For some, the promise of 18 holes is enough to entice them anywhere. But what if you need to convince your loved ones to come with you to golfing paradise?
Luckily, the island of Ireland provides the best of both worlds – amazing fairways, ideal greens, and plenty of historical and cultural attractions to keep you scintillated when the time comes to down your putter. With 400 golf clubs or courses on the island, there’s always going to be a new challenge if you love the game.
Off-course, there’s great craic, lovely people, and entertainment for all.
Belfast: The Royal Belfast Golf Club, and the Titanic Quarter
Currently located in the green opulence of Craigavad, Holywood, the Royal Belfast Golf Club (royalbelfast.com) is the oldest golf course on the island of Ireland, and a must for the discerning golfer.
Built in 1881, it was inspired by the course at St. Andrews, Scotland, and despite two relocations from its initial site at Kinnegar, the current 18-hole course is redolent with both heritage and tradition – the clubhouse is laden with golfing memorabilia.
While in Belfast, head to the Titanic Quarter. (titanic-quarter.com) One of the world’s largest urban-waterfront regeneration projects, this stunning site is situated on the 185-acres where the RMS Titanic was designed and built last century and is now home to the world-leading visitor attraction Titanic Belfast. (titanicbelfast.com)
You’ll be ready for a cuppa, so relax with a delightful afternoon tea at the Titanic Hotel Belfast (titanichotelbelfast.com) – don’t miss the piping hot scones and flaky pastries, or even top up with a glass of champers.
Lover of all things Westeros? The Game of Thrones© Touring Exhibition is currently on display in all its bloodthirsty glory at the TEC Belfast, until August 31. (tecbelfast.com)
The history-drenched Titanic Quarter also boasts luscious eateries for tourists.
County Kilkenny: Mount Juliet estate and golf club and the Smithwick’s Experience
The Royal Belfast Golf Club may be one of Ireland’s eldest courses, but by contrast Mount Juliet estate and golf club (mountjuliet.ie) is in its infancy, having opened in 1991. Despite being a comparative newcomer on the scene, the course has earned its stripes in the field by being designed by legend Jack Nicklaus – arguably the greatest golfer of all time. The Golden Bear crafted a nigh-on perfect course, combining rolling pastures, dense woodland, and, in Tiger Wood’s words ‘the best greens I’ve putted on’.
But where is the glory in exercise without a thirst-quenching pint afterwards? When in Kilkenny, head for a tour of the Smithwick’s brewery. (smithwicksexperience.com) In its current iteration, it has been brewing in Ireland since 1710, but the brewery has built upon a local tradition that dates back to the monks of the 13th century.
Dingle Peninsula: Dingle Golf Course, and Fungi the Dingle Dolphin
The Dingle Golf Course (dinglelinks.com) provides vistas of the peninsula that may be enough to distract even the most dedicated putter from their task. The traditional links offers unparalleled natural beauty, and a challenging game – the fairway has undulations and swales aplenty, and a particularly irksome winding stream that meanders through the entire course to test your mettle!
After that bucolic splendour, nothing could be more fun than a sea-trip to experience the azure majesty of Dingle Bay. Very likely you’ll spot a dolphin or a whale, though of course most visitors hope to spot the local aquatic celebrity – Fungie, the Dingle Dolphin. (dingledolphin.com) the gregarious bottlenose dolphin, first seen in the harbour in 1983, is famous for playing with swimmers, surfers, kayakers and divers.
County Clare: Lahinch Golf Club and the Burren Food Trail
Lahinch Golf Club (lahinchgolf.com) has won plaudits for being one of the best golf courses in the world, and is playing host to the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. However, these splendid links are arguably overshadowed by the Lahinch Golf Club goats, which roam the course freely.
Introduced to the course by a caddie in the early 1900s, the legendary Lahinch goats were used to anticipate weather changes: the further out across the sand hills they wandered, the better the weather would be. Don’t miss the chance to spot their descendants.
Less than an hour’s drive from the club is the Burren, (burren.ie) famed for its sustainable food ethos – in 2015 it was named as a European Destination of Excellence for Tourism and Local Gastronomy. From the Burren Smokehouse, to Linnane’s Lobster Bar, to Burren Nature Sanctuary and the Wild Kitchen, the gastronomic scene is diverse, delectable, and proudly local.
To experience the best the area has to offer, head to restaurants signposted as part of the Burren Food Trail.
County Wicklow: Druids Glen resort and the Powerscourt Estate
A short drive south of Dublin, Druid’s Glen resort offers an ideal contrast from the city’s urban bustle. Located in County Wicklow, the course is surrounded with natural beauty, 360 acres of countryside that stretches between the Wicklow Mountains and the Irish Sea. A 5-star resort, Druid’s Glen (druidsglenresort.com) has two championship courses: ‘The Druids Glen Golf Course’, one-time host to the Irish Open, and ‘Druids Heath Golf Course’, which has previously hosted the Irish PGA. The resort itself is a decadent delight, with fine dining, a lavish spa, and a health club.
Having developed a taste for luxury at Druids Glen resort, you’ll delight in a visit to Powerscourt Estate. (powerscourt.com) The Powerscourt Gardens were named the third Best Garden in the World by National Geographic – come and get lost in the beauty.
For holiday inspiration visit Ireland.com