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Top 25 Golf Courses of Northern Ireland 2016

14 October, 2015

Top 25 Golf Courses of Northern Ireland 2016

It’s “as you were” at the top of our updated Northern Ireland rankings

We’ve been ranking golf courses biennially in our Northern Ireland chart since 2006 so this is the 6th edition of our listings for the six Ulster counties. There’s nothing too exciting to report this time around as twelve of the courses (including all those in the top six places) remain in exactly the same position as last time around. Seven courses make modest upward moves, three slide down the chart and three drop out to make way for new entries.

Having such a relatively stable situation isn’t great for generating sensational headlines but we look on this as a positive as it might just be an indication that we’re getting things right with our rankings for the province. If courses don’t rise too dramatically or plummet spectacularly then surely we must be arranging them in pretty much the correct order?

And so, retaining the number 1 position in our Northern Ireland standings, we have the Championship course at Royal County Down, which hosted this year’s Irish Open. The most recent review for this world class links layout states, quite simply, that this layout is “as good as it gets and a ‘must experience’ for every serious golfer” and we’re more than happy to endorse that assessment.

The Dunluce course at Royal Portrush is a close runner up to the top spot in our chart and it’s scheduled to host its second Open in the next few years, following a recent statement of intent by the R&A to bring this prestigious annual tournament back to the Emerald Isle. Like Royal County Down, this course also rides highly in both our GB&I and World Top 100 charts.

The Faldo course at Lough Erne is a relative newcomer, only opening for play in 2009, and it occupies the number 3 slot in our listings. This classy 18-hole layout is routed around a lovely woodland and wetland landscape, with fairways laid out across rugged Fermanagh Lakeland terrain. Expect to hear a lot more about this place as it’s just been chosen to stage the Irish Open in 2017.

The Strand course at Portstewart is tucked in at number 4 and this mighty links layout is located just along the coast from Portrush. Although the course was originally established well over a hundred years ago, it only really came to prominence following a significant redesign in the early 1990s when several new holes were driven through the towering sand dunes.

Still at number 5, the Mussenden layout at Castlerock is part of a terrific 27-hole set up, with the 9-hole Bann course rated every bit as good as the main layout by many golfers. Indeed, a good number of seasoned observers feel the club would benefit from combining the best holes from either links into one clearly superior 18-hole track that would further enhance the club’s reputation.

At number 6, the 18-hole Valley layout at Royal Portrush completes the list of half a dozen top tracks that make no upward or downward move in the national table. The course is soon to be modified, losing two holes to the neighbouring Dunluce as part of its Open Championship upgrade, with another pair of holes brought in to replace the ones incorporated into the other layout.

A couple of top class Belfast parkland courses climb two places up the chart: Belvoir Park, a late 1920s Harry Colt track, jumps to number 7 and it’s immediately followed by the Drumbridge and Ballydrain nines at Malone, which rise to number 8. There’s not much to choose between either of these two fine courses so visiting golfers are advised to play both then decide which they prefer.

Further down the rankings, the following three layouts move in the right direction: Lisburn (up four to 14) is an early 1970s Fred Hawtree redesign, Moyola Park (up three to 16) is also a product of the 1970s, though it wasn’t officially opened until 1980 by Seve Ballesteros, and Templepatrick (up four to 19) is the result of a late 1990s collaboration between architect David Jones and David Feherty.

Three courses make their first appearance in the N. Ireland Top 25. The first of these is Shandon Park at number 18, where the club’s 18-hole layout started out as a 9-hole affair back in 1898. The next newcomer is Knock at number 22. Established in 1895, the club moved to its present location in the early 1920s when C. H. Alison designed its present day course. The last new entry is Kilkeel at number 24, which Eddie Hackett doubled in size to 18 holes in 1993, almost seventy years after the club was founded.

We always welcome comments when updated national rankings are published so we’d love to know what you think of our new Top 25 for Northern Ireland. Have we overlooked a particular course or maybe we’ve included a layout that really shouldn’t be listed? Perhaps we have a course riding too high in the chart or one that’s languishing a little too low? Please click the “Respond to this article” link at the bottom of the page if you’d like to contact us.

Rank Course Move
1 Royal County Down (Championship) No change
2 Royal Portrush (Dunluce) No change
3 Lough Erne No change
4 Portstewart (Strand) No change
5 Castlerock (Mussenden) No change
6 Royal Portrush (Valley) No change
7 Belvoir Park Up 2
8 Malone (Drumbridge & Ballydrain) Up 2
9 Ardglass Down 1
10 Clandeboye (Dufferin) Down 3
11 Royal Belfast No change
12 Galgorm Castle No change
13 Kirkistown Castle No change
14 Lisburn Up 4
15 Royal County Down (Annesley) No change
16 Moyola Park Up 3
17 Bangor No change
18 Shandon Park New entry
19 Templepatrick Up 4
20 Massereene No change
21 Spa Up 1
22 Knock New entry
23 Ballycastle Up 2
24 Kilkeel New entry
25 Castlerock (Bann) Down 4

To view the complete detailed list of the Top 25 Golf Courses in Northern Ireland click the link. To see the revised Best In County rankings for each of Northern Ireland’s six counties, click the following links: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, Tyrone.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses


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