Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ireland's Best 18 Holes... That You've Never Heard Of

Approach to the 1st green at Claremorris
With 350 golf courses spread around Ireland, there are a lot of very good holes to uncover and play. Many of the most famous are on our world-class courses - such as Druid's Glen, Waterville, Ballybunion, Old Head and Royal County Down. And there are plenty of other well known courses boasting great holes, too... but what about the courses that most people have never heard of, let alone played.

Here are 18 holes (in a standard par 72 format) that are definitely worth the detour (and the green fee). How many have you played?

Unfortunately I don't have photographs for all of these holes, and some of the websites are lacking in that department, too.

Hole 1. Claremorris 1st, Par 4, 319 metres, Index 7
A roller coaster hole in Co Mayo, with the green on show beyond a couple of
great dips. Even your best drive is going to get pulled left by the slopes.

Hole 2. Mitchelstown 4th, Par 4, 357 metres, Index 1
A majestic par four, with the approach shot crossing the River
Funshion and the green set in tall trees. Co Cork.

Hole 3. Bangor 5th Par 4, 455 yards, Index 1
A terrifying par four that doglegs sharply right and crosses a couple
of distracting hedgerows (like that in front of the tee). Co Down.

Hole 4. Greencastle 6th Par 3, 168 metres, Index 3
A wonderful par three with a green sitting next to the beach... sea alongside; sea behind. An imposing shot for sure in Co Donegal [Link to Greencastle website and hole]

Hole 5. Kilkeel 6th Par 5, 487 yards, Index 8

A par five dogleg through old trees which throw everything into shadow on this Co Down stretch. The green sits high, cut into the slope, with more trees all around.

Hole 6. Ballycastle 6th Par 4, 310 yards, Index 15
A tremendous links hole in Co Antrim, alongside the sea. It's called 'Hog's Back' for obvious reasons. It's not long but on the tumbling fairway your drive could end up anywhere.

Hole 7. Roundwood 6th Par 4, 324 yards, Index 10
A short hole on the edge of the course above the wild Wicklow Mountain countryside. It's a great view of the hole from the tee. 

Hole 8. Leinster Hills 7th Par 4, 362 yards, Index 1
The view of the green is high and right, making this a
tempting dogleg, and a tough drive outside Carlow town.

Hole 9. Oughterard 8th Par 5, 444 metres, Index 12
A par five and almost a double dogleg, first left, then slightly
right between trees and old stone walls. Co Galway

Hole 10. Castlecomer 8th Par 4, 338 metres, Index 15
From a great height, this Co Kilkenny par four is all on show.
The hole doglegs left, but this is all about the drive.

Hole 11. Mannan Castle 8th Par 4, 381 yards, Index 3
A hole that hits down into the swirling drumlins of Co Monaghan.
Getting down to the bottom is no easy feat either.

Hole 12. Cloverhill 9th Par 3, 107 yards, Index 16
The kind of hole that comes right out of the blue and brings
an instant smile to your face. You tee off for the 10th hole right
alongside. Co Armagh.

Hole 13. Rossmore 9th Par 5, 440 metres, Index 18
On a turbulent country parkland in Co Monaghan, this is a par five that's reachable in two. It's a towering tee shot to a flat fairway that skips over two streams, heading straight for the green. It's all about how you deal with the streams. 

Hole 14. Dunfanaghy 10th Par 4, 284 metres, Index 16
A par four over a Donegal beach, with a trench of bunkers waiting for the
 big hitters. 

Hole 15. Killin Park 12th Par 5, 465 yards, Index 10
A country parkland in Co Louth that is basic but really rather magical.
This par five sums it up, with a heavy swell to the fairway and a
deep wood all along the left.

Hole 16. Castleisland 12th Par 3, 156 metres, Index 12
With Kerry's massive reputation, a course like Castleisland gets forgotten
about, but this wild course has plenty of charm. The
12th is a tough target to hit with no bail-out... anywhere.

Hole 17. Water Rock 12th Par 3, 219 yards, Index 1
Not often a par three gets an Index 1 rating, but not many par threes ask you to hit a tee shot of 219 yards (Middle tees, I might add), all across water. Cork is having the last laugh!

Hole 18. Abbeyleix 12th Par 4, 268 yards, Index 14
A wonderfully short par four that heads straight up to the top of the hill and a tall wood which surrounds the green. Co Laois.


  1. A great list, and one which would make you want to visit a number of these unsung layouts. Here's a couple of suggested additions -
    the 17th or 18th at Edenderry (both dog-leg left, tremendous finishing holes)
    the 4th or 10th at Balbriggan
    the 3rd at Dunmurry Springs (a tee-shot from height, then a Hail Mary over water and rocks)
    the 2nd at Old Conna (anything from a 7 iron to a driver, short!)
    the 13th at Craddockstown (again, get your distance right on approach or swim) though 'only' a 9 holer, the 5th at Cushendall (up over the river, a bridge and a hedge to a high, blind green, the course record here is 59 !!)
    or the best-named hole in Irish or perhaps world golf, no.9 at Ceann Sibéal. 449 yards par 4 uphill, into draught, a stream to clear; played it once in driving hailstones when it truly deserved its title........Ifreann, hell.

    1. I remember Ceann Sibeal well - one tough hole up the slope. I can imagine that hailstones add to the hazards.

      I'd have picked the par 3 12th at Old Conna - watching your tee shot soar out between the trees and then down to the green - nothing like it and a great backdrop.

      Dunmurry Springs was nominated by someone else. A tricky little hole. Someone behind me almost drove it, which takes some balls given the risks.

      The 3rd at Balbriggan is my favourite but I remember the 10th well.

      As for Edenderry - interesting choice. I remember the 18th as it was almost the opposite of the 9th, which doglegs the other way, but my favourite is the 3rd - the flat par four.

      Where do you play?

    2. I am in St. Anne's, similar this weekend to trying to stand up on the deck of an oil tanker heading for Iceland ! You'd be a long time playing though before you could say - I've seen it all. Just this week, I witnessed a playing partner hitting out of heavy rough on our 18th, only for the ball to balloon up into that wicked north-east draft, hang there a short while and then plop unerringly into his own golf bag,tied onto the back of a buggy! He couldn't get it out till he went home !

  2. Great book. Great endorsement for Irish golf and what we have to offer.
    Declan Coscoran