By Kevin Markham
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF
Copyright © Kevin Markham. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
|Scrabo Golf Club as seen from Scrabo Tower.|
ANY GOLFER WHO HAS PLAYED an Irish links in a gale will know that it doesn’t get any tougher. Whether the wind’s behind you or head-on, reaching and staying on a green from 100 yards is a victory. And in a crosswind merely finding your tee shot is a luxury. Then there’s the issue of playing from the regular tees or from the tips. Many of Ireland’s new parkland courses add 700 yards plus to a round if you play from the championship tees.
But take the wind out of the equation and it’s not all links courses that fill the toughest 10 spots; take away the length and it’s not just the muscle parklands that cause nightmares. There are some courses on this island that were born to be difficult.
1. Rosapenna (Sandy Hills) in Co. Donegal is a links that requires everything in your bag and your brain. The difficulties of tight fairways, long rough and small greens are compounded by the constant movements in the land that fool the eye. 6,383 yards.
2. Royal County Down (Co. Down) is one of the most beautiful links courses on the planet, with an old school design that makes it both a natural and daunting test. There are numerous blind shots, which can leave you reeling, bearded bunkers and slippery greens. 6,881 yards.
3. Druid’s Heath (Co. Wicklow). A Pat Ruddy creation. The parkland Heath combines the difficulties of length with perspective—you won’t always see where you’ll be landing the ball or what’s waiting around the corner—and then throws in some devilish greens. The par four 12th is the hardest hole in the country. 6,833 yards.
4. Enniscrone (Co. Mayo). Big dunes create all kinds of thrilling challenges on one of Ireland’s best links. There are plenty of blind shots and tricky slopes, but you never want to be through the green. Never! 6,814 yards.
5. Headfort (New) in Co. Meath. An idyllic, rhythmic parkland where water on 12 holes can be extremely punishing if your aim or length is not perfect. There are some long carries too. 6,741 yards.
6. The European Club (Co. Wicklow). The Pat Ruddy designed links course is not for the fainthearted. Holes vary greatly in length but green approaches are always difficult and the rough can be brutal. Bunkers lined with railway sleepers don’t help! 6,720 yards.
7. Scrabo (Co. Down). A hillside, furze-drenched nightmare, but a thrilling one all the same. There’s rarely a lot of room, the furze is razor sharp and deep, and the greens small and hard. A great test and some of the best views anywhere. A par 72 of just 6,130 yards.
8. Dingle/Ceann Sibéal in Co. Kerry is so exposed to the Atlantic winds you may not be able to stand upright. It slides simply across a gentle hill and 11 holes are adorned—or cursed—by a vicious burn. The rough is terrifying and the routing means the wind hits you from every side. 6,477 yards.
9. Carton House (Montgomerie) in Co. Kildare. A low-lying inland links with subtle shapes that always fool the eye. The bunkering is gloriously deep and utterly lethal, putting a premium on position from the tee. 6,821 yards.
10. Carne (Co. Mayo). One of the newest links in Ireland, you won’t find dunes bigger and once you miss the fairway a level stance is nigh on impossible. Some stunningly shaped holes. The challenge here has nothing to do with length. 6,368 yards.
Kevin Markham is the author of Hooked: An Amateur’s Guide to the Golf Courses of Ireland and writes about Irish golf courses at his blog.
5 thoughts on “Top 10 Hardest Golf Courses in Ireland”
Neil, have you played any courses on the emerald isle?
I would kill just to visit!
Daniel: No, I haven't. My brother-in-law went last summer and told me all about it. And I try to live vicariously through my Irish friends who have posted here. I definitely need to get there someday.
Love to play on such golf courses in Ireland…
Great Info but Enniscrone's not in Mayo??
Ireland is lovely and even though these courses and the conditions are hard, I'd be up for the challenge. Here in Costablanca (that's in Spain just in case you're wondering) there are also some lovely courses, but the weather will soon start getting too hot to play anyway 😉