Top 30 Golf Courses of Northern Ireland 2018
It’s twelve years since we began ranking courses in Northern Ireland and our first Top 10 chart in 2006 has grown slowly but surely, evolving into the Top 30 listing that we’re now publishing. With just over ninety courses located in the six counties, our coverage extends to nearly a third of these 9-hole and 18-hole layouts so we think we’re featuring the very best golfing tracks the country has to offer.
It’s remarkable to think a nation as small as Northern Ireland could produce three Major champions in the last few years – Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy – but not only does this little country produce great golfers, it’s home to some of the finest links and parkland golf courses that you’ll find anywhere in the British Isles, with design input from eminent architects such as Old Tom Morris, James Braid and Harry Colt.
The world-ranked championship links at Royal County Down and Royal Portrush grab all the headlines – and rightly so – but how many visiting golfers realise there’s another highly rated 18-hole track at each of these venues (the Annesley and the Valley)? And for those on a city break to Belfast, there’s a trio of fabulous parkland courses located within a 20-minute drive of the city centre at Malone, Belvoir Park and Royal Belfast.
Without further ado, here’s an overview of the latest standings for Northern Ireland, where The Championship course at Royal County Down is still our number 1. Architects Mackenzie & Ebert carried out recent improvements to the par four 17th, constructing a line of screening dunes to the right of the fairway to separate the hole from a new practice facility and this development is indicative of the club’s determination to retain the course’s reputation as one of the best links layouts on the planet.
Occupying the runner-up spot at number 2, the same position it held when we last updated the rankings two years ago, the Dunluce at Royal Portrush is another course that has just benefitted from upgrade work by Mackenzie & Ebert, with two stunning new holes replacing the old 17th and 18th in preparation for the club hosting the Open in 2019. A number of other modifications have been made to the course, which now awaits the long-awaited return of a prestigious championship that was last held here in 1951.
Moving up one place to number 3 in our new table, the Strand course at Portstewart lies five miles along the Causeway Coast from Portrush, near the mouth of the River Bann, and it’s one of three 18-hole layouts in operation at a very impressive golf facility. Since acquiring the dune-laden land at “Thistly Hollow” to fashion a new front nine on the Strand in the late 1980s, the club has never looked back, evidenced by it hosting the Irish Open this year and the Boys Amateur Championship next year.
A little further down our new rankings, the biggest upward move is made by the Annesley course at Royal County Down, which climbs four places to number 11. Three new holes have been added around the turn by the aforementioned architectural team of Mackenzie & Ebert and these have greatly improved this little beauty, prompting a recent reviewer to describe the course as “a really enjoyable authentic links experience… it really is a lot of fun… it’s definitely worth a round on the Annesley.”
Because we’re now expanding our chart to a Top 30, there are five new entries, the highest of which is Warrenpoint, debuting at number 24. Strictly speaking, the course is actually a re-entry as it last appeared in our 2014 listings but dropped out two years ago. The club celebrates the 125th year of its formation next year and its parkland course is laid out within a tight tract of land in the grounds of the Narrow Water Estate, close to where the Newry River enters Carlingford Lough. The back nine, holes 11 to 17 in particular, present a real challenge, with fairways routed across more testing terrain.
We’re pleased to receive feedback when we publish a revised national ranking chart so, if you have a strong opinion about our new Top 30 for Northern Ireland then feel free to let us know your thoughts. We might have left out a course that deserves to be listed or perhaps there’s one there that shouldn’t be included? Perhaps there’s a layout occupying a position that’s too high or too low in the standings? Please click the “Respond to this article” link at the bottom of the page if you’d like to let us know your thoughts.
|1||Royal County Down (Championship)||No change|
|2||Royal Portrush (Dunluce)||No change|
|3||Portstewart (Strand)||Up 1|
|4||Lough Erne (Faldo)||Down 1|
|5||Castlerock (Mussenden)||No change|
|6||Royal Portrush (Valley)||No change|
|7||Malone (Drumbridge & Ballydrain)||Up 1|
|9||Belvoir Park||Down 2|
|10||Clandeboye (Dufferin)||No change|
|11||Royal County Down (Annesley)||Up 4|
|12||Royal Belfast||Down 1|
|13||Galgorm Castle||Down 1|
|14||Kirkistown Castle||Down 1|
|15||Moyola Park||Up 1|
|19||Shandon Park||Down 1|
|20||Castlerock (Bann)||Up 5|
|30||City of Derry (Prehen)||New entry|
To view the complete detailed list of the Top 30 Golf Courses in Northern Ireland click the link.
Top 100 Golf Courses