Royal County Down ranked as best golf course in the world, with Royal Portrush second best on island

Royal County Down was ranked the number one golf course in the world Credit: Press Eye

Northern Ireland’s golf courses continue to be regarded as the best in the world.

Many renowned golf magazines publish yearly lists ranking the courses in various countries as well as an overall top 100 in the world.

The Championship Course at Royal County Down continues to come out on top on the lists.

Golf Digest have named it the best course in the world in their 2023 list.

It said: “On a clear spring day, with Dundrum Bay to the east, the Mountains of Mourne to the south and gorse-covered dunes in golden bloom, there is no lovelier place in golf.

“The design is attributed to Old Tom Morris but was refined by half a dozen architects in the past 120 years, most recently by Donald Steel.

“Though the greens are surprisingly flat, as if to compensate for the rugged terrain and numerous blind shots, bunkers are a definite highlight, most with arched eyebrows of dense marram grasses and impenetrable clumps of heather.”

Royal County Down provides provides picturesque views Credit: Press Eye

Unsurprisingly then, the course also topped the Golf World and Today’s Golfer lists when it came to the 100 best golfing venues on the island of Ireland.

“In four of our six criteria it is peerless globally – design, setting, memorable holes and presentation. It scores highly in consistency despite a relatively quieter finish and loses marks against the field only for its playability; RCD is indubitably exacting – in every aspect of the game,” read the review.

“In inclement weather it is a real test but, just to be clear, there is arguably not a more exhilarating golf experience on the planet.”

Royal Portrush was second on the Irish list and eighth on the world list Credit: PA

Second on the list was another Northern Irish course and home of The Open in 2025, the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush.

“The best No.2 in the world? Only the No.2s in Scotland, America, England and Australia would come anywhere near to Portrush.

"It just so happens to be up against our World No.1 in its own country – and it is only just edged out by it. Indeed, if you dislike blind shots, you’d probably have Portrush as your top Irish course,” said the Golf World review.

The Open will return to Royal Portrush in 2025 Credit: PA

“This Harry Colt original was altered in preparation for the 2019 Open by Martin Ebert, with the final two holes on relatively flat terrain replaced by two new ones among the dunes of its sister course, the Valley.

“Most agree that the new par 5 and par 4 enhance the Dunluce, and whether it is our panellists or the world’s top players competing in The Open, complaints about the Dunluce are conspicuous by their absence.

“It is a true all-rounder in terms of its appeal and while it may not quite have as many sensational views as Royal County Down, it is unquestionably very pleasing on the eye. You won’t find quite the expanse of wild dunescape of Rosapenna or Carne, but it is hardly lacking in drama.

“Ballybunion in the south may have a more revered stretch of holes among its fabled, titanic dunes. But the Dunluce – literally – scores highly in every category, encompassing beautifully every aspect of the game which makes it enjoyable. All-round excellence for a GB&I top-10 fixture.”

Portstewart’s Strand Course was 20th on the Irish list, with Castlerock’s Mussenden Course 22nd and Lough Erne rounding out the top 25.

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