We have tried several times to mobilize our group of friends to go to Scotland and Ireland for our annual golf break, but we were never able to ‘sell’ these destinations to the entire group. The main problem to convince them has always been the weather. As we all live in The Netherlands, we know what it’s like to golf in the rain, holding umbrella’s, walking around in waterproof trousers and losing your grip due to wet gloves. When talking about golfing in Ireland, this is the image people have in their heads. Warmer destinations like Spain, Portugal, southern parts of France and Italy often get the most votes, especially if you are not a real golf nut like us. Quite a lot of golfers do not really care about which architect has built the golf course, they are not aware of the history of a course or how it was shaped. They just want good access (read: low flight fares), a nice hotel in a vibrant city, good food and decent golf courses at a reasonable price.
And that’s where the other problem comes into play; the famous Irish golf courses – like Old Head, Trump International, The European, Portmarnock GC – in Ireland are mainly priced towards US customers. US golfers are prepared to pay much more for a green fee – especially when they can tick them off their bucket list – and they just don’t take golf courses serious if the green fee is below €200.
For golfers from Continental Europe though – where the average green fee is around €60 – €85 for 18 holes – this is considered to be really expensive. And as people generally look at the best golf courses first, this gives a wrong impression of the rest of Irish golf clubs which are often priced very reasonable. Also, check our recent article ‘Which country gives you the most bang for your buck?‘ where the Republic of Ireland comes in 5th and Northern Ireland comes in as 2nd. As the top courses in Ireland are pretty overpriced, this must mean that the other courses are very affordable.
A recent study by Leading Courses has shown that accessibility (flights) – when planning a golf trip – is one of the most important factors when deciding whether to go to a country or not. Dublin Airport handles more than 30 million travellers and serves 180 routes with 41 airlines. Finding a good flight to and from Dublin should not be a problem at all. And when we visited Dublin, we must have had the best weather in years. We stayed four days (from Friday till Monday) in June and we had great temperatures (25°C or 77°F) and sun all four days in a row. So, the weather in Ireland can be very good as well!
Below a map is provided of the Dublin golf courses that we played. As you can see, we focused on links’y’ courses located in the Northern part of Dublin and also tried not to play courses that were priced beyond €175. The location of the selected golf clubs is very convenient for a short trip, as Dublin Airport is also located in the northern part of Dublin.
We plotted the golf courses we played around Dublin on a map shown above (with the hotel) so that everyone has a good understanding of our whole golf trip. If you do not care about being in Dublin for the nightlife, then two great options when playing just north of Dublin are the Portmarnock Hotel or at The Grand in Malahide. Our hotel – The Clayton Burlington – was good – decent rooms, good breakfast and a nice bar – and more importantly was in a very nice neighbourhood. It’s located close to Leeson Street which has some nice clubs and restaurants – like House Dublin – and Baggot street which is also home to a lot of nice pubs (O’Donoghues) and restaurants.
During our four-day stay in Dublin, we played four Irish golf courses: Howth Golf Club, Portmarnock Hotel & Links, Royal Dublin Golf Club and The Island Golf Club. We started off with Howth Golf Club – the least known of the four Dublin golf clubs – but according to golfers on Leading Courses well worth a visit.
The welcome at Howth Golf Club – the first golf club we played in the Dublin area – was very warm. Very friendly staff and the members really are proud of their course and they should be.
This is a very strenuous (read: hilly) golf course – designed by James Braid – with small and firm greens and beautiful views across the Dublin Bay and sea. And the best thing is, this course is still priced reasonably (although prices have gone up in the last couple of years). Howth Golf Club is situated amidst the Hill of Howth just a few kilometres from Dublin. We all really liked the course and we certainly qualify this course as a hidden gem. There are a few strange crossings (where you have to cross a green from the tee) but that is probably because of the available area on a hill and they might also have lengthened the course in time which made them decide to make such choices.
Tip: if you need to play more days in a row, then take a buggy! And you need a code to make use of the locker rooms, so make sure to ask this in the pro shop before you start your round.
Quick details of Howth Golf Club:
Portmarnock Hotel & Links is a totally different experience than the Howth Golf Club. This is not a members club and the luxurious entrance of the resort indicates just what to expect. The green fee is not cheap, but you get a good and well-maintained course for that money. And if you stay at the Portmarnock Hotel, you can get a nice deal on your green fee.
The staff is correct and efficient, the only drawback when we arrived was the lack of trolleys (or buggies). Some of us even had stand bags, which they had to carry for about 8 holes. The staff was friendly enough to bring the trolleys out to us, so compliments for that. The course itself is good, with some really scenic and enjoyable holes. We all loved the grass pathways between the holes. Often people rave about Portmarnock Golf Club (the old course), but this course is certainly well worth a visit as well. Very friendly starter by the way! Great chap.
Tip: We missed the correct entrance to the pro shop. The entrance of the pro shop is on the right-hand side when you are in front of the building. So try to park over there, it saves you a stroll through the hotel. The hotel looked very nice as well, this is a great place to stay if you are playing any courses nearby.
Quick details of Portmarnock Hotel & Links:
Driving up to Bull Island takes you back in time. The only entrance to Royal Dublin Golf Club is via a narrow wooden bridge and when arriving at Royal Dublin it’s clear that this club is proud of its history and is trying to hold on to traditional values (proper attire, white socks, no mobile phones, etc.). We didn’t mind and it actually adds to the experience.
The course itself is almost entirely flat, well maintained with a great layout designed by H.S. Colt. We had a great day here and the 18th hole is a lovely dogleg to finish the round. The course initially was located in Phoenix Park but moved to Bull Island in 1889. This island is now a nature reserve, which is quite a contrast with the heavy industry in the backdrop in the harbour. But, in our opinion, that view grows on you during your round.
Tip: If it is sunny and if you want to play in shorts here, make sure to bring white ankle socks. You need a code to make use of the locker rooms, which is provided in the pro shop.
The drive up to The Island Golf Club is great, with the estuary on your right and views of the city of Malahide. The Island in early days was actually located on an island – hence the name – but as time went by it became a peninsula.
The location of the course is fabulous, with the sea on three sides. This is golf at its best. Nothing is artificial, with great dunes in lovely scenery. The views of the sea and Malahide are magnificent. Some greens lie in natural amphitheatres and when talking about the greens, they were great. Fast and fair and a delight to putt on these surfaces. The Island is not as known as other famous courses but certainly should rank amongst the best. We believe more golfers will visit The Island, but let’s also try to keep it a hidden gem!
We had a blast in Dublin. The weather was perfect, the golf courses were all great and a joy to play and the nightlife in Dublin was not too bad either. Finding a nice bar or a good restaurant shouldn’t be a problem at all! We had some great meals thanks to TripAdvisor (yes, we love review sites!). We went to BANG Restaurant & Bar (good decent food), Matt The Thresher (great oysters and seafood) and The Sussex Restaurant (good hamburgers or fish & chips).
Hotels can be quite expensive when you want to stay in Dublin, due to the many international companies located in Dublin. If you do not need to stay in Dublin, then our advice would be to book a nice little hotel in the villages around Dublin, like Malahide and Sutton or stay at one of the golf courses. This will save you big time on your green fee.
Summarizing: if you want to play the most famous golf courses in Ireland, then you must be prepared to spend some money. The courses we played were all below the € 175,00 and well worth the money. Playing even more expensive courses will not improve the quality or the overall experience according to us. Playing less expensive courses is also perfectly possible and based on the talks we had with locals and other golfers – and by checking our own website – they will give you great value for money.
We played 4 of the 6 best golf courses in the Dublin area, but if you would play the next tier of golf clubs, you would still have a great golf trip. In that case, we would recommend playing:
Till next time! Sláinte!
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