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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andy tibbs
turned up expecting to find the best golf course i have ever played.it was better than that completley in a different league to carnoustie,troon etc its almost like we need a new category of golf course.why? scenery awesomet but the course design is fantastic play safe ok then you are hitting long irons and woods into every green take libertys then it will eat you if you stray even slightly.Greens were in october mode but ran true and 44 putts told me everything i needed to know about the flaws in my stroke.That is the great thing play well score well play badly your history.The definition of the course is great. club house freindly all around just mind boggling
October 09, 2009
10 / 10
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richard
As good as it gets. to go to a course with the highest expectations, and for those expectations to be surpassed was a big surprise and a real treat. the setting and scenery is awesome, but the condition of the course and the challenge it presents is really what won me over. exceptionally quick and true greens (in far superior condition to those at portrush that we played the following day) made putting a pleasure, and the numerous blind drives (all of which have markers to aim for) make the stunning views as you walk over the brows of the hills such a joy - the 9th in particular as you walk over the marker that you have driven over is a picture you won't forget in a long time. Not as tough as Portrush or Carnoustie but then golf in my opinion should not be a constant slog to make par or salvage a bogey. I will return, and would recommend anyone who has not had the pleasure of playing this course to book up as soon as possible. this is without doubt the best golfing experience i have ever had.
September 25, 2009
10 / 10
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EAMONN CRAWFORD
September 25, 2009
I AGREE WITH YOU ABOUT WHAT YOU SAID ABOUT R.C.D.EXCEPT FOR ONE THING.I HAVE SEEN A 62 SHOT AT PORTISH BUT I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYONE BREAK 65 AT R.C.D.INCLUDING TIGER .IT DEPENDS ON WHAT TEES YOU PLAY FROM.
Hutchy
May 06, 2010
Re the comment about a 62. I had the pleasure of watching a fearless Rory McIlroy score a 61 across the Dunluce Links in 2005, I think he was 16 then. It was the first day of the Championships,the course was set up fairly easy and the weather was benign. I am not taking anything away from McIlroy it was an excellent round, and the man has just hit a 62 at Quail Hollow after hitting a 67 at RPGC in his previous 'break' week. He will without doubt add a lot more course records. But then compare it with the British Seniors in 2004 with a plethora of great players and in bad to appalling weather conditions with Pete Oakley scoring 70, 68, 73, 70 to win by 1 shot from Tom Kite and Eduardo Romero. Make no mistake these mature golfers know a thing or two about course management and this shows how tough RPGC really can be. Then of course RPGC did have an Open. This discussion about which course is best will doubtless go on and on, I have played both and on balance prefer Dunluce, but it is just a preference, they are different courses with different strategies and different cultures. Please don't take snapshots of each course on any one day and present them as facts, they can only be impressions. Dont compare them, just appreciate each individual course for what they both are, challenging, beautiful and unique.
Cameron Roy
World Class! This course is absolutely phenominal. The scenery is stunning and you cannot help walking around with your head on a swivel. The course itself is spectacular and was in excellent condition. I love the grassy bunker edges, the run off areas around every green that sweep an errant shot away from the hole and the elevation changes that keep you thinking. The staff were friendly and very helpful. It is definitely worth every penny.
September 08, 2009
10 / 10
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Paul Barron
We started our NI tour with County Down which was definitely the more challenging course and suits the low handicapper best. There were no easy holes but the sight on every tee takes your breath away and you do really feel special. That feeling is somewhat diminished when you arrive back at the clubhouse and find out, that you are segregated from the members to your own visitors changing rooms and bar – something that loses the spirit of the game I feel! Apart from that a great course certainly the best in the UK.
August 10, 2009
10 / 10
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Timothy
RCD is a beautiful course, with the sounds of the Irish Sea heard on every hole. My son and I agreed that playing RCD was like playing golf in The Lord of the Rings. Everyone writes about the view down the fairway from the crest on #9; and it is indeed spectacular. But I must confess that we enjoyed the view on every hole -- each hole was a new view from a new perspective. And yes, I'm glad that the first 3 holes played downwind! Magical course -- look forward to returning.
August 09, 2009
10 / 10
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Vorndron
Played on friday 10th July and the course is sensational. Very tough with no room for error but rewarded if good shots are hit. View off the 9th tee must be the best in golf. Had long discussions with playing partners about if RCD is the best course we'vw ever played, having played, Carnoustie, St Andrews etc and the only arguement against RCD was that the if viewed as a 'golf course' not setting or surroundings etc, Carnoustie just takes it but overall RCD is the best. Pine Valley must be one hell of a track to beat RCD.
July 12, 2009
10 / 10
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grantphelps
I'm also from Melbourne and have just returned from a golf tour of Ireland/Northern Ireland, Scotland and the north of England. I'd have to agree that RCD is simply the best course i have played. It is a magical place, and a truly wonderful golf course. I think it shades RP by a short half head - it flows better, and rewards great shotmaking a little better. RP is fabulous, but RCD is a little more fabulous. I'm puzzled by those who say its finish is a let down. i rate 16/17/18 higher than RP and higher than just about anything else i've played, including all of the major Australian courses. RCD is just strong throughout - there are no weak elements. As for the blind tee shots - let's all start a people power movement to encourage modern designers to build these sort of courses. Fantastic.
July 05, 2009
10 / 10
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Philip Duffy
I played Royal County Down for the first time in may and yes, it is the best course i have ever played. Coming from Melbourne Australia, Royal Melbourne Golf Club and the other gems of the Sandbelt are our benchmarks. BUT, RCD exceeds all those standards because the terrain and design is exceptional. The Melbourne Sandbelt courses are all products of the 1920 boom in golf and are characterised by fast rolling greens. RCD, by contrast had greens with very little of character and that surprised me. The challenge at RCD was getting onto the green but once there, little was expected of the golfer by contrast with melbourne sandbelt courses.
June 11, 2009
10 / 10
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David McGill
Played RCD on May 28 with high expectations that were completely satisfied. The course is a rolling wave of dunes and ball=seeking sand that is actually quite fair despite the criticism as to blind tee shots. Course in flawless condition. No complaints. Also thought that the staff was very accomodating with no sign of visitor bias as noted in past reviews.Magical day indeed.
June 06, 2009
10 / 10
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Ronan
I played the course in mid February in a howler of a wind. To be honest i didnt think the course overly long. we played from the tees infront of the championship ones. I hit a drive and a pitching wedge onto the first thats how windy it was! The course was brilient but i wasnt to impressed with the greens i thought they were very sandy and hard to putt on for that reason. The 8th and 9th holes i thought were the hardest on the course. Some tough holes on the back nine but alot of the holes were down wind i got onto the 13th (par 5 i think) with a drive and a Sand wedge brutal wind. The club house facilities were first class and the best i have ever seen. You have to be a really accurate and straight driver to get round. Great course but i dont think that i would pay £180 to play it. I feel that alot of clubs will need to drop their prices in order to attract golfers to play their courses. i wonder to RCD want to do this?
May 13, 2009
8 / 10
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