Ireland's Bucket List Golf Courses

What courses to play on an Irish golf vacation


The only country in the world that can compare to Scotland for concentration of world ranked links in a small area is Ireland. Ireland's bucket list golf courses demand that, we go to all points of the compass. We explore what courses to play on an Irish golf vacation

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

Royal County Down

Sitting in the Murlough Nature Reserve and overlooked by the magnificent Mourne mountains, there a few more stunning pictures than Royal County Down, the world’s highest rated golf course according to Golf Digest on their 2016 rankings. It’s a permanent top-10 resident on other lists. It’s played on the way from Dublin to Belfast in preparation for the courses of the Antrim coast. It books up quickly though. They open their diary in the third week of May for play the following year. Be ready to move when they do. If you leave it later, then you’re unlikely to ‘get on’


Ballybunion is the highest rated course in the Irish Republic. It typically earns a ranking of about #25 and can be found on the west coast. It’s part of a trio of top-100 links that includes Lahinch and Waterville and is usually played as the middle one of these three. It has to be played on a midweek date though

11th Hole. Image courtesy of Ballybunion GC


The Island


Image by David Cannon licensed to Royal Portrush GC 

Portrush 5th

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

Royal Portrush

Royal Portrush is on the northern Antrim coast and is the only course in Ireland to host the Open championship. Although it can be day-tripped from Belfast and some of our more truncated itineraries do this, the better way of playing is to spend time in the area where you can take visitor attractions such as the Giants Causeway and the Carrick-u-Rede ropebridge, whilst also adding neighbouring Portstewart to your haul.

Again, Portrush is busy and needs booking early. It’s often helpful to make use of their waiting list, which can mean making a discreet move in February for play the following year.


Portmarnock is only 20 mins from Dublin airport which means that it often becomes the focus of a first or last assignment in an itinerary dependent on your point of arrival. It seems to be the course that the international rating agencies struggle to agree on. We’ve seen rankings ranging from top-20 to about #80. One of the choices you have to make is whether or not to stay in Portmarnock, or whether to use Dublin instead. The Island course and the Portmarnock Links (not to be confused with the ‘golf club’) are neighbours that can help you prolong your stay in the Dublin area without feeling as if you’re forcing the issue.

Portmarnock 4th

Image by Kevin Murray CLICK 

6th green, Lahinich

Image permission courtesy of Kyle Cannon, Lahinch GC

17th Green


Waterville is the most southerly and remote of the Ireland’s world top-100 courses. By the time you’ve played here and Portrush in the north you’ll have gone to all points of the compass. It’s usually one of the easier courses to ‘get on’ but its inclusion is really framed by Ballybunion as it becomes quite difficult to justify the trek otherwise. We tend to encourage people to stay in the town of Dingle as your base of choice for picking these three. You can also add either of Tralee or Dooks to the itinerary to try and reduce some of the mileage associated with a big single push to get back from Waterville and onto your next assignment


If you’re landing at Shannon airport, (and there are good logistical grounds for doing so if you can) then Lahinch is your most logical first course to play. It’s also only 20 mins from Ireland’s legendry ‘Cliffs of Moher’ so allows you to pick-up an ‘A-list’ visitor attraction on the same day. Lahinch is a small village however and the accommodation offer restricted. You’re probably best to begin moving south and spending the first evening in Limerick so as to put you in a better position for Ballybunion the following day

10th hole

Image permission courtesy of Kyle Cannon, Lahinch GC

Sample Itinerary - The Full Irish

Attempting to scoop the Irish cream and 'get the lot' involves going to all points of the compass. It can be done however


Sample Itinerary - Ireland with Scotland

If you're in pursuit of the course rankings list hen you can might forego west Ireland to combine the east coast with Scotland


Sample Itinerary - Ireland with England

The Irish east hosts 3 of the games giants. England's north west (Birkdale, Lytham, and Hoylake) becomes a high-quality possibility to combine


Northern Ireland

Ireland is a beguiling country of contrasts. Nowhere more so than the north. Visitors have a particularly enticing cluster of attractions


Review from California

The logistics were spotless…100% of the transports were on time and excellent, the lodging choices spectacular and the golf was off the charts in terms of quality and arrangements made


Review from Connecticut

Alun's focus on the details was extraordinary from the choice of courses and the timing of the tee times, the amazingly beautiful accommodations along with some excellent meal selections, and the transportation options he provided to get us from place to place. It was truly a wonderful experience and even though I initially viewed the trip as a bucket list “once in a lifetime” experience”


Review from Northern Ireland & UAE

The trip had to be postponed Three times, Alun came repeatedly to the rescue. An absolute credit to his business! The four of us are eternally grateful for the most brilliant trip. We honestly couldn't have done it without Faraway Fairways. Will 100 percent use again.