- February 16, 2021 // The Consummate Pro
Best 36-holes days in Ireland
The best links golf course destinations in Ireland and Scotland are not blessed with their 36-hole layouts. There are many reasons for this. Firstly, their location is often prohibitive to expansion. Although they are in seaside locations, most links lands today are protected by law, so development is not permitted for environmental reasons. Secondly, while there are significant expanses of links land all around the UK & Ireland, most of it is not actually suitable for golf course development. Finally, there is the cost. When the majority of todays’ links layouts were built, the price of land was a fraction of what it was today. The most valuable land, arable farming lands, were mostly found inland. Therefore, the only viable purpose for most of the seaside land that was identified, was as a golf course. This combination of reasons explains why there are so few “new” developments on links land today.
Despite all of this, we are blessed with many very fine 36-hole links golf properties in the UK & Ireland. For many people however, playing 36-holes in a day is simply not desirable. First and foremost, most overseas visitors forget that in Ireland, links golf is predominantly a walking game, there are no buggies on offer. Even for the fittest among us, walking and playing 18-holes of links golf is challenging, and tiring. The terrain can be incredibly undulating, and the rough even energy sapping to wade through. So by the end an 18 hole, never mind 36-hole days, you will feel it on the legs. Thrown in some inclement Irish weather, and it can be a long day in the saddle.
That said, those who are up for the challenge, many of the leading links golf courses in Ireland have great 36-hole options. Let’s take a look at some of them, starting in Northern Ireland.
Very few golfers who play Royal Co. Down Golf Club, will play the Annesley Links, the second course on property. No, it is certainly not in the same league as its big brother, but if you positioned the Annesley Links anywhere else, it would sit quite nicely in the rankings. It is a reasonably short par 67, with the 2nd hole, at precisely 400yards, the longest on the golf course. However, the Annesley links is still a challenge. The views from the Annesley are arguably better than the Championship links as many tee boxes sit high or closer to the water. As a 2nd eighteen, it is as gentle as you will find, and for many golfers, very enjoyable.
In terms of 36-hole days, we often combine Royal County Down with Ardglass Golf Club, just a 30-minute drive to the north-east. Ardglass is a highly enjoyable links, but again isn’t as physically challenging as County Down. Unusually, the club does have a small number of golf buggies available on request for those that have medical need for them, and a full caddie pool is available.
Up on the north coast, the 2nd eighteen at Royal Portrush Golf Club is The Valley Links. When the Championship Links was awarded the Open in 2019, two new holes needed to be created. These holes predominantly came from land occupied by The Valley links. As a result, architects Mackenzie and Ebert made some adjustments to the layout including new tees to the existing 5th. They created a new par 3 hole for the 15th, new tees for the 16th, re-introduced one of the original Portrush holes, the 17th. Finally, the new 18th hole provides a great view of the sea from newly built elevated tee boxes. These improvements have only increased the popularity of The Valley and its playing experience, and is highly recommended as an additional round if so desired.
Staying on the north coast, there are 36-hole options at Castlerock Golf Club in the form of the Championship Mussenden and second Bann course, as well as the fabulous Championship ‘Strand’ Course at Portstewart Golf Club where you can play either the Old Course, or the Riverside.
Continuing along the coast into County Donegal, you will find two of the most prolific multi-hole layouts in Ireland. The Old Links and Glashedy Links at Ballyliffin Golf Club are two of the finest examples of links golf in Ireland. The Glashedy proved its pedigree by hosting the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in 2019 on the European Tour.
Just across Lough Swilly, passing the superb Portsalon, you will come to the Rosapenna Resort. The resort currently consists of The Old Tom Morris Links, and the Sandy Hills Links, two fantastic and contrasting layouts. However, most excitingly there is a third new course, the St. Patrick’s Links due to open in the summer of 2021 which will take the property to 54 holes of magnificent links golf. Rosapenna is one of the few links properties in Ireland to also have a hotel on-site to serve the multitude of golfers that head this direction annually.The property also has multiple short game areas, as well as a fun ‘Football Golf’ area.
Continuing along the Wild Atlantic Way on the west coast, there are a number of other great 27-hole options. County Sligo Golf Club (Rosses Point) have the nine-holes of the Bomore alongside the Championship “Colt” courses that annually hosts the West of Ireland Amateur Championship. The magnificent links at Carne, the most westerly course in Ireland, has the Championship 18, plus the recent ‘Kilmore’ nine. Then slightly further along the western seaboard at Enniscrone Golf Club, the Scurmore nine sits adjacent to the Championship ‘Dunes’ links. These three are arguably some of the best value links golf experiences in Ireland.
Continuing south, the Old Course at Lahinch is one of Ireland’s premier links golf courses, however, very few golfers stay around long enough to enjoy its little brother, the Castle Course. Situated on the adjacent piece of land, the Castle isn’t as undulating, challenging or long, but it is a fun links challenge. The same can be said for the Cashen Course at Ballybunion. The Old Course draws all the crowds and the acclaim, and rightly so, but the Cashen is a really good links in its own right. Arguably one of the better “2nd courses” in Ireland, place the Cashen Course anywhere else and it makes the Top 20. It meanders its way through the dunes producing some fantastic golf holes. We highly recommend golfers to play the Cashen while at Ballybunion.
Heading further south to the village of Waterville, you will find one of our very popular 36-hole days. The Waterville golf links is one of Ireland’s best golf courses and now the village has a second course, Hogs Head Golf Links to join the stable. The two are separated by a mere handful of miles across the town, making a full days golf imminently straight-forward. This is also a very interesting blend of the old and new in terms of course design, a really fun experience.
The East Coast
Heading back across to the east coast once more there are a number of 36-hole combo’s that are well worth exploring. The European Club in Brittas Bay, Wicklow is another fun experience. It is possible to partner it with Arklow Golf Links, a mere 20-minute drive away for a unique links day. Arklow has been around since 1927, a reasonably unheralded links, but is a perfect partner on any 36-hole days that would include a heavyweight such as the European.
Dublin provides a number of 36-hole days due to the close proximity of several golf courses to each other. The 27-holes at Portmarnock Golf Club provide a really nice option. Finish 18 holes on the Red and Blue courses, then after a spot of lunch, take on the yellow course as the afters. Co. Louth Golf Club (Baltray) just outside Drogheda slightly further north, is unquestionably one of Ireland’s links gems. It has hosted the Irish Open and is home to the East of Ireland Amateur Championships every year. Next-door to Baltray, is Seapoint links. Similar to Arklow, Seapoint is a relatively new links but well worth a visit, where the contrast of the old, and new are plain to see.
As you will see, for those interested in putting their game and body to the test, Ireland is not short of 36-hole days challenges. As always, here at The Consummate Pro we are happy to advise our guests on what works best for their trip, what to choose and how to make it work. We very much look forward to planning your next golf vacation to Ireland. Why not take a look at some of our sample Tours, one of which may just whet your appetite to start planning today.