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
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Bart Boudreaux
World class links layout, world class scenery, world class feel. Best of the best for me. I lived in Scotland for 4 years and played most of the top courses in Scotland and Ireland - this one is best easily. Much better than Whistling Straits and Bandon Dunes too.
August 18, 2010
10 / 10
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Kris Marshall
Great course, amazing views (especially the front 9). I put this as my second favourite links course behind Birkdale. if the back nine was as good as the front nine then there would be very few equals to RCD. I love this track and cant wait for another visit (and it really should be on the Open roster, it would be a brilliant test for the World's best).
August 01, 2010
10 / 10
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John Wright
Played RCD last week and couldnt believe my eyes. Ive wanted to play this course for years and wondered if all the stories were hype. We were greeted with a warm welcome on arrival by the very friendly staff and it just got better and better. Its by far the best course in Europe and the best course I have ever played on above names like Turnberry, Kingsbarns, Blue Canyon, Sawgrass and Valderrama. I've walked Pebble Beach although prettier as a finishing 18th, it doesnt compare with RCD as a course. The opening 9 holes are just stunning, mind blowing, a few blind shots but all fair and marked, all you need is a course planner to see the trouble, the best surprise is on the 9th, wait till you play and see it, probably the best 9 holes anywhere in the world and the 9th is just amazing. The back 9 doesnt disappoint either. The greens were perfect, quick and true, the gorse was fair, very little long grass and if you stayed on the fairways the rewards were there. When we got back into the clubhouse between our 36 holes the staff couldnt do enough for us. If there is only one golf course you play in Europe or the rest of your life - play RCD.
July 05, 2010
10 / 10
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Hendrik Hilgert
We played RCD twice last week. Truly spectacular course. Definitely one of the best courses we ever played, ahead of Portmarnock Old and County Louth which we also played last week and on par with Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and Turnberry. The sea views, the dunes and the gorse are beautiful and the golfing challenge is exceptional. If you want to be critical, you could point out the relative weakness of the last 3 or 4 holes which do not benefit from sea views or the higher dunes of the first 9 holes. Also, you have to say that this course is super difficult and you are unlikely to play to your handicap unless your driving is flawless. The greens were indeed not in great condition last week, as mentioned by another reviewer, but this was due to recent aerification so I would not reduce the rating on that basis. All in all a spectactular course in our view. Also, we stayed in the Slieve Donard Hotel right next to the course which was fantastic. Excellent spa facilities, nice rooms, great location next to the sea and the golf course. The combination of this hotel and golf course are very hard to beat. We extended our hotel stay by a night because we loved it so much. And check out the Quinn's Pub for evening entertainment.
June 10, 2010
10 / 10
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Brian H Findlater
Truly a great course. Blind shots aplenty ... splurge for a caddy! Everything a lins course should be. Very difficult with many memorable holes and beautiful views. Not for handicaps over 20 unless you have lots of balls and patience.
June 04, 2010
10 / 10
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jayson mcintyre
Great course with great scenery however too many blind tee shots and not as fair as Royal Portrush but definately worth a visit.
June 04, 2010
8 / 10
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John Moriarty
Played RCD today with some friends. As ever it is a cracking layout and truly one of the best. However, sorry to have to say that the greens were truly appalling, Hollow cored, bumpy slow and a hugely disappointing experience. The tees were also up ahead of the ladies. Would have nice if they had mentioned it to us in advance.
March 26, 2010
6 / 10
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Jeff Kimbro
Played Royal County Down with my father in the spring of 2009. It was a top 3 golfing experience and to be able to share it with Dad was fantastic. It all started with a great caddie who spent a few minutes on the first tee explaining the history of the town and the golf course. The course looks long off the tee boxes, but plays much shorter due to very fast fairways. I realized that you can hit 3 woods and 5 woods all day and keep some trouble out of play. The front nine is the best front nine that I've ever played (and I've played 20 of the top 100 in the world). The yellow gorse along with the undulations are unworldy. A bit pricey, but I'd gladly pay it/play it again when I visit Northern Ireland.
January 23, 2010
10 / 10
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J Szpak
I played it in May of 09. It is simply the best course I have ever played. It is fun, unique and the views are spectacular. Many shots look intimidating although there is often more room than there appears.
January 17, 2010
10 / 10
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erik
Possibly the best course Ive have ever played. We play the Old Course, Kingsbarns, Old Head, Royal Portrush, The European Club, Portmarnock....This was the best. Great condition, Great Greens, Great Layout.....A must if you are going to Ireland!!
October 15, 2009
10 / 10
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