getting exactly what you want.

St. Patrick’s Links in Carrickart, Co. Donegal, Ireland. Clyde Johnson

Northern Ireland

As power couples go, it’s hard to top the pairing of Royal County Down and Royal Portrush. Ranked 6th and 16th, respectively, on GOLF’s list of Top 100 Courses in the World, both also count as tough-to-come by tee times (especially now that Portrush has returned to the Open Championship rota; having hosted the event in 2019, it will do the same again in 2025). And yet golf in Northern Ireland is more than this twin-billing. A dream itinerary to this golf-steeped country would also include stops at Castlerock, Ardglass and Portstewart, along with a detour to any number of understated inland courses, such as Holywood, where home-grown hero Rory McIlroy learned to play the game.

Ardglass Golf Club in Ardglass, Northern Ireland. Courtesy Tourism Ireland

West Ireland

Play enough golf in Ireland and you soon learn that quite a few courses go by more than one name. What you call Connemara, for example, a local might refer to as Ballyconneely, which is also the name of the small coastal town where the course is laid out. By any label, though, what you get is the same: 27-holes of rough and tumble links, on a peninsula buffeted by Atlantic winds, in an unspoiled region that is well worth the effort it takes to reach. Other options in the area are every bit as raw and exhilarating, ranging from Carne to Enniscrone to wonderfully rumpled County Sligo, which is the local way of saying “Rosses Point.”

Connemara Golf Links in Ballyconneely, Co. Galway, Ireland. Courtesy Photo

Book your Irish Golf Getaway Now

Trip 1: Enjoy a scenic tour of the Northwest and play some of the most pure links golf courses in the world.

Offer live dates: April 1-Oct. 15, 2024 (From $2,249/person) / Learn more and book HERE

Trip 2: Visit Ireland’s capital city and play some great golf including Royal Dublin, Island Club and more.

Offer live dates: April 1-Oct. 15, 2024 (From $2,385/person) / Learn more and book HERE

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