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: 124
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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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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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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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I could shoot 100 here every day and love every minute. It is DisneyLand for golfers!! Without question this is my favourite golf course in the world. Royal Melbourne, Augusta, Muirfield and the rest included. (and I have played them all!!) It is a roller coaster for 18 holes. Your kness shake on every drive you have to thread between tufty bunkers and think rough. My favourite holes... the whole front 9 and the 13th. 13 is magnificent and best viewed from the 14th tee box. On the front, the 3rd is great!! I would agree that the club would be well served to reverse the 9's. Making the 10th (par 3) the first would not be a bad idea at all, espeically when it would be used as the 19th hole in matchplay events. My advice to anyone visiting Ireland, play County Down twice before you move elsewhere.
October 03, 2005
10 / 10
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Kevan Voce
Outstanding. Possibly not as tough as Muirfield or Lytham for the top players (fewer bunkers) but, in my opinion, just as good a test of golf for the average club player - and aesthetically in a different class. A potential nightmare for poor players - in fact if you are over 18 hcap just walk round due to the dunes, heather and gorse. Every hole is visually a treat. As a golf test then I would say all holes, other than 1 and 17 (which are merely reasonable), are top drawer. The views from the 4th tee and the 9th fairway are stunning (only Nefyn compares). Simply the best course in the British Isles.
October 01, 2005
10 / 10
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Fred Hammer
This is the best course in Ireland, and is among my favorite courses in the world along with Pine Valley, Cypress Point and Muirfield. It ranks a 10 in shot values, difficulty, memorability and is 2nd in aesthetics only behind Cypress Pt. Double bogeys lurk on every hole, and yet the low score of the week was posted here among our group by a player who hit every fairway. Near perfect in every way, and a thrill to play.
September 07, 2005
10 / 10
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Ed Tilley
Don't bother keeping score out here on your first visit. RCD will eat you for lunch - just accept it and enjoy the course. Tiger Woods shot 83 here a few years back!Personally, I think if they reversed the nines this would be ranked even higher. The back nine is excellent but inevitably suffers in comparison to the magnificent front nine, widely and rightly regarded as the best nine holes in golf.
July 11, 2005
10 / 10
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Jim McCann

What can be said that has not already been written in the course reviews above and below? I agree that this is a brute of a course and fully deserving of a place on the Open rota – but then blind tee shots in the modern game are SO old fashioned, aren’t they?

This classic links would be difficult to play on a day with good weather but when played on a day when the wind is blowing hard such as I had then it was by far the most demanding 18 holes that I have ever played. Greens were a little threadbare (but all the faster for it), fairways were fairly tight and lined with penal rough, ‘bearded’ bunkers were fairly straightforward and not too deep.

I also agree that nearly every hole is both frightening and exciting and you must keep focused all the way round as danger lurks everywhere. There are many elevation changes to make this an almost literal rollercoaster of a golfing ride.

Pity the club don’t throw in a Strokesaver for the greenfee paid as there are no yardage markers on the course and, believe me, you need every little bit of help that you can get on the way round. This is a small criticism though, because the club are doing their best to accommodate visitors as the clubhouse undergoes major structural changes in 2005.

Many consider the great big shaggy monster of Carnoustie to be the toughest Open venue. I’m sorry, but that venue is a mere pussycat compared to this Irish tiger.

Jim McCann.

June 15, 2005
10 / 10
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Cédric
Jim (see above review) and I played on that exact same day so I won't add a lot to his now famous reviews on courses all over the British Isles...I think I will just use his own words:"a big course for big boys!".Extremely tough,beautiful.Even though the weather was not the best we could dream of(most likely 70 kph wind) we all had a big smile on our faces.We will return!
June 15, 2005
10 / 10
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