​Top 30 Golf Courses of Northern Ireland 2020

28 November 2019 Respond to this article

Top 30 Golf Courses of Northern Ireland 2020

Welcome to the 8th edition of our Northern Ireland rankings. We didn’t always feature as many as thirty courses but that’s where we’re now at and, if you factor in the additional courses in our county listings, we currently cover around a third of all the golfing layouts in the country.

The great and the good of golf course architecture have practiced their profession down the years in the six counties: famous designers such as Old Tom Morris, Harry Vardon, Harry Colt and even Bernhard von Limburger were working here as far back as the 1890s (in the case of Old Tom).

In the modern era, Irishmen like Eddie Hackett, Tom Craddock and Newcastle-born David Jones have made their mark on the Ulster landscape, as have well-regarded English architects in the shape of Donald Steel, John Harris, Simon Gidman and Nick Faldo.

The two world-ranked links layouts at Royal County Down and Royal Portrush hog the headlines in Northern Ireland, which is only right – who could forget the wonderful Open that was played out on the Dunluce at Portrush this July? However, there are also plenty of other top tracks worthy of serious consideration.

Royal Portrush Dunluce course

Royal Portrush Golf Club - Dunluce course

And so to our revised Top 30 for Northern Ireland, where the Championship course at Royal County Down remains as our No.1. Not everybody likes the blind shots that crop up on the course and some quibble over the relative standard of the last three holes but none of these criticisms have prevented the course from consistently appearing within the Top 10 positions of our World Top 100 chart.

Just last week Peter Wood posted a review saying: “it does not get any better than Royal County Down… one of the very top courses and golf experiences to be found anywhere… a course every serious golfer should travel to experience.” Along with the under-rated Annesley course, which rises two places to enter our national Top 10 for the first time at No. 9, the Championship course is part of a strong 36-hole links package that’s really hard to beat.

Royal County Down Annesley Course

Royal County Down Golf Club - Annesley course

The Mussenden course at Castlerock moves up one place to No. 5 in our new standings, tucked into the rankings behind the main links offerings from its near neighbours at Portstewart and Portrush. Martin Hawtree has been renovating the course over the last couple of years, resulting in a much improved 18-hole layout, and this is now reflected in the course being one of only seven to move upwards in this chart revision.

Castlerock Mussenden course

Castlerock Golf Club - Mussenden course

Interestingly, the 9-hole Bann course at Castlerock is one of the other table climbers (up four to #16) and this little bunkerless beauty, described by our editor-in-chief Keith Baxter in a recent review as “the most exciting, fun and engaging 9-hole links course that I have ever played,” is routed through enormous dunes next to the main Mussenden layout, providing first-time players with what another reviewer called “a magical mystery tour” among the sand hills.

Castlerock Bann course

Castlerock Golf Club - Bann course

Further down the listings, the course at Scrabo, located high on the hill above Newtownards, is another upwardly mobile mover in the national chart (up three to #24), and it also now moves ahead of both Warrenpoint and Knock in the Down county standings.

Scrabo Golf Club

Scrabo Golf Club

Contrary to what was stated earlier about distinguished course provenance in Northern Ireland, it’s thought that local members laid out Scrabo's original 9-hole course in 1907, before the layout was doubled in size in 1971, again with nothing other than the assistance of local golfers – who obviously had an eye for good design.

Roe Park Golf Resort

Roe Park Golf Resort

There’s only one newcomer, with Roe Park (new at #26) replacing Willie Park Junior’s Prehen course at City of Derry. First opened for play in the early 1990s, the course has not long had a renovation completed on almost half the holes, under the direction of Marc Westenborg, who has worked with Martin Hawtree for more than a decade now.


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


To view the complete detailed list of the Top 30 Golf Courses of Northern Ireland click the link.

Jim McCann
Editor
Top 100 Golf Courses