From Dublin to Donegal, Ireland is blessed with more than 250 golf courses, a kind of North Carolina of the European golf scene. Possibly the most scenic and charming golf destination on earth (and host of the 2006 Ryder Cup Championship), Ireland allows idyllic castle hotels to serve as a base for a number of courses within an hour’s radius, and a drive through countryside that can be as enjoyable as the time spent on the fabled links.
If you want to start at the top of the greenest of the greens in the south, the celebrated Ballybunion Golf Club is most golfers’ vacation of choice. Stretched along the blustery gray coastline of County Kerry and facing the Atlantic, the Old Course opened in 1893 on superb terrain. Its closing stretch is still considered among the most difficult anywhere in the world, a “true test of golf,” to quote Tom Watson, five-time British Open champion.
Many flock to the challenging Portmarnock Golf Club, 6 miles north of Dublin, long considered Ireland’s premier golf club, but the tried-and-true links of the Southwest remain the busiest and most visited destinations for golfers coming for the first time to Ireland. In addition to Ballybunion’s Old Course, there are the scenic Waterville Links, the picturesque Killamey, outstanding Tralee, and the famed Lahinch—the St. Andrew’s of Ireland.