While you might not find a leprechaun with a pot of gold north of Dublin, you’ll find other great treasures.
From world-class links layouts, traditional Irish music and a legendary whiskey distillery to friendly B&Bs and awesome pubs, this part of Ireland offers the complete package for golfers.
Here are 10 reasons to plan a golf vacation to Northern Ireland:
1. World-class links golf courses
If you love playing links golf, this region of Ireland is a must visit. The naturally beautiful coastal terrain is perfect for great links golf. Large dune mounds, tall grasses framing the fairways and spectacular ocean panoramas dominate the total golf experience. The star-studded lineup includes celebrated layouts like Carne Golf Links, Enniscrone Golf Club, County Sligo Golf Club (Rosses Point), Donegal Golf Club, Narin and Portnoo Golf Club, Rosapenna Golf Club, Ballyliffin Golf Club, Portstewart Golf Club, Portsalon Golf Club, Castlerock Golf Club, Ardglass Golf Club, Royal Portrush Golf Club and Royal County Down Golf Club.
2. Great designs by legendary course architects
Harry Colt designed Royal Portrush and County Sligo. Eddie Hackett crafted Connemara Golf Club (Ballyconneely), Carne, Enniscrone, Donegal and Ballyliffin. At Rosapenna, the amazing trio of Tom Morris, Pat Ruddy and Tom Doak contributed to the designs of the Old Tom Morris Course and Sandy Hills Course.
3. Short distances between great courses
You don’t have to pile up the miles on the rental car because many of the great courses are not far from each other. Enniscrone is 39 miles from County Sligo Golf Club and 50 miles from Carne Golf Links. Donegal Golf Club is 34 miles from Narin and Portnoo and 40 miles from County Sligo. Rosapenna is 60 miles from Ballyliffin.
4. Superb lodging choices
Major resorts such as Rosapenna Golf Resort in Downings, Slieve Donard Resort & Spa in Newcastle next to Royal County Down and the Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa in Sligo are golf-friendly properties. The region also has a fantastic selection of clean and affordable B&Bs where you can enjoy a sumptuous Irish breakfast in the morning. Many B&Bs are located within easy walking distance of pubs and restaurants.
5. Great music and pubs
After a long day of golf, nothing will put you in a celebratory mood like toe-tapping traditional Irish music. The city of Sligo in County Donegal is known for its musician sessions in local pubs and clubs. Hargadon Bros. Pub in Sligo is renowned for its fantastic pub food menu. For those playing Carne, McConnell’s Pub is a local favorite and a must visit.
6. Home to Royal County Down
Opened in 1889, this spectacular, wonderfully maintained course is links golf nirvana. Oozing with class, Royal County Down is set against a magnificent backdrop of the Mountains of Mourne and along the shores of Dundrum Bay. Recognized for its tight fairways framed by purple heather and golden gorse, the course is a serious challenge from the championship tees.
7. Home to Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke
Three major championship winners grew up in this part of Ireland and learned how to play the game on courses in the region. McIlroy was introduced to the game at Holywood Golf Club, six miles northeast of Belfast, where his dad worked as a bartender. McDowell and Clark played many rounds as youngsters on the Dunluce layout at Royal Portrush in County Antrim.
8. See the Rory McIlroy tribute
Go to the second floor of the clubhouse at Holywood Golf Club to see an inspiring display dedicated to their native son and no. 1-rated golfer in the world. It’s brimming with photos of McIlroy as a junior golfer, trophies and other artifacts. In the pro shop, you can purchase hats, pin flags and other accessories dedicated to McIlroy.
9. Town of Bushmills
This quaint and walkable village is home to the Bushmills Distillery, which has been distilling whiskey for more than four centuries. You can tour the premises and engage in a whiskey tasting for a nominal fee. If you’re playing Royal Portrush, consider staying in the 41-room Bushmills Inn, a beautifully restored coaching inn, which is only four miles away.
10. Historic Donegal Town
Situated where the River Eske enters Donegal Bay, this quaint and picturesque village is home to the meticulously restored Solis Lough Eske Castle and a superb selection of B&Bs, hotels and restaurants.