Royal County Down (Championship) - Down - Northern Ireland

Royal County Down Golf Club,
Newcastle,
County Down,
BT33 0AN,
Northern Ireland


  • +44 (0) 28 4372 3314


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: 127
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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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fra
i grew up (still live there) only a stones throw from the course, quite literally. my dad became a memeber back in the 90s and got me into golf. growing up and learning on the rcd has dramatically helped my game. going to other course seems alot easier when you are used to the challenge the rcd presents you with. great green keeps, great members and even greater golf.give it a go, even if its just for the amazing veiw that comes along with it. note green fees are very expensive in the summer, so try for off season, if this is not possible dont go for the budget smaller course.. although it is a perfectly good course it does not offer the same challenges and fantastic holes as the "big" course.
February 26, 2009
10 / 10
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Tim Gorman
My No1 in GB & I and unsurpassed anywhere. Difficult to imagine the course without The Mountains of Mourne and Dundrum Bay, but they add hugely to the magical experience; Dornoch has a pretty good stab at competing. I have played there only 3 times but everyone I have played with has been similarly touched. The first time I played RCD was in terrible rain but the course shone through. It is at the pinnacle of the all-defining "courses to play before you die." Everything is wonderful, including the welcome (Muirfield, Ballybunion and Birkdale take note). And to eat, go to the Bucks Head in Dundrum. I am back there again in 2 months and all else until then is mere practice...Tim Gorman
February 25, 2009
10 / 10
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Cedric
February 26, 2009
Tim, completely agree with your latest reviews on RCD (my favorite course anywhere too!) and Royal St George's (that I hope to play again this spring). But I rate Birkdale, Ballybunion and Muirfield at the top of my list. And I thought the welcome there was wonderful! Just tends to prove a one day experience can be very different from the next one. You mentioned somewhere that Muirfield was overrated, that I definitely can't agree with! The whole experience there is quite unique...
David Flynn
Played it yesterday and this course is simply the very best ive ever played. Its setting is jaw dropping and the course itself is the finest test of any players ability.Ill never forget the view that awaited me after walking to the brow of the hill on the 9th hole.My favourite holes were the 3rd, 9th and 16th although the entire front nine was flawless. I agree with previous posters that not every hole is world class however the good holes are not simply good, they are the best. Its been 24 hours since i came off the course but i havnt been able to think about anything else. Cannot wait to return.
January 14, 2009
10 / 10
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Mark
The best front nine stretch in the world - towering ancient dunes, firm and fast fairways. Some of the best golfing ground in the world. The course ends with a wimper, disqualifiying it as the best - but justified to be top ten on any list.
December 30, 2008
10 / 10
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J Barber
Fantastic course in immaculate condition (greens can be frightening). The front nine are as good as anywhere you'll ever play and the setting is breathtaking
October 17, 2008
10 / 10
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James
Just total, raw golf. Nothing is tricked up. If you like golf as it should be played - au naturel - then RCD is as good as it gets. It may not get the attention of the R&A for this reason, but, framed by the Mourne Mountains and the Irish Sea, it is by some distance the finest setting for a golf course I have ever seen. If you can tear yourself away from your own swing travails for a minute, take a moment to savour the ever-changing colours: the deep greens, purples and yellows. Sure, the purists might dislike the blind shots (and it is frustrating to not know exactly where you're going on any golf course), but the course plays surprisingly fairly despite them. My personal favourite holes: the brutally tough 3rd, the quirky 7th and the sublime 13th (the latter, in particular).
August 26, 2008
10 / 10
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Mike
Best course I've ever played. I've played almost 700 courses WW, so this is special. Played Portrush the next day, and it was a dissappointment after playing RCD.
August 17, 2008
10 / 10
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