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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Ken Burkley
Played the course in Sept 2004 & loved it; especially the front nine. I live near Oakmont & Laurel Valley & have played both several times. Royal County Down is definitely better. I'll be back.
January 02, 2005
10 / 10
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Nick Stratford
This is the best course in the the UK & Ireland. It is a great layout and was in fantastic condition, with high quality greens.
July 14, 2004
10 / 10
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Steve Smith
Played this magical course in a slight mist so the mountain backdrop was missing.If there is a slight criticism, it is that there are a few blind shots, but well worth its high rating.
May 27, 2004
10 / 10
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Links lover
By some distance the best course I have ever played. I know I'm not alone in that judgment and let me confess immediately that I have yet to experience a round at Muirfield, widely considered to be the only course in the British Isles that can rival it. I have, though, walked the latter several times and doubt very much it could ever surpass County Down in my affections. What makes Northern Ireland's finest so special? A sense of drama, as much as anything. Almost every hole is at once thrilling and terrifying. There are no marker posts here, only small, whitewashed stones, invariably surrounded by the roughest rough imaginable. Some holes require a blind tee shot to carry fully 200 yards to reach the fairway. It's no place for a novice. The huge bunkers are deliberately unkempt around the edges - they appear bearded. The mountains of Mourne provide the backdrop. The greens are as good as greens can be - lightning fast, true and devilishly contoured. Old Tom Morris's design is genius itself, from the ticklish short 7th to the unique - I use the word advisedly - dogleg 15th. Curiously, there is one poor hole. What happened to the 17th I'll never know. That apart, County Down is the ultimate - again, I use the word advisedly - links experience. I can pay it no higher compliment. It's worth almost any green fee, simply because a day here is an experience you'll never forget. My only regret was playing Portrush two days later. It was frankly an anticlimax - but only because RCD was an impossible act to follow.
May 23, 2004
10 / 10
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