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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James Bloomer
I had the massive pleasure of playing this truly great course in April. Stunning scenery, with the Mountains of the Mourne in view throughout, massive dunes, and true linksland. I played from well forward, but found it plenty of golf course for this 8 handicapper. 8 and 9 are legendary, but too many great holes to list. I made 3 at 15, and thought I might post a score, then 16, a great risk reward short par 4, got me. Great greens, utterly fair, and beautiful, but very very tough. Two tiny criticisms: I liked 18, though many seem not to, but I thought 17 not just a bad hole, but wholly out of place with all the rest. I also thought the marvellous, rough round the edges bunkers, quite tough enough without the addition of heaps of very soft sand. All in, though, a place every golfer MUST go to.
August 03, 2014
10 / 10
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declan mcguinness
Best golfing experience I have ever had to put it simply. There are some great deals in winter. friendly staff. I will be back every year!!
July 07, 2014
10 / 10
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Ben Payne
This is unquestionably the best course that I have played. I have been fortunate to play some outstanding courses, including Pine Valley, but nothing comes close to RCD, it is truly spectacular. The 9th is utterly breathtaking.
September 27, 2013
10 / 10
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David Oliver
Quite simply one of the best golf experiences of my life. I am a 6 handicapper that played RCD in April 2013. It has an aura that I have felt only at St Andrews and Pinehurst previously. This is an astonishingly good golf course, which is eminently playable with room off the tee and sensible greens. Each hole is a self contained joy with no replication within the course. Views are stunning (I was hugely lucky with the weather) and the design / architecture is flawless. Even the blind shots work at RCD. The only comment from me is that apart from the existence of burns, personally I am not a fan of water on a links course. This manifested iteslf as a triangular pond on 17th fairway. Played Annesley course in the afternoon which was huge fun with a number of the middle holes using the same topograhy as the "big" course. Staff were welcoming and knowledgeable. Every golfer should play at RCD.
June 26, 2013
10 / 10
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Thomas Turner
Very special course. Spectacular layout, excellent condition, great caddies. Really a flawless course.
October 14, 2012
10 / 10
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Hans Berntson
I played this fabulous course three times just a few days ago. What a treat! Even in benign conditions it is quite a challenge, but always with a friendly wink in the eye. And the artistry is everywhere. Of the courses I've played it is second only to Muirfield, and that is just maybe. Drop everything and go play RCD!
March 15, 2012
10 / 10
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Ebrahim
May 30, 2012
This is really a masterclass in design and beauty. Manicured and presented in superb condition. A shot makers paradise. A difficult course and managing your game is of high priority. Had services of a wonderful caddy, Tim. Made all the difference. We were fortunate to play this course on Monday, May 21, in perfect weather. What a treat. Definitely up there with the greats like Portrush and Muirfield. Its worth mentioning that if given a chance, one should venture north to Ardglass( 30 min drive) and play a wonderful hillsde and cliffhugging links.
Paul mcloughlin
As a native of Belfast living now in the uk, I have been so fortunate to play at RCD for many years. I played today for only £50 and in 40mph cross winds realised how beautiful this place is. It has to be the best front nine in the world and perhaps the toughest with the wind. If you are lucky for a dry day as I was today the course is a sight to behold. The clubhouse extension and a more visitor friendly environment is most welcome than days gone past. With 7 pars on the first 7 I felt invincible but then 8 & 9 bit. They have to be 2 of the toughest and stunning golf holes you will ever play. I don't like 16&17 but RCD will always be for me the purist a joy to play.
January 05, 2012
10 / 10
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Anthony McNamee
I've lived within 30 miles of RCD my whole life, but it was only a month ago that i finally got to visit. What put me off for so long? Well a few things; the stuffiness, the green fee, and a longstanding genuine preference for parkland golf. I'm also quite a cynical person - the sort who swears advertising doesn't work on them. All told, I should have been a candidate for hating the place. Instead, I absolutely adored it. Rarely in my life have I ever witnessed hype so justified. The course is simply magical. I don't need to do a blow by blow account of the course, that's been done a dozen times below. The best I can do for potential visitors is tell you to book a tee time as soon as possible. Amazing.
January 01, 2012
10 / 10
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Richard Smith
My thoughts upon arriving at Royal Country Down were along the lines of wondering if there was any way this magnificent course could live up to it's stellar reputation. To put it simply, the course did that and more. This was a great and unique experience for me. I have played all the past and present Open courses and most of the top links in the UK, and I agree with the placement of Royal County Down as the top course in the UK.So what makes this place so special? For me there are three factors. First, the setting is unparalleled. Between the mountains and the Bay runs a magnificent landscape of rolling dunes, just high enough to be spectacular without being impossible to walk or play. Second, the course was in fantastic shape with excellent greens, firm but well conditioned fairways, and difficult but playable rough. Finally, the course has 18 championship holes. For me #'s 3,4 and 9 stand out, but each hole has it's own unique character and challenge. After a birdie at 10 and eagle at 12 I was flirting with level par, but my finish left something to be desired. Regardless I loved this course.There's not much to complain about. Maybe a few too many blind shoots for the purist, and the final 4 holes may lack some of the drama of the rest of the course, but these are minor nits compared to the overall magnificence of this layout. All golfers, make your way to Newcastle at some point in your life. You won't regret it.Richard Smith, Knoxville, Tennessee
August 02, 2011
10 / 10
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Graham Methold
We played RCD on 27 June 2011. It was just a fantastic experience. The course itself is just stunning - layout, scenery, the lot. The conditioning is first class, down to the finest details. The greens were very true and in great condition and the service very warm and friendly. It is an extremely difficult course for any golfer, so don't go expecting to play to your handicap and if you do, then well done, you have played your socks off! If I were to highlight one feature that sets it apart from many courses I have played and puts it in the "good enough course to hold a Major" category, it is the difficulty around the greens. Whether it is an approach shot, a putt or a short chip, keeping the ball on the putting surface is a real challenge. Every hole is great, but holes 1-9 are just so good. If there is a better view than from hole 4? Hole 7 is a fiendishly hard 125 yd par 3 - my ball pitched 6 feet from the pin and ended all the way down by the bunker on the left. Hole 5 is superb and hole 9 has great views of Slieve Donard hotel and mountain. We also played Portrush (both Dunluce and Valley) and Portstewart - all first class golf courses but there really is something very unique about RCD that is difficult to define unless you've been there. Good fun to see some of the comments from other reviewers who give less than 6 stars. We are all entitled to our opinion, but for me anyone that gives this course less than 6 stars needs counselling!
June 30, 2011
10 / 10
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