Royal County Down (Championship) - Down - Northern Ireland

Royal County Down Golf Club,
Newcastle,
County Down,
BT33 0AN,
Northern Ireland


  • +44 (0) 28 4372 3314


According to the results of a Top 100 survey, Royal County Down is the most scenic golf course in Britain & Ireland.

There is always lively discussion about which golf course is better than another, but none is more passionate than the debate over the relative merits of Royal County Down and Royal Portrush. If you haven’t played either of them yet, we recommend a golf trip to Northern Ireland; you certainly won’t be disappointed by Royal County Down.

Royal County Down Golf Club is at Newcastle, a little holiday town nestling at the feet of the majestic Mountains of Mourne. It’s an exhilarating location for a classic links golf course where the Bay of Dundrum sweeps out into the Irish Sea and where the mighty peak of Slieve Donard (3,000 ft.) casts its shadow over the town.

A Scottish schoolteacher called George L. Baillie, who was on a personal mission to establish golf courses, originally laid out the first nine holes at Newcastle and they opened for play in 1889. Later that year, Old Tom Morris was paid the modest sum of four guineas to extend the course and 18 holes were ready for play in 1890. Harry Vardon modified the course in 1908, the same year King Edward VII bestowed royal patronage on the club.

Royal County Down maintains tradition; the “Hat Man” still mixes the pairings for the Saturday matches (foursomes in the winter and four-balls in the summer) as he did around 100 years earlier.

Bernard Darwin commented that the greens “lie, moreover, in a good many instances, in those pleasing little hollows which are the most adroit flatterers in the whole world of golf.” In 1926 Harry Colt was commissioned to make further alterations to the course which included addressing the gathering nature of the original greens and reducing the number of blind drives.

Old Tom however deserves most credit for the layout and he was presented with an idyllic piece of ground on which to design a golf course. The sand dunes are rugged but beautifully clad in purple heather and yellow gorse, the fairways are naturally undulating, shaped by the hands of time. The greens are small and full of wicked borrows.

Measuring nearly 7,200 yards from the back tees, Royal County Down is a brute. It’s a mystery that this fantastic course, with one of the finest outward nine holes in golf, has never hosted an Open. Factor in the ever-changing wind and you have as stern a test as any Open Championship venue.

The 4th and 9th holes are both universally admired. The 4th must be one of the most scenic long par threes in golf described as follows by one commentator: “Innumerable gorse bushes, ten bunkers, three mountain peaks, and one spire equal the most magnificent view in British golf”. The 9th, a long par four, is perhaps one of the world’s most photographed holes, the line from the elevated tee is directly at the Slieve Donard peak and the sweeping fairway lies eighty feet below—magnifique.

Sure, the course has a level of eccentricity; there are still a number of blind drives and some of the bunkers are fringed with coarse grass, which gathers the ball with alarming regularity, but this simply adds to the charm. If a measure of a great golf course is the number of holes that you can remember, then Royal County Down is one of the greatest courses of them all.

Architect Martin Ebert kindly supplied the following short update at the start of 2017:

Already in play are changes to the 17th on the Championship course made by Mackenzie & Ebert. We created a practice ground to the right of the hole but have built a line of screening rough-covered dunes along the right of the hole.

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Reviews for Royal County Down (Championship)

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Description: Royal County Down Golf Club is at Newcastle, a little holiday town nestling at the feet of the majestic Mountains of Mourne. It’s an exhilarating location for a classic links golf course... Rating: 9.6 out of 10 Reviews: 127
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Peter
I played a stroke play competition today off the medal tee's - this course is both the finest and toughest test of golf I have ever had. The greens were fantastic, the rought was brutal and the bunkers are out of this world!!! I can't say anything about the front 9 that has not been said many times before, but I think the back nine is frequently underrated. I'm sure very few people play the last 6 to their handicap, regardless of what is said about weak finishing holes.
July 11, 2007
10 / 10
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michael downey
February 27, 2009
I quite agree. The 17th is a bit ordinary, the 16th is great fun to go for, but if you can par 14, 15 and 18 every time,then good for you!
Mark
Best front 9 in the world. 17 and 18 are a weak end to one of the greatest layouts in the world. When I first played it, I noticed the jaw-dropping mega dunes just to the north of the course and thought that the course would continue in that direction. I am not sure as to why Old Tom Morris couldn't continue building the course further along the beach. If the course could access those dunes to the north, there would simply be not argument as to what the best course in the world would be. In fact, I would guess that to play through those dunes to the north would place a clear gap between Royal County Down and all the rest of the contending courses in the rest of the golfing world.
July 04, 2007
10 / 10
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bob
2nd best links course I've played behind Arcadia Bluffs in Michigan, USA. I've also played Portrush, Muirfield, Carnoustie, Turnberry, Dornoch, Kingsbarns, Troon, Old Course, etc etc and none can hang with County Down. Only thing I didn't like was the pond in the middle of the fairway, a bit rinky dink for such a fine track.
January 06, 2007
10 / 10
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Keith Baxter
February 01, 2007
A question was posted in the Top 100 forum, which asked: "A couple of recent reviews on Royal County Down have commented on the pond on the 17th fairway. How long has it been there? Was it part of the original Tom Morris design?" As we didn't know the answer, we asked the Club Secretary who responded: "The pond is an original feature and is the site of an ancient spring lying on one of the lowest points of the course. The pond was lined with concrete some years ago and is considered by the Members as an integral part of the course. It is not an architects whim!"
Ortwin Klang
March 20, 2007
Another 6 points although the 17th or 18th over the hill is disturbing
Paul
Golf courses ranked as highly as RCD should have 18 holes of cunning and beauty. Unfortunately, it does not. Dont get me wrong, this is a superb golf course, with unimaginably good design and thought for the majority of the holes. The 2nd is to die for. However, just what was in the thought process of the creater when he decided to put a pond in the middle of the 17th fairway, I will never know. A pond on a links! Come off it, this isn't Florida. This is the emarald isle, and this is supposed to be the best links on the planet - it didn't rival Lahinch in my book, which portrays the true definition of links golf. Can't say I wasn't disappointed by that. Having said that vitriol, I am very enamoured by RCD and hope to play it again very soon, perhaps just to stand in the middle of the 9th fairway. Great ham sandwiches as well. Definitely worth the trip.
December 01, 2006
8 / 10
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Peter Lacey
Played RCD on Tue 26th October, superb condition and its plain to see why this is the benchmark for all other courses. Tough but fair, strategy is the name of the game. Attention to detail and pride in work stand out. Staff on and off the course were friendly and informative. Best conditioned course and golf experience to date, loved it.!
November 01, 2006
10 / 10
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Chris Bates
April 24, 2007
As someone who has played a good few of your top 100 courses RCD isnt no 2 or any where near the top, in fact the course was in exceptionally poor conditional last time I played, whereby elsewhere every other course was in top condition, RCD presented in MAY the worst prepared greens I have ever seen on any top golf course anywhere in the world. If you are in Ireland play the Island or the European both are better tests of golf and in better condition. forget making the trip into Northern Ireland it just isnt the worth the money. TOP 100 its about RCD lost this number 2 spot to a course more deserving.
Adrian Gaspar
April 25, 2007
I wouldn’t usually respond to these ‘responses’ but I’m a big fan of NI golf and a massive fan of RCD. I took a party of experienced (mainly single figure) golfers over last year for a weekend, with a warm-up at Ardglass, where I am now a member, and a Sunday round at RCD. Between us we have probably played 60 or 70 of the Top 100 (inc. The Old, Turnberry, Muirfield, Kingsbarns, Portrush, Ballybunion and Royal St George's) and the consensus was that RCD was the best course they had played and that the combined weekend was almost as good as it gets, when you include the hospitality that all golfers in NI receive. To suggest you should avoid NI for golf is frankly….‘bonkers’. Look at the reviews from experts like Jim McCann on NI golfing tracks (inc those on the Antrim coast, Castlerock, Portstewart etc) and get the picture of a real golfing hotspot. The inland tracks (Malone) are pretty good as well. PS. I don’t work for the NI Tourist Board and am a proud Englishman.
W
Wow...played in a strong wind (tail-end of Hurricane that threatened the Ryder Cup!) last week and left with no doubt that this is the best course I have ever been fortunate to play!The views are stunning and the course is testing but very fair. The newly extended clubhouse is very impressive and the welcome very friendly.
September 24, 2006
10 / 10
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Jordan
Wonderful course--played in late June on a week-long golf vacation in Ireland and NI. Not bad value for the money--put in the "splurge" category as a course that must be experienced at least once. Reminded me a lot of Cypress Point: not "rustic," rather untamed--golf on a grand stage. A bit snooty but not too much so. Very enjoyable.
June 30, 2006
10 / 10
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Michael
Outstanding . Excellent . Brilliant . Played RCD on May 19th in the strongest wind in which I have ever played but still finished the round with a smile on my face ! Golf writer Peter Dobereiner once wrote that the essence of golf is to say that it enhances the feeling that it is good to be alive - that is Royal County Down. Favourite holes were the 4th ( par 3 ) and the 9th and 13th ( par 4s ). Staff very friendly,course was in perfect condition and if you are in the area try and play at Malone GC just south of Belfast.
May 21, 2006
10 / 10
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Keir Duncan
As a season ticket holder at Carnoustie I was intrigued to see how the two courses compared. They don't. RCD isn't better than Carnoustie but there is something different about RCD...... There is an eerie atmosphere about RCD, almost scary, its like you have gone back in time, I half expected to see Old Tom Morris chipping out of these spectacular hairy bunkers. The view from the fairway half way down on the 9th has to be one of the finest in golf. The welcome we got from the local pro was so warm and friendly it just added to our great day. RCD - A special special place. KD
May 20, 2006
10 / 10
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Rab shannon
May 17, 2011
I know exactly what you mean. There was an eerieness about this place. I can't put it into words so I won't.
tom prendergast
Played this awesome gem 11th may. Off back tees you need your A game. Must avoid bunkers,greens have to be hit or else u`ll run up a huge score. Beautiful greens,spectacular location. Best course in ireland.
May 12, 2006
10 / 10
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