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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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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Eric B Kuisch
RCD is a treat. We played the course after a sneak preview the evening before. The starter was so kind to lend us his personal scoresaver to prepare for the course. These people in Nortern-Ireland are so welcoming and kind. No complaints on the clubhouse atmosphere. ullish but will do. The course is brutal and beautiful. Take a caddie with you or you'll never come home. Every hole is unique. I liked the opening hole, the quirkiness of hole 11 (blind tee shot over an intimidating mound) the elegance of hole 9 and the challenging par 3's. The single weak part of the course is hole 15-17 but it will not blemish your round. I'll be back!!
April 30, 2009
10 / 10
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Declan
May 11, 2009
Played off the white tees on a calm today. Firstly, most top courses have reduced rates - RCD is still 180 STG on weekends - making it very expensive. The course is immaculately kept, stunning scenary. there are a fair few blind drives and a good few holes where you dont see the bottom of the pin so hard to see where on green to go for. I found the course to be first class - better than Portmarnock or Baltray. On the negative side it is not visitor friendly - No distance markers, pin placements, strokesaver very difficult to follow and no food or even a crisp or peanut for visitors after a game - we got in at 5pm on a Sunday. Would I go back ? yes but wouldnt pay 180 again
Norman
May 11, 2009
Yes I agree RCD is amazing
David Cunningham
The views are spectacular and the front nine is excellent, but the back nine lets the course down and is no better than average for a Scottish or Irish links. A great course but not a match for Portrush.
April 26, 2009
6 / 10
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stephen voce
October 10, 2009
Average back 9? Please take me to all these other Scottish & Irish courses that sre just as good.I promise i`ll stop laughing!!
Ronald
We played RCD last week on the first part of our golf trip and everyone there was so nice. My wife was welcomed to walk along with me and the course itself is beyond description. Just the feeling one gets walking this course and all the history and the beauty of the course is just an amazing experience. Thanks to everyone and we will be back.
April 01, 2009
10 / 10
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David Davis
Just returned from a week of some of Ireland's best. Played Portrush, European Club, Portmarnock and RCD plus a few others on the West Coast. RCD was hands down the best. I caught it on a tough day with about a 4-5 club wind. The members I spoke to in the morning said good luck with a bit of an evil chuckle, "it's a blowy one!". But hey, it's March and it was at least sunny. The course is challenging enough from the back tees but the ultimate test in this wind. I've played many of the World's best courses, so far this one is the best. Make the trip and play it, because you can. An amazing experience.
March 28, 2009
10 / 10
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sean webb
I'm a caddy at the course, and find it hard to believe how many people think the back 9 to be a poor 9 holes, and for the final 2 holes to be any less daunting than the previous 16! 17 has one of the most undulating greens on the course (ive seen many a four putt there) and having caddied here for 11 years, 90% of my clients claim 18 to be one of the most difficult finishing holes in gol. 550 yards, 26 bunkers, and one of the smallest greens on the course say otherwise! hope to see you all this summer!
March 04, 2009
10 / 10
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Michael Downey
When I was a student at Queens University in the early '70s, I played RCD almost every Wednesday afternoon for four years. I've played a lot of courses since then, in many locations. RCD is the best.
February 27, 2009
10 / 10
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