Royal County Down Golf Club (Championship Links), Northern Ireland

Royal County Down Golf Club (Championship Links) – Review and Rating

Royal County Down is currently rated by many as the best golf course outside the United States.

Royal County Down Golf Club is located in Newcastle, about an hour south of Belfast. There are plenty of hotel choices in town, but if you want the best stay at the Slieve Donald hotel, directly adjacent to the course.

Royal County Down Golf Club has two 18 hole links courses, Championship Links and Annesley Links.

Playing at Royal County Down

You can’t just show up at Royal County Down and get out on the course. It is often fully booked and you need to reserve your spot well ahead of time. Your green fee needs to be paid no later than one month in advance. If you are fewer than four, you will most likely be paired up with other players. With all four-balls on the course, you may think play is slow, but the generous 12-minute starting interval means that play mostly flows smoothly.

Royal County Down Golf Club Information
Address 36 Golf Links Road,  , BT33 0AN Newcastle, Co Down, Northern Ireland (View map)
Phone+44 (0) 28 4372 3314
Email[email protected]
Total # of holes36

The first tee is a bit intimidating. Looking down the first fairway the landing areas look very narrow. 

The starter is a cheerful fellow, but you can feel him sizing you up; are you really good enough to play this course? He may have opinions about which tee you should use; generally hcp 9 or lower is required for anything further back than the yellow tees. Listen to his advice, be humble when choosing your tee and your round will be more enjoyable.

As it turns out, the landing area on the first fairway is quite a bit wider than it looks. This is the case on many of the holes, as they often have narrow passages between the sand dunes, but widen considerably further up where most balls land. The course designers have done an excellent job in tricking you to believe that the holes are considerably more difficult than they really are; not that they are easy by any means.

The first nine holes meander through the sand dunes next to the water, with foot-high rough and gorse on the sidelines. Plenty of pot bunkers for you to choose from. Or sometimes they seem to choose you, as your ball rolls into them as if drawn by a magnet. Once in a bunker, sometimes the only way out is to play backwards, since the front edge is not only high but also lined with tall, tough grass. The greens are big, hard, and undulated, making target golf a poor option. A better choice is the bump-and-run, provided you have managed the course properly and have laid up with an opening to the green in between the bunkers.

The second nine are a bit more inland, and are slightly different in nature. Here you find many blind tee shots, so if this is your first time on the course it is recommended that you spend the 45 pounds for a caddie. He will have the local knowledge and experience not only to tell you which club to use and where to aim, but also to know in which area beyond the hill your ball has disappeared and to help you find it. This is money well spent, you will avoid a lot of frustration.

All of this may make it sound like this course is a pain to play, but it is quite the opposite. You come away happy after having played one of the very best courses in the world (Royal County Down is currently rated the best course outside the United States). Provided you weren’t too concerned about your score.

Royal County Down Golf Club (Championship Links) Information
Number of holes18
Greenfee, 1 (low) - 5 (high)5
Course AvailabilityOpen to Public
Course TypeLinks
Course DesignerGeorge L. Baillie / Tom Morris / Harry Colt / Donald Steel
Year Opened1889



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