Ireland's coast is blessed with some amazing links and clifftop courses both modern and old. Here are what we believe to be the 10 best courses in Ireland

In Royal County Down and Royal Portrush, North Ireland may possess the two finest courses across the Irish Sea according to our latest Top 100 UK & Ireland course rankings, but they aren’t exactly short of great courses south of the border either, as this look at the 10 best courses in Ireland proves…

Ballybunion (Old)
Some may argue that The Old at world-renowned Ballybunion perhaps takes a little while to fully warm up, but when it does finally hit the sea on the 7th, there’s no let up all the way to the finish thanks to a run of mesmerising links holes that will test your skill and creativity to the full.

ballybunion-11-Steve Carr

Ballybunion’s back nine is up there with the very best in golf

Waterville
Waterville in County Kerry is a very special links, well worth any extra planning and effort required to get there. It plays over a remarkable plot of duneland, surrounded by water on three sides where the River Inny meets the Atlantic. The holes take you on a magical ride in and out of the tallest and most rugged of dunes on several occasions, with stunning backdrops all around.

With water on three sides, Waterville's setting is one of the most dramatic around

With water on three sides, Waterville’s setting is one of the most dramatic around

The European Club
Carved into the sand hills south of Brittas Bay, the European Club has 20 memorable holes that wind over and through, between and round the dunes. This is spectacular modern links golf at its finest, with the sleepered bunker faces a memorable and distinctive feature throughout.

The European Club Course Review

Pat Ruddy’s European Club is the finest modern links in Ireland

Portmarnock (Red & Blue)
Portmarnock represents a masterpiece of golfing challenge, serving up a subtle but clever test over mostly gently undulating duneland. The links is surrounded by water on three sides, with the club working hard in recent years to really capitalise on the visual splendour of its maritime location. Among the holes to really benefit are the already signature par-3 15th, where even more thrilling sea views have been opened up following clearance work.

Portmarnock 12th blue 9613

Some testing up and downs around the 12th green at Portmarnock

Lahinch (Old)
Lahinch delivers rugged seaside golf in a pure form thanks to vast sand hills swathed in knee-high rough, quick greens with perplexing run-offs and a superb variety of memorable holes. Old Tom Morris and Dr Alister MacKenzie both had a hand in its evolution, as has Martin Hawtree, who updated the design with great success at the start of this century. One of Ireland’s oldest and most universally acclaimed links.

Trump International Golf Links & Hotel, Ireland
Greg Norman’s County Clare epic was already very highly regarded even before Donald Trump moved in and effected a number of changes to improve yet further this wonderful modern links set in mind-boggling dunes overlooking Doughmore Bay. The 1st hole at Doonbeg still boasts perhaps the most stunning green location in links golf courtesy of its dramatic amphitheatre setting at the foot of imposing dunes.

Old Head
This is simply one of the most wondrous courses you’ll ever experience, with the 2nd and 4th holes setting the pulse racing early on. The closing stretch is magnificent too, but the 12th will probably live longest in the memory. It plays from a vertiginous tee up and onto the fairway, before a nerve-janglingly narrow approach where the slightest of pulls will send your ball plummeting hundreds of feet to the waves and caves below. A mesmerising course!

The 16th is perhaps the pick of a stunning quartet of cliffside par 3s at Old Head

The 16th is perhaps the pick of a stunning quartet of cliffside par 3s at Old Head

Rosapenna (Sandy Hills)
Pat Ruddy’s 21st century Sandy Hills links sits alongside Old Tom Morris’s 19th century original in this north-west outpost, and few would dispute that modern-day construction techniques have allowed Ruddy to create something far more dramatic than Old Tom. Ruddy’s holes cut a swathe through towering dunes and there really isn’t a weak hole on this spectacular course.

Tralee
There’s a distinct difference between the two nines at Tralee. The back nine will have you scratching your head in bewilderment and amazement at the splendour, and at times, sheer audacity of its holes as it makes its way through, over and around towering dunes in breathtaking fashion. The par-3 13th plays over a vast chasm in the dunes – come up short and it’s crampons rather than wedges you’ll really need!

The back nine at Tralee serves up a spectacular series of memorable holes

The back nine at Tralee serves up a spectacular series of memorable holes

County Louth
This revered links has a classic old-school feel, with few consecutive holes playing in the same direction to keep you on your toes. Wind is invariably a factor, but it is often far easier to drop shots into the wind than it is to claw them back downwind, with the signature short par-4 14th a case in point thanks to its stoutly defended green.

County Louth Golf Club

County Louth’s greatest strength is that few consecutive holes play in the same direction