Top 5 golf courses in Northern Ireland

Matt Ginella's top courses to play in the home country of the 2019 Open Championship.

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Northern Ireland is the United Kingdom's smallest country in terms of both land mass and population. There are fewer than 2 million residents and it makes up just a small sliver of the Emerald Isle.

But in terms of a golf destination, Northern Ireland punches well above its weight. in recent years, homegrown stars Rory McIlory, Graeme McDowell aand Darren Clarke all won majors. The country also hosted a widely successful 2012 Irish Open at Royal Portrush, and in 2019, the R&A returns The Open to Portrush for the first time since 1951.

With the worst of The Troubles in the rearview mirror, tourism and especially golf tours have returned in a big way lately. The country is most famous for its two Royal courses, County Down and Portrush, but the roster goes far deeper than that, both with links and even inland parkland courses around Belfast.

Ginella discussed Northern Ireland on Golf Channel's Morning Drive and ranked the courses to play. You can view his picks and reasons in the video above.

Ginella's Top 5 golf courses in Northern Ireland

Newcastle, County Down
Public
3.5194857143
12

Portrush, County Antrim
Private
4.9796
19

Ardglass, County Down
Public
4.3927882353
35

Portstewart, County Londonderry
Semi-Private
4.7959142857
8

Castlerock, County Londonderry
Semi-Private
4.9411764706
11

I can't argue much with his list, as these are the go-to links to play when visiting. In my opinion, Northern Ireland can go toe-to-toe with Ireland's popular southwest in terms of appeal for golf groups. Here are a few things the North can boast over the southwest:

  • A great city to explore. Belfast is a great size for tourists and has all sorts of sites, from historic and uplifting to more graphic and hostile histories of The Troubles. It's a fascinating -- and now safe -- place to poke around.
  • Southwest Ireland has the Ring of Kerry, but Northern Ireland's County Antrim has the remarkable Giant's Causeway, as well as Dunluce Castle ruins, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and more unique sights. And of course, whiskey at the Bushmills Distillery.
  • The roads are superior to most of Ireland (especially northwest Ireland), should you plan on self-driving during your golf tour.

Speaking of the northwest, it's a natural add-on for longer trips to include the Glashedy Links and Old Course at Ballyliffin, the Dunes Course at Enniscrone, the Sandy Hills Course and Old Tom Morris Course at Rosapenna and more.

Interested in playing golf around Belfast? You can browse course reviews and tee times on its destination page.

August 13, 2018
Let our editorial team help plan your next golf trip to Ireland or Northern Ireland

Matt Ginella is Golf Advisor's Editor-at-Large and host of Golf Advisor Round Trip travel series on Golf Channel. Matt serves as resident buddy trip expert and captains a collection of VIP trips called Golf Advisor Getaways.
Brandon Tucker is the Sr. Managing Editor for GolfPass and was the founding editor of Golf Advisor in 2014, he was the managing editor for Golf Channel Digital's Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and nearly 600 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at @btuck34.
3 Comments
Commented on

But Ballycastle has some of the best views in all of golf.

Staff
Commented on

We're referring to public golf. Most of your 1-2 punch offerings are private.

Default User Avatar
Commented on

Best One-Two punch in golf! Really??

That's a bold and likely inaccurate statement given the proximity an likes of a Royal Melbourne-Kingston Heath; Shinnecock-NGLA; Pine Valley-Merion; or even a Cypress Point-Pebble Beach.

Once again, Matt pulls statements out of his rear expecting the golfing public to make a wholesale purchase of it. Someone please let Brad Klein do the editorial checking.

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Top 5 golf courses in Northern Ireland