Royal County Down (Championship) - Down - Northern Ireland

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


  • +44 (0) 28 4372 3314


Visit Golfbreaks.com for a golf holiday at Royal County Down

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: 120
TaylorMade
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 22, 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 21, 2006
10 / 10
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TaylorMade

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Rab shannon
May 18, 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 13, 2006
10 / 10
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TaylorMade

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Sam Hendrix
Definitely the best Irish course we played on our trip. Difficult driving course in a magnificent setting. Yes, there are 3-4 holes that don't measure up to the rest, but taken as whole, it is a grand experience, and well worth the travel time. No matter the length of your stay, this course must be at the head of the list.
May 11, 2006
10 / 10
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TaylorMade

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mheywood
Best course I've ever played or maybe ever likely to. Agree that the front nine is fantastic, but the back nine also has some good holes - 10, 11, 13, 15, 16 & 18 are not too shabby. Received a friendly welcome in the pro shop and clubhouse when I visited. The course has got to be special, as it inspired me to spend over £100 in the shop after the round and the hake and chips for a fiver was pretty damn good too !!
April 06, 2006
10 / 10
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TaylorMade

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W
RCD is good, no doubt, and everyone has highlighted its good points so I feel compelled to mention two bad points:Visitors are not allowed access to most of the clubhouse.The course gets progressively worse as you go round – the first few (well, 10, at least) holes will be among the best you have ever played. By the 13th they become ordinary and, apart from the 18th (which is okay); the finish is not good at all.I have played it twice and don’t intend to play it again. I can never understand why it is so highly rated – it has 10 outstanding holes and 3 or 4 truly awful holes.
January 24, 2006
6 / 10
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TaylorMade

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T Toal
October 08, 2010
Truly awful holes?? You have no idea what you are talking about. Enough said.
Neil
May 28, 2012
My opinion is just as valid as yours. I assure you I have played enough top courses to have an idea of what I am talking about. It's a few years ago now but I recall the worst features including a par 3 over a pond, a very short downhill par 4, the pond (not an architect's whim) on the 17th and views of a caravan site.
Hans
May 28, 2012
I played the course in March this year and while there is a pond on the 17th which have no business being there I recall neither a par 3 over a pond nor any awful holes.
kelly conway
Playing RCD is a breath taking experience....The front nine is the best nine holes of golf I have ever played anywhere (including most of the great courses in GBI).The only disappointment is the closing holes which do not hold up to the overall standard of the course. While I agree with a comment I read here that the course would play better if the nines were reversed, it is truly a great course and among the best in the world. I cannot wait to get back there.Kelly Conway
December 18, 2005
10 / 10
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TaylorMade

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chasmason
Despite playing this in a howling gale - by far the most sustained battering I have ever taken on a golf course - it still stands out as an awesome place to play golf. The mountains behind were invisible so the dramatic ups and downs of the dunes instead took centre stage. I would love to come back and play this in the sunshine and see what sort of a challenge it really poses, as the scorecard was irrelevant when we there. The course condition was superb and the clubhouse is being rebuilt, presumably in preparation for the Walker Cup. One of the best without a question.
October 06, 2005
10 / 10
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TaylorMade

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David Worley
Spectacular course -only weakness is a few average holes toward the finish. First 9 is probably the best going. Having said that, I rate Portrush just as highly even though it may not be as pretty. David Worley.
October 05, 2005
10 / 10
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There isn’t really much that can be added to other reviews. Although a relative newcomer to golf I have played quite a number of high profile/championship courses in a pretty short golfing life and only Turnberry comes close. As a high handicapper I found it playable (off the middle tees) albeit with relatively light winds. Ironically the difficulty of the course meant I concentrated like never before, did not lose a ball and only ‘3 jabbed’ once, so certainly rates as the highlight of my embryonic golf career. I read a review of RCD once describing it as a ‘work of art disguised as a golf course’, which I think sums the place up. Note – to fellow high handicappers, if you are lucky enough to play RCD please take your ‘A’ game (I guess I was lucky) otherwise you will get eaten alive
October 03, 2005
10 / 10
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TaylorMade

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