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The Island

"Royal County Down is arguably the best golf course in the world and certainly one of the most challenging."

Dublin, Co Dublin, Ireland

The Island Golf Club was founded in 1890 making it one of Ireland’s oldest golf clubs and uniquely, one that wasn’t formed out of a military background. A group of ten eminent businessmen, known as “The Syndicate” built the first golf club on this site, many of whom were nearby Royal Dublin members, unhappy that they couldn’t access golf on a Sunday there. The Island is situated on a sand spit, surrounded by water on three sides, across the estuary from Malahide Village in north County Dublin, and until 1973, it could only be accessed by boat. The first course was formed with scythes and rudimentary mowing machines, and the majority of it was routed through the dunes as the lie of the land permitted.

The Island is one of the purest links courses in all of Ireland and possesses some of the tallest and most formidable dunes that you will find anywhere in these islands. Though the routing has changed over the years, the essence of the course remains the same. When Martin Hawtree arrived in 2006, he was tasked with lengthening the course for modern play, but he also provided greater definition to the already foreboding bunkers on the links. Those changes have meant that the course has often hosted Regional Qualifying for The Open Championship and will be a co-host for the strokeplay qualifying rounds for the British Amateur Championship in 2019.

The course is exceptionally well bunkered and has rough enough to keep you interested enough to stay well away from it at all costs. The opening hole is a testament to this, a very challenging Par 4 played mostly into the prevailing onshore breeze with dense rough left and right. The second shot is played to an elevated upturned bowl of a green that has a severe false front ready to return any ball not struck with accuracy. There are many exceptionally strong holes at The Island but I will pick-out two that happen to be played after each other, the thirteenth and fourteenth. Thirteen is a wickedly tricky Par 3 that is played across a hollow, with out of bounds all along the right side to the sea and long, to an exposed elevated and undulating green. The fact that there isn’t a bunker on thirteen will tell you everything you need to know. The next is a reasonably short Par 4 at only 333yds, is arrow straight and again doesn’t have any bunkers. So what’s the problem you ask? Well, the fairway is a mere 15m wide, at the widest, and there is out of bounds all down the right of the hole, with deep unforgiving rough to the left. Walk off with a Par and be happy!

The Island is again one of those fantastic hidden gem golf courses that don’t have the reputation of its more illustrious neighbours, but that reputation is coming fast. Year round this is probably one of the best-presented links courses in Ireland and should not be overlooked on any golf vacation to Ireland.

Founded 1890
6,830 yards / par 71
Fred Hawtree / Eddie Hackett / Martin Hawtree

Interesting Fact

Up until 1973, you had to access the golf course via rowing boat from nearby Malahide.