The Island - Dublin - Ireland

The Island Golf Club,
Corballis,
Donabate,
Co. Dublin,
Ireland


  • +353 (0) 1843 6205



The Island in Ireland was once on an island. It’s now attached to the mainland but it’s still an isolated peninsula-like spur of links land, sandwiched between the Irish Sea, the beach of Donabate and the Broadmeadow estuary.

Few people know about The Island Golf Club, despite the fact that the course is over 100 years old and has featured in numerous ranking tables over the years. One leading UK golf magazine once commented: “The best course in Ireland you have never heard of. Play it and tell no-one.”

Bernard Darwin was certainly aware at the turn of the 20th century because in his book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, he wrote extensively about Royal Dublin and Portmarnock and said: “It would be unfair to omit some mention of Malahide – ‘the Island’ – where there is golf to be had, which may legitimately be called sporting in the best sense of the word.”

Ten Irishmen, known as the “Syndicate”, founded the club in 1890 and they needed a ferryman to take them from Malahide across the estuary to play golf. When they were set to return to the mainland, they would hang a large red and white disc from the clubhouse wall to signal that they were ready for pickup by the water taxi. A “Syndicate” of ten ran the Island Golf Club until the late 1950s and since then, the club has opened up its membership.

This is a no-frills golf course. There is nothing artificial, it’s simply harmonious and in tune with its surroundings. Some of the most shaggy, rugged and looming sand dunes imaginable provide natural and distinct amphitheatres for many of the holes. In the summer, if you are unfortunate and wayward enough to find the dunes, be careful to avoid trampling on the wild dune flowers. The club is quite rightly proud of its flora. Expect to hear the hypnotic song of the lark – there are plenty to be heard and the skylark is the Island’s club emblem.

It is unclear who originally laid out the course, but the Island has been revised by Fred W. Hawtree, Eddie Hackett and more recently by Martin Hawtree. The challenge invariably comes from the wind and the ability to find the greens; these putting surfaces are some of the very best around. There are some great holes to choose from, but the signature hole and our favourite is the long par three 13th, measuring over 220 yards. There is a bail-out option short of the green to the left, but the brave will take on the beach, hoping that they strike the ball cleanly and that they have the right club in their hand.

Dublin is certainly awash with outstanding links golf courses and the Island is right up there with the very best. No trip to Dublin would be complete without a pint or two of the black stuff and a round at the Island.

Here’s a list of important tournaments recently hosted by The Island Golf Club: Irish Qualifying Competition for The Open Championship 2005, European Youths Amateur Team Championship 2004, Irish Ladies Close Championship 2004, Irish PGA Championship 1999, Irish Close Championship 1998. Darren Clarke holds the professional course record with a 63.

Mackenzie & Ebert were engaged to produce a master plan for the club in 2016 which resulted in the club reworking the bunkers on five holes (5th, 6th, 10th, 15th and 17th) over a couple of winters, changing the revetted style to a larger, rougher-edged shape. An old additional par three hole (completed during a Martin Hawtree renovation a few years ago) was then introduced as the new 4th hole with a raised tee in 2019. New tees for the new 5th (old 4th) were then bought into play and the green for that hole moved closer to the clubhouse.

The green for the old 7th was then pushed to the right and this hole became the new 8th, before the old 8th and 9th were combined to make a strong par four that plays 436 yards into the prevailing wind to a new green located in the carry of the original par three 9th hole. Like the 8th, a few new dunes were created around the green and along the fairway to blend the holes into the rest of the course. The old 9th is now a new short game area, next to the clubhouse.

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Reviews for The Island

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Description: The Island Golf Club is a no-frills golf course. There is nothing manicured and it’s all very harmonious and in tune with its surroundings. Rating: 8.6 out of 10 Reviews: 40
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Maarten

The fog was still hanging between the dunes adjacent to the first fairway, when our fourball teed off at this intimidating par 4 1st.

The Island lies on an exceptional piece of land with the sea on more than 180 degrees of the property, with flatter pieces of land on one side, and towering dunes in the middle. The holes wind through, over and besides them, and the exposure to the dunes is very well balanced throughout the round. You keep walking in and out and around them, with a lot of seaside/sight holes along the way. Only the 8th until the 11th hole offer some respite, although they include 3 long par 4s which demand proper shot making and an alert mind. Yet, the variety offered by the individual holes is quite something – you don’t quite notice there being just 3 par 5s and 3 par 3s until study in hindsight. Although you do notice the presence of a significant amount of long demanding par 4s. Another thing I loved about the flow of the round is that the round ends on the same note (look and feel) as it starts, with essentially a similar long par 4 in the other direction, going downhill, as the 1st, driving from the dunes into the open - it really completes the circle.

The big question with the Island to determine how good it really is: how strategic are these holes? Is it just a course for the more accomplished player? It sure is long and very demanding. I saw what this course could do to a good single-digit player with an off-day (who received his new nickname ‘Big B’ following an impressive birdie at the 2nd, but did not feel quite so big anymore afterwards). It is quite penal, certainly compared t to its nearby peers Portmarnock and Baltray. I do believe a shorter, worse golfer would have plenty of ways to plot his way around the golf course without losing too many balls. Be as it may, there are a number of all-world holes at the Island: 4, 6, 7, 12, 13, 15. The 4th and 15th visually stunning, the blind 6th and the diaphanous little par 4 7th simply irresistible to any purist. The others are no slouch. Although The Island’s quality does not lie in its subtlety, it’s an unforgettable course that shouldn’t be omitted on any Dublin itinerary – and it’s worth it’s green fee just as much as its more forgiving peers.

MO

September 09, 2022
8 / 10
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Jim Murphy

It was with great anticipation that i arrived at The Island on a recent sunny Sunday afternoon. Having played (arguably) a dozen of the top fifteen ranked Irish links, The Island was a notch on my golf belt that i had yet to carve.

Unfortunately, since this was an initial visit, i had not played the pre-2020 course that has had some major revisions to the front nine. Nonetheless, I soldiered on with some pretty high expectations that were mostly met.

I’m not into the hole-by-hole narrative that so many others here excel at, and (especially on seaside Links) rating holes on difficulty literally changes with the wind on a daily basis. But i will say the first is a strong opener in any wind direction. And that it immediately tells you the dune structure at The Island is more akin to those in SW and NW Ireland and not the more nuanced Links-land that the Dublin area presents. I understand that the 4th is a new hole, a shortish slightly downhill par 3 that i thought was fairly ordinary and not as dramatic as the other par 3’s.

The most compelling hole on the front is the ( inexplicably 18th indexed) 5th, a blind tee shot over large dunes, only guided by a large barber pole at the top of the hill. Over those dunes is a downward sloping fairway that heaves in all directions. A flat lie is not likely for the approach to a a green that is open for the ground game.

So while the front is a solid test, the back nine was the more difficult. The tenth ( par 5) doglegged around an OB barrier that tantalizes the longer hitter to take it on and get home in 2. Not a great hole, but it is saved by a terrific green complex that allows a safe approach to the left or a higher risk approach directly at the flagstick. 11 and 12 are the best back to back par 4’s at The Island , but they serve as merely a warm-up to the 222 yard par 3 13th that was played in the always uncomfortable left to right crosswind. The best comparison i can make is to the “ Calamity “ par 3 at Royal Portrush. Anything to the right of the Green is DOA , possibly even down on the beach that separates the estuary from the village of Malahide. Just a killer par 3.

From the sublime to the ridiculous: the 14th. So i have read about this hole for 20+ years as having the narrowest fairway in all of Europe, as narrow in one journal as 12 yards wide. So i thought it might be a gimmick with mounding that fed drives back into the ribbon fairway. The fact is the fairway does not get anything off-center funneled back to it. There is nothing but trouble and heavy rough to the left. And to the right, perhaps 25-30 feet of playable rough before the land falls off into the estuary.

Now i have no reason to dislike the hole as i actually hit the fairway and punched a 125 yarder to 18 feet of the flag. But it is not a hole that i would want to play regularly. Yes, it is whimsical and unusual, but it is jammed into a corner of the property like an afterthought. And for the record, i paced it off as 17 yards wide.

After that, The Island closes strong with holes played through some surreally large dunes. I enjoyed it very much, but while there are exhilarating sea views, quintessentially Irish big dunes, and many excellent holes,, there were a few weaklings ( number 6 in particular). I bring this up because i see many comparisons by reviewers between The Island and the similarly rated Baltray, located about 30 miles up the road.

The Island presents drama on the course, in the use of the dunes,in the views of the sea and the Malahide ‘skyline’ across the estuary on the southwest side of the property. The golfing ground is very good but there are a number of weak holes.

I find the totality of the golf holes at Baltray to be slightly better, with gentler land to start on the first 3 holes before moving into the superb long stretch from 4 to 16, before returning to the flatter ground for the finishing par 3 and par 5 . The fairway bunkering at Baltray is devious and perfectly placed in driving zones, while the greensites are so good that bunkering is often not necessary. To finish the comparison, I’d give Baltray the edge in turf quality and the only hole of the 18 that doesn’t rate with the rest of the course is the par 3 17th. The Island has its visual connection to the Irish Sea, and there are only a couple of glimpses of it at Co. Louth.

All in all, if i had to choose, there is more balance and playability at Baltray, and a much longer stretch of unbroken terrific golf holes than its neighbor to the south. But the Island can’t be beat for location relative to Dublin Airport and it’s genuine flavor of natural, west-of-Ireland dune land.

September 01, 2022
8 / 10
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Jim Murphy
September 20, 2022

One editing note, i mis-numbered hole 6 in above commentary as hole 5.and the handicap index of that terrific and unique hole is 16, not 18. And the “weakling” is number 7, not 6

Warren

This course was relentlessly good. A fantastic opening hole (despite early morning golfers blinded by sun) was followed by terrific golf through towering dunes. The front 9 had the best land but the back 9 may have been slightly more difficult. The thin 14th is an outrageous hole and I could imagine some potentially good stroke rounds ending at this point. The 13th was also a beauty and very tough into a SW breeze I would imagine.

The greens weren’t ultra perfect but good enough, especially for April. The back 9 started with a different setting, away from the dunes and a long sweeping left to right par 5 where you can take a bit off the OOB corner with your tee shot. You slowly made your way back to the dunes with the biggest ones in and around the 15th green. A great finishing hole to cap it off too.

Close to a perfect course. Strange that they have no nets and the driving range starts 400 yards away hitting back towards the club house but I was giving a courtesy shuttle to hit a few balls. Certainly not cheap at 200 euros so one should expect a great course and thankfully it was delivered. When I was last in the UK (4years) this website didn’t have half ball rankings so I would have given it 6 balls. When asked for my favourite courses this will certainly be in the discussion, but to date the conversation ends with Cruden Bay and the Old Course.

June 08, 2022
9 / 10
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Stuart Bendoris

I have just been lucky enough to have played 23 of Ireland's finest courses during the last fortnight. In conversation, most people asked are you playing Carne, Lahinch, Ballybunion, County Down, Portrush? Nobody mentioned the Island. It's probably a stretch to call the Island a hidden gem, sitting deservedly in Ireland's top 10 as it does, but it did feel like The Island flew under the radar somewhat before I had the pleasure of playing it.

Speaking to Members, they raved about the new Scottish Head Greenkeeper Neil Ballingall and the improvements he has made in a short time since starting. I found the course enchanting, teeing off as the sun rose over the Irish Sea. The 4th is a picturesque par three and epitomised the front nine which meandered through the dunes with a sense of benign seclusion from all other golfers. The back nine is more open and closer to the water - there we find the two contenders for the course's signature hole imo. I was left with no doubt playing the long par three 13th that this would be the outstanding hole, until I stood on the 14th tee. At just over 300 yards, it doesn't look jaw-dropping on the card but the golfer is faced with reputedly the narrowest fairway in Europe, water all down the right and rough and dunes on the left. Fortunately there was little or no wind when I played it and my driver (should have hit 5 iron!) thankfully found the slither of fairway but I shudder to think how this would play on a typically blustery links day with a nasty left to right crosswind. The 18th is a fine two shotter finale to a raised green, an honest but enjoyable hole which sums up the Island nicely. Whilst the dunes are not as dramatically large as Tralee or Ballybunion, there is a confident, understated feel to The Island - be in no doubt however, The Island is a superb course and the welcome from the staff (Connor, Keith, Nathan and others) was equally high-standard. I would definitely recommend adding the Island to an Irish golf trip and given it's close proximity to Dublin airport it is in an ideal location even for a weekend golf break where you could throw in Portmarnock, Baltray and even The European slightly further South to your itinerary.

October 12, 2021
9 / 10
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Tyler Webb

Hard not to enjoy The Island. By links standards, it is an easy walk. The dunes are not as large as you will find in the West/Northwest, but they shape the holes beautifully. The par 4-18th hole is an absolute monster of a closing hole.

The easy access from Dublin makes The Island a must add to any Ireland golf itinerary. The course is only 15 minutes from the airport.

September 08, 2021
9 / 10
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Doug Roberts

It has been a little while since I last played the Island. I revisited last week and it's better than I had remembered. They redid the 8th and 9th into a single hole and that was spot on what should have been done. There are a number of fantastic holes here. It's my opinion that this is the best golf in the Dublin area. A beautiful natural setting with a diverse selection of playing fields. Fabulous.

August 31, 2021
8 / 10
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Fergal O'Leary

The Island GC – there are four brand new holes on the renovated front nine, which has broken up the original flow of 8 par 4s and a par 3 to finish the outward half. The 3rd hole has been extended to a par 5 with new tee boxes, the 4th is a brand new par 3 carved out of the massive sand-dunes, the 5th has been extended into a long dog-leg left to right. Furthermore, the 8th and 9th holes are brand new long stellar par 4s which have been shifted in from the driveway. No real changes to the back nine. The Island oozes quality and is an absolute must-play. It is firmly among the best in Ireland.

June 26, 2021
9 / 10
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Richard Smith
June 27, 2021

The Island has always been one of my favorites and now I have even more reason to return. Thanks for the update Fergal.

Patrick Desmond

The Island: Fresh from its makeover in early 2020 by renowned architects Mackenzie & Ebert the Island has stepped up a notch from its well placed ranking # 8 in Ireland with a nice mix of holes on the front rather than the older format viz., eight par fours in a row! The opening hole is located in beautiful high dunes so this sets the scene for the astute player to decide on their strategy over the entire course. The course starts at a relatively nice pace over gentle terrain before gaining in momentum and excitement with a great mix of short and long holes. The new design now has great variety with different configurations, hazard placements, green shapes and green contours.

The new third is a par five followed by the fourth a par three which is a treat ‘postage stamp’ size with a great view over the Irish Sea but longer than 7th in Pebble beach which transitions you nicely through more dunes to the new lay-out holes. There are some great golfing holes at 5th, 8th and 9th replacing the short blind holes that persisted before the very welcome new routing with the ‘2020 vision’ of Ebert. One sensational hole follows another. Your enjoyment of the new front nine where you can open up will get you in good mood for the coming challenge of the back.

The 10th starts with the ‘road hole design’ reminiscent of 17th at St Andrews which invites the player to cut the corner on the right to shorten the hole. Players must play good golf to score well particularly on 12th, 13th, and 14th the most memorable/devilish trio of holes on the back. The 13th is not unlike the par three Calamity in Portrush at 220 yards with trouble on the right. The 14th fairway looks very narrow but it’s a short par four so being brave take out your driver and rip it - you will get your reward -- if you pull it off! The 15th is a beautiful par five – aim for the white disk afar in the distance and then wind your way down through some of the most spectacular secluded dunes anywhere.

The Island is now masterpiece both technically and visually, particularly if you’re a fan of dune land. It is an almost perfect case study of how you can use the natural lie of the land to frame holes instead of relying on expansive fairway bunkers. The holes pose a variety of risks and rewards and equally test length, accuracy and finesse. Players will finish on the great par four, index one, where you can see in the distance the flag 460 yards away from the elevated tee. If you have played it before and liked the old layout you will love the five new holes on the front. You’ll yearn to go round once again to see if you can improve... Expect the ranking of # 8 in Ireland and # 51 in UK & Ir. will be revised upwards before long. 9/10. pd

June 15, 2020
9 / 10
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Joe Egan

No golf excursion to the Dublin area is complete without a trip to The Island Club. While visiting the Emerald Isle last year, I had time for one last round to sneak in before catching my flight in the morning back to the United States. I hopped onto online forums and asked people at various stops--and back at home, as my father recommended the track--on the trip where I should bring my sticks for the final time. I gave a radius of 50 kilometers to include all of the Dublin area's best links. The overwhelming answer I received: The Island Club.

The round was like something out of a Ireland golf fantasy: joining me on the front nine were two members north of 70, who explained to me the history and importance of the course on a local scale. Said one of the elders: "I'd rather play here any day than Portmarnock."

Sporting small fairways, the course itself is tighter than most links, and there's elevation changes galore. Interestingly enough, the first eight holes are all par fours but the routing never grows tiresome and no two holes look the same. The fifth, a blind, downhill tee ball, is more forgiving than it looks. The two members noted to me that if you try to drive the green on the eighth hole, make sure you're able to fly the fescue that sits about 50 yards shy of the green. The back nine, a more traditional routing with two par threes and fives, is no slouch either. The three-hole stretch beginning on the 13th is one of the strongest I've ever seen on a golf course. The 13th is a long par three with a carry over the beach that surrounds the majority of the property is a mammoth test as views to the west captivate your eyes. The 14th is perhaps the hole The Island Club is most known for, with the skinniest fairway you'll ever see on a par four.

I didn't play Portmarnock, and I chose not to tee it up at The European Club or the K Club either. I never regretted once my decision to forgo these three, as The Island Club provided a unique and special Irish golf experience. Each hole is distinctive, and you'll be hard pressed to find a more affordable value. It's a must play in the area.

May 13, 2020
9 / 10
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Patrick Desmond
June 15, 2020

This review is now fiction as the 8 hole was dug up on 13 May 2020 as were most of the eight par 4's in a row.

Members telling you they less prefer Portmarnock are suffering from 'my beautiful child syndrome'.

pd

M. James Ward

One of the most important lessons I received came from some Irish insiders who advised me a round at The Island would be one I'd never forget. I've heard such talk over the years during my global forays and usually I simply acknowledge the "insights" and go about my merry way.

The Island proved itself to be even greater than the promotions I received.

The respective holes have been bandied about by others and my verbal inclusions won't likely add much.

The constant adjustments are front and center when playing. You also have a routing never allowing you to get too comfortable. As others have stated -- The Island is ever quick to apply some serious pain for the wayward. When in doubt if one's driver is misbehaving -- be resolute and select a club can find the shortgrass.

What fascinated me is you face eight consecutive par-4s at the outset and how each differs in terms of the challenge provided and the routing each takes. One can quibble and cite the fact three of the outbound par-4s turn left in the drive zone, but I dare say that's really being persnickety. I am a big time proponent of courses that call upon players to "work the ball" as the round warrants. The Island is quite finicky in this regard and that requirement is what elevates the experience in terms of identifying the talented from the less so.

The inward half is consummate mixture -- you have opportunities to score with the par-5 10th leading the way. Unlike so many par-5s you'd best realize no birdies are likely without the execution to back it up. Just be ever mindful of losing one's second shot a bit too far right!

The par-3 13th is clearly brilliant and has been highlighted, quite rightly, numerous times. It's great to see a long par-3 testing skills with the longest of clubs to a target that repels sloppy execution in the same manner that Superman does with bullets. The 13th has the goods to be front and center as a member of any all-star grouping of holes on The Emerald Isle.

My main disappointment rests with the much talked about short par-4 14th. I just don't see the merits in having a walking path as one's fairway. How much better would the hole would be with a wider fairway that gradually tapers down the more one seeks to propel the tee shot down the fairway. The green site is every good and I just view the overly narrow fairway as a contrivance -- no doubt, it's a contentious issue with proponents on both sides. The 14th is more of a talking point for the 19th hole and almost a distraction to the sum total of what The Island truly provides.

The final quartet of holes is exceptional as stated by a number of others. Each is a stern test and only the most resolute of players showcasing tenacity of the highest order will succeed.

I read a comment made by one earlier reviewer concerning how playability is more present with County Louth than The Island. I can't disagree with that salient point. The issue becomes one of balancing "playability" and "challenge." The Island is a links with teeth -- County Louth more so on the side of subtle architecture. Neither is wrong on what each seeks to do. The Island puts a rightful onus on one's tee game. You have temptations throughout the round to use the big stick but it takes ample dexterity to reap the rewards in doing so.

The Island is also one of those few courses where intrinsic beauty aligns so well with the architectural dimensions. In all of Ireland, there are few courses merging such a marvelous intersection of both elements. The firmness of the turf and the overall routing keeps the golf at a high level. You revel in the well-played shots you accomplish but even when you come up short -- you eagerly await the next opportunity to see if your game has what it takes.

Architecture aside -- the location is also meaningful because being in Malahide you are so near to all the action -- the restaurants, hotels, scenery -- you name it. That is -- if you can pull yourself away from what The Island clearly provides on the golf front. Given my numerous visits to Ireland over the years, The Island is among the Emerald Isle's top ten and a prime candidate for top five membership.

Lofty no doubt -- but The Island clearly stands apart. No golf visit to the Dublin area is complete without a rendezvous there.

M. James Ward

May 01, 2020
9 / 10
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M. James Ward
May 02, 2020

Please note my review is based on the layout that existed before the work that commenced in October 2019 following plans brought forward by the architectural firm of Mackenzie & Ebert.

Among the highlights are a new par-3 4th -- played from an elevated tee with the sea behind. The hole uses a greensite added as a 19th hole a few years back. This allowed for a new back tee and straightening of the former 4th turning the short dog-leg left par-4 into a more demanding 467-yard hole played into the prevailing wind. The plan also provides for a dramatic improvements including the elimination of the short par-4 8th and par-3 9th holes. Those two holes have now been combined into a lengthy par-4.

In addition, the previous 7th green has been moved so that the hole now plays now as a slight dog-leg right.

The "new" Island will feature these inclusions for the 2020 season and getting comments from those sampling the finished efforts will be of immense interest given the considerable standing of the course.