Golfing in Northern Ireland
From tranquil lakelands to stunning mountains, Northern Ireland’s golf courses enjoy some of the best views in the world.
It’s little wonder that such inspirational surroundings and top-quality greens and fairways – many in close proximity to each other - have produced major championship winners in Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke. This year, Northern Ireland will play host to The 148th Open at Royal Portrush, as well as countless other tournaments. But whether you’re a golfing guru or still learning your birdies from your bogeys, there’s a course and a golf short break here for you.
With so many great courses to tee off at, here’s a pick of some of the region’s finest.
For world-class golfing… Royal County Down Golf Club
Royal County Down Golf Club
Nestled in the foothills of the Mourne Mountains, to the north of the Newcastle seaside resort, is what’s regarded as one of the finest golf courses in the world.
Founded in 1889, Royal County Down is around two hours from Dublin and an hour from Belfast, and in recent years has attracted golf superstars including Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
Visitors can choose from the Championship links – its 486 yard, par 4 ninth hole is one of the most photographed in the world – or the shorter Annesley links.
What’s more, Newcastle is said to enjoy a micro-climate with less rain than the rest of Ireland. So with a bit of luck, your trip to the course could be a dry one.
Accommodation nearby includes the Slieve Donard resort and spa. Located conveniently close to Royal County Down, it has both relaxed and fine dining options and plenty of spa treatments to try after a day’s golfing.
For tranquil surroundings… Lough Erne Resort
Lough Erne Resort
Situated alongside the peaceful waters of Lough Erne, a short drive from Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, is the Lough Erne Resort which offers a 36-hole experience.
Golfers can choose between the Faldo Course, designed by English golfer Nick Faldo, and the Castle Hume golf course, or avail of lessons from PGA pros at the resort’s Golf Academy.
After a round, guests can unwind at the Thai spa, which offers a Golfer’s Tonic treatment to soothe tired muscles, or enjoy some fine dining at the resort’s 3 AA Rosette Catalina restaurant.
For proximity to Belfast… Malone Golf Club
Malone Golf Club
Located on the outskirts of Belfast, just five miles from the city centre, is the 27-hole Malone Golf Club. Its proximity to the heart of the city makes it an ideal choice for golfers with limited time to stay and play.
Situated on 330 acres of wooded parkland, the centrepiece of the course is a 25-acre natural trout lake. There are three nine-hole courses: Drumbridge, Ballydrain and Edenderry.
Malone is also home to the Malone Bowling Club, whose bowling green is located in the centre of the golf estate.
For golfing alongside a great… Holywood Golf Club
Holywood Golf Club
Also located a short distance from Belfast is Holywood Golf Club, best known as Rory McIlroy’s home club.
The star golfer first applied to join this club aged just seven and returned to it with the Claret Jug after winning the 2014 Open Championship at Hoylake.
Give the 18-hole parkland course a try for yourself, and who knows? You could be on your way to victory too.
For the 148th Open… Royal Portrush Golf Club
Royal Portrush Golf Club
July 14 to 21 sees Royal Portrush Golf Club in County Antrim play host to the 148th Open, returning to Northern Ireland for the first time in almost 70 years. This is the fastest-selling championship in the Open’s history, with all four Championship days sold out (although some tickets are still available through Golf Packages - see NI Made for Golf for information).
If you weren’t lucky enough to secure a ticket, you can still visit the Royal Portrush and experience it for yourself. This private members’ club welcomes visitors on its Dunluce and Valley Links (all visitors should be members of a recognised golf club and present a certificate of handicap with a maximum of 18 for males and 24 for females).
The Royal Portrush is also well-situated for exploring other nearby attractions including the Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills whiskey distillery and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.
For stunning views… Portstewart Golf Club
Portstewart Golf Club
Located just over 10 minutes’ drive from the Royal Portrush is the three-course Portstewart Golf Club in County Derry-Londonderry.
In 2017, this welcoming club hosted the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, with winner Jon Rahm describing it as “one of the most beautiful golf courses I have ever seen, if not the most”. It’s not hard to see why; the Strand Course has stunning views of the Atlantic with its foaming, crashing waves.
Of course, there are great food and drink options available at the club, but visitors can also venture outside the golf course to neighbouring Harry’s Shack, a beach shack offering delicious fresh, locally sourced seafood, coffees and sweet treats. Booking is advisable.
For more great golf content head over to NI Made for Golf - our dedicated golf website.