It is amazing that on a somewhat small island there exists two very fine golf clubs, The Royal Dublin Golf Club and St. Anne’s Golf Club, the North Bull Island Nature Reserve and Dollymount Strand. Bull Island is located inside the Dublin city line which makes The Royal Dublin Golf Club one of the UK’s best courses inside a city. Bull Island is actually a sand bank formed for maritime purposes and had the involvement of Captain William Bligh, after his stint leading the H.M.S. Bounty. Captain Bligh and others were involved in the construction of a sea wall to provide a safer approach for larger boats and ships in and out of the Dublin harbor. If not for the sea wall, The Royal Dublin Golf Club might not exist on this site.
In reading the other reviews, much has been done and continues to be done to both improve The Royal Dublin course and keep it current to modern technology. These changes include new holes, new greens with much more undulation, added length to the course, and a slightly different routing. I played The Royal Dublin Golf Club before some of these changes, but in reading about the changes it makes me eager to go back.
Much of what is written in other’s reviews is what I remember regarding the golf course. I walked away thinking it is a challenging golf course that one should be pleased if they shoot close or better than one's index. I did not come close to my index due to the weather conditions; a consistent rain and high wind that pushed my score well north of what I thought I should have scored on a course such as this. While the rain and wind prevented me from taking my customary notes and photos, I have a good memory of the challenges on the golf course. The course is built to defend itself even in good weather.
I appreciated that this golf course has everything right in front of your eyes. There are no tricks to the eyes; you just need to hit good shots. If you fail to do so and find a bunker, it is likely a dropped shot. However, the course offers a good chance of recovery if you do not get as unlucky as I did in the rough. I do note that others did not find the rough as penal, perhaps it was a bit heavier on my day or I had an even worse day with the tee shot than they did.
The golf course is as flat as any one will ever play. Due to the wind which seemed to shift as we made the turn, I did not get the customary roll one should get on a firm and fast links course; instead my ball seemed to be directed into the rough, which was fairly high resulting in a few lost balls and several dropped shots. The rough, wispy just off the fairway, can get taller and clumpy, making the course well defended against wayward shots. A key at Royal Dublin perhaps more than some nearby courses is to drive the ball straight. It should not be too difficult as most of the fairways are sufficiently wide. But even without wind, (my excuse) finding the fairway is complicated by a good placement of bunkers. For the approach shot, or tee shots on the par 3’s, this good placement of bunkers continues. There is also good depth to the bunkers on the course which offsets the absence of dunes, little change in elevation, and no consistent rumpling of the fairways that one finds on other links courses. The fairways have some movement in them on the front nine but it basically disappears on the back nine.
The bunkering is the equal of Portmarnock Championship and I felt better than the bigger names in the area such as County Louth, The Island, and The European.
The greens that I played are still are not quite as interesting as the other more highly rated courses but are much improved due to the efforts of Martin Hawtree. Mr. Hawtree added more undulations and nearby fall offs. When I first played The Royal Dublin the greens I played were rather dull once on them, but also did not have the typical falls offs one looks for in a links course. There was good greenside bunkering, but not really good and interesting greens. Much of that has changed for the better.
In the absence of dunes, the mainly out and back layout is the appropriate routing for a flat golf course. In looking today through google earth at the course by clicking the link on this website, I do not wonder about the routing which I did after playing Old Head and The European Club. I think H.S. Colt’s routing is perfect for what he had available to him, much like his routing at The Alwoodley (which does have some variation in terrain). While others might not like the practice range next to the eighteenth and some might call the eighteenth a poorer version of Royal Liverpool, I like how the better players have a very good chance for a 3 by cutting the dogleg but could end up also with a double bogey.
There is a consistency to the golf course which works for me. Some might critique as too repetitive but I found it not to bother me much although perhaps it was because I was in a bit of “survival mode.”
To counteract the argument of repetition, the front nine has three par 3’s while the back has only the one, which is one reason why the back nine is 250+ yards longer. This additional length adds a bit to the variety of the course. In addition, some of the fairway widths do vary. I recall the quote of Danny Kaye, the famous actor and comedian, who stood on the tee of the fifth hole and said something to the effect of needing a rifle to hit an acceptable shot. While the fifth is not nearly as narrow as the fourteenth at The Island, it and the sixth are daunting tee shots.
The course does not have a single great hole on it such as one will find at The European, Lahinch Old, Ballybunion Old, Royal County Down, etc., which is somewhat rare for a links golf course. There are some “average” holes but there are not holes that I think are bad. It is a very steady and even golf course.
I liked the par 3’s followed by the par 5’s.
The first hole a mid-length par 4 has seven well placed bunkers and a good slightly raised green. It is a good starting hole.
The second hole, a very short par 5 and index 18, is probably the weakest hole on the golf course but it does offer defense in the burn/ditch running down the entire left side, high rough on the right, and a small, raised green. The hole has six bunkers.
The third, a par 4, is sort of oddly placed having to walk back parallel to some of the second fairway to find the tee. There is a dunes on the right side that blocks some of the view of the fairway of which there is more behind it than there is to the right. The maintenance sheds rough hard against the left side as you near the green which is off-putting. The green, however, is splendid as it is small, raised and well protected by four bunkers. It is a real pity about the maintenance building.
The fourth is a lovely par 3 well protected by four bunkers and a slanted green. It is a challenging yet fun hole.
The fifth is a long par 4 with a narrow fairway with mounds on both sides sort of working as guardrails back to the fairway. However, miss the fairway and you can draw an uneven or nasty lie. The green is open at the front and long, but a deep bunker left front of the green requires a good shot just to escape from it.
The sixth is my favorite hole on the golf course, a long par 5 that once again has mounds on either side serving as guardrails, although more pronounced on the left. Once again, if you get into these mounds, trouble awaits for the recovery shot. In addition, bunkers are built into the side of the mounds on the left which means it is unlikely that one can advance their ball. Those mounds are built to create additional height clearance for the bunker shot. There is a good green slanting right to left.
I am torn about the seventh, a longer par 3 that has a pond well short of the green. I do not really care for ponds on links courses. However, the green complex is splendid.
The mid-length dogleg left par 4 comes next. All sorts of strangely shaped mounds parallel the fairway. The green sits hard against the mounds on the right side. Hit the left side of the mound and you are likely back on the green. Go slightly right of the mound and you are likely dropping more than a shot. The tee shot has to consider these different heights on the dune mounds and if one lands in the wrong spot on them, it can lead to a difficult recovery shot. It is a clever hole as it has the best terrain on the golf course.
The ninth is my favorite par 3 on the golf course at the far end of the golf course as a mid-length par 3 that has only four bunkers but they are large and the shape of the green makes it appear as though there are six bunkers. There are bail-out areas here but if one chooses to bail out the green is slanted so that saving par is difficult.
The number one index is a long par 4 that has a burn/ditch cutting across the front of the green from the left side to the right. It is a difficult hole due to the length and the placement of the ditch.
A long par 5 is next and offers six bunkers at the turn in the fairway for the tee shot. There is a road going down the right side but I cannot remember whether going across this is out of bounds or not. I did cross it and played a penalty. Those bunkers and the road make for a challenging tee shot. A burn comes into play on the right side for the second shot but then reappears on the left side as you near the green. Seven additional bunkers await you for the second and third shot. It is a very fine golf hole.
The last par 3 comes next. Some may think it comes a little early in the round but after playing two difficult holes this is a nice breather. The green is well bunkered but visually this is not as strong a hole as the previous par 3’s.
To be fair, I do not recall much of holes 13-17 as we played them as quickly as we could given the weather (we were only a two ball). I do recall the burn/ditch down the right on 13 because I found it. There are a lot of bunkers on 14 and a lot of gorse behind the green which I had not noticed previously on the golf course.
I wished fifteen could have been played in better conditions because my sense of the hole was that it was probably the second or third best on the golf course with an excellent placement of cross bunkers short of the green followed by two at the front.
For me, the sixteenth is a nice risk:reward hole but one that even in good weather I do not have the length to take on as a potentially driveable par 4. There are numerous bunkers fronting the green.
Seventeen is a longer par 4 that has the road and the burn down the right side of the fairway with the road continuing on alongside the green.
If one is looking for the single “unique” hole on a links course, the eighteenth is it at Royal Dublin. This 90 degree dogleg right has bunkers, bushes and trees down the left side and a burn and out of bounds down the right. The burn continues down the right side of the fairway all the way alongside the right side of the green. For the short hitter, they have to think of flying over the large out-of-bounds to try to shorten the hole or reach the front of the green or do they lay up over the out-of-bounds with a shorter club well short of the green.
I highly recommend The Royal Dublin Golf Club as it offers a lot of challenge despite the flat land. While the front nine has the more interesting rippling, mounded fairways and three very good par 3’s, the back nine offers more length and more difficulty. I would certainly play this as the fifth course in the Dublin area. It is well worth the visit. I certainly want to try it again, but only if I can get a better weather day.
The drive into Royal Dublin Golf Club, over a splendid wooden bridge, sets a fabulous scene for golfing at one of Ireland’s most revered yet underrated golf courses.
Played in an almost true out-and-back fashion we head away from the clubhouse amongst low lying sandhills. The shallow valley fairways are flanked by long wispy rough that adds much definition to the holes. The rough is nicely managed and although claggy on a dewy, misty morning in late September the ball was findable and then quite playable.
The holes fit nicely and sympathetically into their surrounds with a very “Troony” feel to the front nine. And although the quality of something like the Postage Stamp is missing there is enough entertaining golf to hold your interest. It is straightforward golf for the most part with little weakness but without the real highs you might hope for. The bunkering is excellent although it needs to be because of the flattish terrain although having said that there are plenty of low level undulations.
The front nine rarely misses a beat with the eighth perhaps the pick of the bunch where we turn left before playing to a fabulous raised green. From the next tee, another short hole played at right-angles to the rest, we can spy another course on the island; St. Annes.
The back nine is a little quieter in terms of drama and because the terrain is less undulating more bunkers and a couple of burns are used to spark interest. Despite it becoming a touch repetitive in the middle the inward half has two of the most memorable holes on the course. And in 16,17 and 18 it serves up a fine climax. Indeed I was quite happy with my par-par-par finish until I read that the late Christie O’Connor once closed out a championship; Eagle, Birdie, Eagle!
Royal Dublin does not offer truly great golf but the very good and consistent quality to the 18 holes is a major strength and despite a green-fee well over the €100 mark it should be considered when travelling to Dublin. And a bite to eat, or at the very least a drink, should be savoured in the historic clubhouse where the upstairs bar overlooks the daunting Hoylake-esque 18th.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Royal Dublin was the unexpected highlight of a recent trip to Ireland and is somewhat underrated in my opinion. So why doesn't Dollymount get the same attention as some of its more high profile neighbours? Perhaps it's the industrial backdrop beyond the clubhouse, or could the lack of any type of sea view from the course be a factor or maybe it's just the undeniably flat location? Despite any of these issues and talking in purely golfing terms, this is a very good course indeed.
As this was my first visit I didn't get to see the old pre-2006 greens but today most are slightly raised and contoured to perfection. Re-constructed by Martin Hawtree, the new green complexes, are amongst the best I've seen anywhere in Ireland. Impressive bunkering frames the greens beautifully throughout and the run-off areas require a fine touch and plenty of imagination to achieve an up and down. All four of the par-3's are challenging and visually impressive.
The 4th, "Feather Bed" and 9th "Davidson's" are particularly attractive and most certainly memorable. Of the longer holes I very much liked the 3rd, appropriately named "Alps" where you must drive past a large dune before playing a mid-iron to a heavily bunkered green. The thought of hitting the approach over the wall into the green keeper's compound is more than enough to keep you focused. The excellent 8th, another good and long par-4, demands an exacting approach to another raised green with a steep fall-off on the left side. The longer back nine is much tougher and even more so when playing into the brisk prevailing wind. The 10th, 11th, 13th and 17th are all demanding but plotting your way through the humps and hollows on this stretch of holes and hopefully avoiding a couple of well placed ditches is a challenge to be savoured.
The short 16th, a driveable par-4 named "Dolly", adds to the variety with seven well placed bunkers placed to catch anything but the most perfect of drives and both accuracy and courage is required at the dogleg 18th, a genuine card wrecker if ever there was one. Here you are reminded of the 1st at Royal Liverpool, a par-4 measuring 470 yards, with an "out of bounds" running the full length of the hole, this will strike fear into the hearts of all but the straightest of hitters. Not to be missed. Brian W
Booked a Sunday evening in May, as a single golfer. Moderate to sometimes strong winds with occasional showers the evening I played, started off reasonably warm, so good conditions to play and assess the qualities of a links course. No point playing these things in calm conditions?
As other reviewers have said, this is a very flat course in elevation changes but fairways do have the humps and hollows you’d expect on the front nine anyway. Fairways quite flat on the back nine. The first couple of holes quite straightforward, wind slightly helping. Some fairways were holding water and there was no roll on drives, OK for the front nine, but made the back nine tough. On the outward nine reasonably tight off the tee, and greens very well protected with bunkers and tight pin positions. Pin positions made it very difficult on most holes on the outward nine, short of the green probably the wisest option on many holes. The greens and bunkering are the real protection. Some large swales on the relatively small greens. The swales aren’t what you’d call multiple levels, more creases in the aprons extending onto the putting surfaces. Provide challenging two putts when on the wrong side of the greens. Greens rolled true and medium paced, very consistent in pace across the course.
The homeward nine, felt wider and longer. Lots of fairway bunkering, some in play on the day, others not due to winds, although bunkering is in place to challenge with or without wind. Played very long due to lack of roll, and wind. Pin positions somewhat more central, and greens larger and generally felt flatter. Some greens have quite large run offs, so if you’re out a few feet expect to be much farther from the pin than you’d expect after you roll off the edge, and keep rolling, and rolling.
Generally the rough wasn’t too penal. Given the showers coming through it was still difficult to get greenside with your approach when playing from the rough, especially with the wind and longer back nine. Greenside first cut was a joy to play off, short, tight and consistent. Turf not as firm as many links, although I’d put that down to the weather. Sand in bunkers ranged from heavy to rock hard on some of the faces, but given the recent weather they were fine with no lying water.
Ranking it against other ROI east coast links, it falls somewhere between the top tier (Portmarnock, Baltray & The European) and the likes of Portmarnock Hotel Links/Seapoint. It’s much tougher than the hotel links/Seapoint and is presented better than both, but it’s not at the top table.
Now, here’s the problem, and why a good course only scores as an average for me. The pace of play was shocking, I was just short of 5 hours (4:50). There were interclub fourball matches on the course, which started to backup from the 4th. Interclub matches are always slow, and this one from my calculations (the last group finished on the 17th and considering I only got backed up from the 4th) was on track for a five and a quarter hour round. I’ve no issue with a club match taking this time, it’s a members club, I was on a green fee, and they can take as much of their time as they like on their course in these circumstances. However I would have expected and appreciated to have been told this in the pro shop when checking in. I would NEVER have went out in these circumstances and would have rearranged for another time. With a 16:50 ish start at the end of May, I finished the last two holes in the dark at 21:38. Difficult to enjoy it, but continued to play to see the rest of the course, as given the lack of communication on the matches I’d no intention of returning and paying another green fee for the privilege. I was going to call the pro shop the following morning to complain, but if they didn’t have the courtesy to tell me in the first place, I don’t wish to bother with them again. If it weren’t for this, I might well have left with a positive note, but not somewhere I’d ever return as a result. Summary, good course, dubious attitude to visitors based on this visitors experience.
Played The Royal Dublin Golf Club on July 20th in the late afternoon. The links is a par 72 that measures 7,297 yards from the blue tees to 6,488 yards from the yellow tees. Royal Dublin is relatively flat and played hard and fast on this day and by our last hole a dense fog came in from the Irish Sea. The fog was so dense that could not see our tee shots or our second shots. Fellow golfers started walking in from other holes as it was difficult to see over 100 yards. The greens putted true and the fairways were in excellent condition. Was a great day to play this Harry Colt classic that is a traditional out and back Scottish type links. The Martin Hawtree redesign helped update the links for the modern longer hitting game. The contouring of the greens is excellent and when missing greens had to be creative to play the undulations. One way I judge a great links is if it makes me hit all my clubs and Royal Dublin afforded that opportunity. For this review will use the distances from the white tees.
The front nine is about 600 yards shorter than the back nine predominately because it has 3 par 3s against only one par 3 on the back nine. The par 3s on the front ranged from 163 yards on the 9th to 187 yards on the 7th. I enjoyed all of the par 3s but thought the 9th was the best as the front half of the green was surrounded by 4 bunkers to a green that can be very tricky to putt and control the tee shot. The 2 par 5s on the front ranged from 467 yards to 573 yards. Both were excellent designs with well placed bunkers and were good birdie opportunities with well placed shots. The distance on the 4 par 4s on the front ranged from the 387 yard first to the 446 yard fifth hole. All the par 4s required accurate ball striking and I thought the fifth was the most difficult.
The back 9 has 6 par 4s with five of the holes ranging in distance from the 422 yard 17th to the 463 yard 18th. The only short par 4 on the back was the 285 yard 16th which is driveable but is protected by seven well placed bunkers and is a nice short par 4. The other 5 par 4s were all good tests and I thought the two most difficult par 4s are the 441 yard 10th hole which has a ditch that protects the entire front of the green and the 18th that is a dogleg right with out of bounds down the entire right side of the fairway. The lone par 3 on the back, the 183 yard twelfth, is a nice par three that is protected by 2 bunkers on the right and one bunker left of the green. The first of the two par 5s on the back is the 544 yard 11th hole that has 6 well placed bunkers on the tee shot and 5 bunkers on the lay up and another bunker just short of the green and another to the left. This green is very undulating and a good test for putting skills. The other par five on the back is the 545 yard 14th that is a good birdie opportunity but for me it was necessary to lay up short of the ditch that is about 50-70 yards short of the green.
The Royal Dublin Golf Club was a pleasure to play and would highly recommend it to any golfer that enjoys the challenge of a classic links. Royal Dublin has hosted many championships over the years and some of its champions include the great Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, and the legendary Christy O'Connor Sr. Click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwX0MqChaUQ to see a You Tube slideshow of some pictures I took during my visit. Jim Brady
I played this course on a glorious winters morning. The sun was shining, the wind was nothing more than a breeze and the temperature was very comfortable indeed. All in all great golf conditions, yet i was a bit underwhelmed by this course. The drive across the wooden bridge and the clubhouse itself set the tone nicely and i had high expectations from a course that has been traditionally held in such high regard. As i went through my round it soon became apparent just how good the greens and the bunkers are here. They really are top quality and if you dont find the putting surface you are sure to find a bunker. They are excellently positioned and you might find that even a shot to the green that lands on the putting surface but doesnt hold could still end up in a bunker due to the impressive run offs from the side of the greens. What let this course down though was the journey to the greens. The place is just so flat. I understand that there were never any towing dunes here to begin with and as little as 200 or so years ago there wasnt even a dollymount strand (the strip of land the golf course is on), so the fact that the golf course is there at all is a minor miracle, but with the land being as flat as it is, it feels like many of the holes play the exact same.
The out and back routing was new to me and i hadnt experienced it before. It built up the confidence as the first set of holes played down wind and the greens were easily reachable in regualtion. The back nine was a far tougher test as the wind had picked up a bit by then and i was playing dead into it all the way home. You either play downwind or into the wind, there doesnt seem to be any in between on this course and this is due to the fact that you are either facing due north or south on what feels like every tee box. What i will say is that the par threes, although quite short, are excellent and a joy to play however i found the closing hole to be a big dissapointment. The hole itself is a beauitful dogleg right par 5 that finishes in front of the elegent clubhouse but what really lets this hole down is the practice ground to the right of it. Its an eyesore in my opinion and distracts from an otherwise worthy closing hole. I enjoyed it and would go back again as im sure the place would grow on me but my advice to anyone visiting the area and looking for real Dublin links golf - head to the Island.