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Northern Ireland is Made for Golf

​Home to major champions and major golf courses, Northern Ireland is a destination at the heart of the game’s past, present and future and one that every golfer should experience​

  • 19 February 2019

PHOTO: The stunning Mourne Mountains sweeping down to the sea providing the backdrop for Royal County Down Golf Club.​

Northern Ireland punches far above its weight on the global golf stage, having produced three champions with six Major titles between them in the last decade – Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke.

Its success is no coincidence, however. Underpinning that are some of the finest golf courses to be found anywhere in the world and many of the game’s greatest players have trodden their hallowed fairways down the years.

While the land of the Giant’s Causeway has been something of a slumbering giant as a golf destination in comparison with its neighbours up until now, it has been roused under the increasing glare of the golfing world’s spotlight thanks to its superstar venues.

Royal Portrush and Royal County Down are rated among the best in the world for their championship links with the latter, just an hour south of Belfast, topping the world’s 100 greatest courses rankings by Golf Digest in 2016 and 2017. 

Royal Portrush, on the Causeway Coast, will focus the global spotlight on Northern Ireland even more when it hosts The 148th Open for the second time in June. Nearby Portstewart​, another celebrated links course, also helped raise the bar when it staged the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in July 2017, attracting a host of golf stars with its purse of £5.5 million and providing Spain’s Jon Rahm with his first European Tour victory.

Golfers from all over the world make a spiritual pilgrimage to play Northern Ireland’s celebrated Royal links championship courses and both have a distinguished pedigree. 

Golf legends Old Tom Morris, Harry Colt and Harry Vardon all put their stamp on Royal County Down’s Championship Links. Old Tom Morris was brought in to extend the original nine holes to 18 through dunes below the Mourne Mountains in 1889, for the princely sum of £4, while Harry Vardon and Harry Colt subsequently made changes, some holes later modified by Donald Steel. Besides the Irish Open, it has hosted many top tournaments, among them eight Ladies’ British Open Amateur Championships, the Curtis Cup in 1968 and the Walker Cup in 2007. Its par-66 Annesley course is also highly rated.

Founded in 1898 with two 18-hole courses, Royal Portrush Golf Club’s celebrated Dunluce Links was redesigned by Harry Colt in 1932 and has hosted the Open once before, in 1951, when Max Faulkner won. Its 17th and 18th holes have been replaced by spectacular new 7th and 8th holes, borrowed from an area of duneland spanned by two holes of its sister Valley course, to allow for the spectator village area at The 148th Open from 14th -21st July this year. The new holes opened for play to critical acclaim in June 2017. Other tournaments it has hosted include the Irish Open four times and the Senior British Open six times. Royal Portrush also offers the par-70 Valley course. 

It may not have the royal monicker, but Portstewart Golf Club, just 15 minutes from Royal Portrush, has 54 holes of links golf and boasts one of Ireland’s most modern clubhouses, completed in 2009. Its Strand Course, venue for the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, is set amidst towering dunes between the Atlantic and the River Bann and its opening hole is regarded by many as the best in Ireland. 

To learn more about golf in Northern Ireland, visit https://discovernorthernireland.com/golf/​

This article is produced in association with Tourism NI​