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Top 100 Golf Courses of Ireland 2020

29 November, 2019

Top 100 Golf Courses of Ireland 2020

Anybody who has closely followed our biennial revisions of the Top 100 for Ireland since the listings were first established in 2006 will know that gaining entry to one of the top five slots is a very tough nut to crack as the same handful of courses have occupied those positions (sometimes in a slightly different order) for the past fourteen years.

One thing has remained constant, however, and that’s the No. 1 status of the Old course at Ballybunion in County Kerry, which also rides high in our World Top 100 rankings. Largely anonymous until the intervention of Tom Simpson and Molly Gourlay in the 1930s, the course gained further prominence after it was discovered by one of the best links golfers to ever play the game, back in 1981.

Ballybunion Golf Club - Old course

Only last week a reviewer wrote: “Tom Watson’s praise of Ballybunion Old reverberated throughout the USA for golfers planning a visit overseas and, in effect, brought more Americans to Ireland as a destination when their first choice had been Scotland and their second destination was England” – those who imagine “influencing” as a new, social media-driven phenomenon might like to think again!

The greens renovation work on the Old course from a couple of years ago has been well received and such a bold move to replace all eighteen putting surfaces with fescue grass in one short window is one that other highly lauded links layouts must have considered without ever taking the plunge.

All of the top eight chart positions remain as they were when we last re-ranked two years ago, with the only upward move in the elite Top 10 tier coming from the Sandy Hills course at Rosapenna in County Donegal, which climbs two places to No. 9. Designed by Pat Ruddy and recently renovated by Beau Welling to much critical acclaim.

Rosapenna - Sandy Hills course

Sandy Hills is a personal favourite of our US Consultant Fergal O’Leary: “It’s a non-stop thrilling experience playing through the dunes, with no shortage of difficulty added by blind tee shots and approach shots… in firm and fast conditions this Donegal jewel will knock your socks off… the jaw-dropping surrounding scenery will take your breath away… on a beautiful day it’s one of those courses that you wish never came to an end.”

Other courses to make progress in the top half of the table include Royal Dublin (up four to #23) – where Clayton, DeVries & Pont have recently been appointed to undertake a detailed bunker study before renovating the sand hazards to a style more in keeping with their heritage – and Dooks in County Kerry (up five to #26), which averaged a 4.5 ball review rating from the six people who posted for this course since the start of 2018, attracting comments like “an absolute joy to play,” “a fine test” and “full of charm”.

Royal Dublin Golf Club

Another course to make a big impact is Luttrellstown Castle in County Dublin (up eight to #48), described in Kevin Markham’s guide book Hooked as “a long, tough and some might say beautiful course (that) spends much of its time weaving through large and often contorted beech trees.” It’s certainly a challenging parkland track that’s laid out inside 567 acres of mature woodland, with plenty of water hazards in play, and it now enters our national Top 50 for the first time.

Lower down the standings, two courses make significant double-digit advances. The first of these is Cruit Island in County Donegal (up fifteen to #65), where regular contributor Ed Battye commented “if there are golf courses in heaven I suspect they will be very much in the spirit of Cruit Island,” and the second layout is St. Margaret’s in County Dublin (up thirteen to #87), which Tom Craddock and Pat Ruddy fashioned close to Dublin airport in the early 1990s.

Cruit Island Golf Club

The big talking point of this chart update is the re-emergence of Adare Manor in County Limerick (new at #14) from a multi-million euro upgrade that saw the old Robert Trent Jones Sr. course replaced with a new Tom Fazio design. Rebuilt by Atlantic Golf Construction with new drainage, new greens and the installation of sand capped fairways, the layout is now one of the best built and best maintained in all of Ireland.

Adare Manor

Owner JP McManus was angling for the Ryder Cup in 2026 and that’s exactly what he got earlier this year when the venue for the 46th round of biennial matches between the professionals of Europe and the United States was announced. The renamed Palmer Ryder Cup course at the K Club in County Kildare was a fantastic host venue for this global golfing event in 2006 but Adare Manor in six years promises to be even more momentous.

There are actually seven chart newcomers, and the next highest new arrival at No. 34 is Hogs Head in County Kerry. Constructed on the site of the short-lived Skellig Bay golf course, which formerly occupied a spectacular 150-acre clifftop property just outside Waterville, Hogs Head is an exclusive Robert Trent Jones II design that was built “by friends, for friends, for fun.” If you’d like to visit Hogs Head don’t dilly-dally; when the club has filled its membership, preview visits will cease.

Hogs Head Golf Club

The other new entries are Blainroe (#91), Kilkenny (#93), Moyvalley (#95), Corballis Links (#97) and Dunfanaghy (#100).


To view the complete detailed list of the Top 100 Golf Courses of Ireland click the link.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses


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