Ireland’s capital and largest city, Dublin, is a city seething with stimulating sightseeing attractions, championship golf courses and, of course, beer. The juxtaposition of the city’s time-honored beauty and newfound vivacity has created an eccentric tourist destination that caters to many different kinds of people.
With an abundance of castles, pubs, universities and golf courses, there is plenty to do around Dublin to fill an entire itinerary. And I've put together a guide to enjoying the best of Dublin that starts with where to play golf.
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Where to play golf in Dublin, Ireland
The first course to add to your Dublin golf itinerary is Portmarnock, which occupies a serene 500-acre peninsula that juts out into the Irish Sea about 10 miles north of the city center. The club was the site of the initial Irish Open in 1927, the first of 19 it has hosted. The famous links has held many other important championships as well, including the only British Amateur held outside of the U.K. in 1949. Arnold Palmer is particularly fond of the course, and has described the 15th, which plays along the shoreline, as the best par 3 in the entire world.
Designed by well-known Irish golf writer and course architect Pat Ruddy, the European Club is an exercise in perspicuity: there are no caddies, there is hardly a clubhouse, and you will likely be greeted by either Mr. Ruddy or his son. The course, located about an hour south of Dublin along the coast, features sea views on 19 of 20 holes (yes, there are two bonus par 3s!) and captures both the golfer’s attention and imagination. The first truly great hole comes at the third -- a long, downhill par 4 which bobs and weaves playfully amongst the towering dunes.
The K Club-Palmer Course is the crown jewel of Ireland’s most lavish golf resort. The course famously hosted the thrashing of the U.S. team by Europe at the 2006 Ryder Cup and is set to host this year’s Irish Open. There is nary a blade of grass out of place on this lush layout, and the serene River Liffey comes into play on a number of holes. With plenty of water, trees and punishing rough, the course was designed as an intimidating championship test, so make sure to bring your A-game.
The often overlooked Island Golf Club is one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets, having only come to relative prominence in 1999, when it hosted the Irish PGA Championship. The original designers lacked the means to tame this wild terrain, resulting in a quirky layout which fully incorporates its awe-inspiring surroundings.
County Wicklow, located just south of Dublin and nicknamed the “Garden of Ireland,” is fittingly home to Druids Glen, or Ireland’s version of Augusta National. The course is nestled between the Wicklow Mountains and the Irish Sea and offers a dazzling medley of colors and scenery. This four-time host of the Irish Open is not your typical Irish links, but it is certainly an integral part of a complete Dublin golf itinerary.
Another lesser-known Irish gem is County Louth, which is located just under an hour north, up the coast from Dublin. The greens at Baltray, as the course is better-known, are some of the best in Ireland and avoiding a three-putt is a challenge. Guests at the club can expect 18 consistently fabulous holes, all presented in pristine condition and all playable for any level of golfer.
In Part 2, I’ll let you know where to stay, eat and drink in Dublin.
Jonathan Alden is a contributor at Golf News Net and the founder of Worldwide Golf Adventures, a golf travel company based in Austin, TX that offers dream vacations to the world's top golf destinations.