COUNTY CAVAN, Ireland - I couldn't believe my luck of the Irish.
Here I stood, on the second-hottest day ever recorded on the Emerald Isle in July 2022, on a parkland course so surprisingly good that I couldn't comprehend just how I had ignored it all these years.
PGA National Slieve Russell has never been on American television like Adare Manor or the K Club's Palmer North Course. It's relatively unknown overseas in the United States, unlike the two past hosts of the Irish Open and two Ryder Cup venues.
After teeing it up, I'll vouch that it's legit. Unfortunately, it's tucked into the midsection of the Irish countryside and a bit out of the way for any Americans chasing only links golf experiences.
Here's where I try to convince you that parkland courses such as Slieve Russell are worth the detour. While the links courses are the main reason to plan a golf trip to Ireland, you shouldn't stick entirely to links. Variety is good, and so are the Irish parklands.
Playing one of Ireland's best parkland golf courses gives traveling golfers a break from all that walking by providing a cart. Plus, the premier parklands tend to host many of the major tournaments, so they're world-class. Two famous parklands will be headliners on your TV screen in the near future. The K Club is the venue for September's 2023 Horizon Irish Open, where GolfPass co-founder Rory McIlroy will compete in preparation for Italy's Ryder Cup a couple of weeks later. Looking further ahead, Adare Manor is scheduled for the 2027 Ryder Cup.
In honor of St. Patrick's Day, let's tour the 10 best parkland golf courses in Ireland. Adding any of them to your next Irish golf vacation would be wise.
Adare Manor, Adare
A massive renovation of both the Robert Trent Jones Sr. course and the historic calendar house completed in 2017 has elevated Adare Manor to the next level. The beautiful design that winds along the Maigue River is now immaculate. Hosting last year's JP McManus ProAm charity tournament streamed on GolfPass was just a taste of what's to come at the '27 Ryder Cup.
Palmer North Course at The K Club, Dublin
The Palmer North Course at The K Club will always strike fear into American hearts. The Euros crushed Tiger, Lefty and friends there in the 2006 Ryder Cup. The River Liffey interacts with three of the Palmer North Course's most famous holes with the historic hotel as a backdrop. The K Club changed ownership in 2020, so heavy investment has brought it back up to the standards of its glory days from 15 years ago.
PGA National Slieve Russell, Ballyconnel
PGA National Slieve Russell helped hone the game of LPGA Tour pro Leona Maguire. Its rolling hills and lake holes are gorgeous. Overall, the experience at the Slieve Russell Hotel Golf & Country Club, from the accommodations to the restaurant, is top notch.
Druids Glen Golf Club, Newtonmountkennedy
The Druids Glen Golf Club is part of a nice 36-hole golf resort that's one of the best in Ireland. Druids Glen, designed by Pat Ruddy and Tom Craddock, boasts a fearsome reputation for narrow fairways and water hazards. Its nickname is "the Augusta of Ireland" for its beautiful rolling terrain and commitment to conditioning. "I was so impressed with everything about this course. From the hole layouts to the carpet-like fairways and slick (but fair) greens I really enjoyed my experience," wrote GolfPass reviewer 'Phaytrick' in 2021.
Killeen Course at Killarney Golf & Fishing Club, Killarney
The Killeen Course is the headliner at the 36-hole Killarney Golf & Fishing Club. The scenery along the Lough Leane leaves a lasting impression. The Killeen Course has hosted four Irish Opens (1991-92, 2010-11) and a Curtis Cup. "Beautiful course with stunning views every hole. Very playable for different level golfers", wrote GolfPass reviewer 'nomossgolf' in 2022.
Cork Golf Club, Little Island
As one of two Dr. Alister MacKenzie courses in Ireland, the Cork Golf Club is revered by Americans. It's got some quirks but also some unforgettable holes in an old rock quarry. Cork Golf Club is best paired with a visit to the incredible Old Head Golf Links in southwest Ireland.
Mount Juliet Golf Club, Thomastown
Mount Juliet Golf Club is the other Nicklaus course that, too, has hosted major events, including the 2021 Irish Open and WGC-American Express Championships in 2002 won by Tiger Woods and 2004 by Todd Hamilton. The estate's grounds at Mount Juliet are immaculate, serving as one of Ireland's most luxurious golf resorts. "I play Mount Juliet quite regularly. It is just about as good as a parkland course gets. Excellent welcome from staff. A great round of golf on a beautiful conditioned course rounded off by a lovely meal in Jacks bar after. I can say enough good things about Mount Juliet" wrote GolfPass reviewer 'Patrick6605540' in 2022.
Killeen Castle Golf Club, Dunsany
Killeen Castle Golf Club hosted an emotional 2011 Solheim Cup won in dramatic fashion by the European team. It is one of only two Jack Nicklaus designs in Ireland. "The fairways and greens were in great shape. Some beautiful holes and great views of the castle. The staff in the pro shop were also extremely welcoming" wrote GolfPass reviewer 'WilliamHolmes' in 2020, the most recent review.
Galgorm Castle, Ballymena, Northern Ireland
Galgorm Castle - host of the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the 2021 and 2022 ISPS HANDA World Invitational, a DP World Tour event featuring both men and women - is one of Northern Ireland's best courses and also one of its best resorts. Loads of water will keep your attention. "Loved the course and the greens rolled as good as most summer greens. Awesome stuff", wrote 'Ozzy1967' in a November 2022 review.
Dromoland Castle Golf Club, Newmarket On Fergus
Dromoland Castle was designed by another Irish legend, Joe Carr, and American Ron Kirby. Dromoland Castle's golf course boasts a good reputation, and what Yankee wouldn't love teeing off with an authentic Irish castle as the backdrop? It's also an ideal round and stay upon landing or departure day at the nearby Shannon airport.