Royal County Down in Northern Ireland overtakes the Old Course in St. Andrews in Golf Digest world rankings
I’ve played them both in the last few months. So which course is better in my opinion?
Well, choosing between these two is like deciding whether to return Jessica Alba or Hale Berry’s phone call first. The only bad decision you could make is not making the effort at all.
There are a few things the two have in common. Both are a focal point of a bustling seaside town and have great urban views. They both have some teeth but can yield birdies (I had two birdies on each. Not bragging, just saying). While St. Andrews is the most regular host to the Open Championship, RCD will host the 2007 Walker Cup.
I think St. Andrews has the edge in the finish, with the Road Hole 17th and drivable, high drama finale in the heart of the town. RCD has a blander finish (relatively speaking) even after it rebuilt the 16th hole a few years back. It’s world class stuff is over by the 14th or so.
Topographically, RCD is a world above. Unlike the flatter Old Course, RCD is built on massive dunes, you’re playing through them and at times can’t even see beyond your fairway. Then again, there are some tee boxes on top of dunes that give you unbelievable scenery, and the view from the top of the crest on the 9th hole - over the Slieve Donard hotel and Mountains of Mourn in the backdrop is one of Ireland golf’s most iconic.
Don’t let price be a factor in your decision, they’re both 125 pounds this summer (RCD charges 150 on weekends). Both also have stacked tee sheets, especially this summer with the Walker Cup at RCD and British Open at Carnoustie up the road from St. Andrews.
So which course am I calling first? St. Andrews by a nose, only because the massive, firm double greens are so puzzling. I’ve never had so much fun putting and chipping. For mid-handicappers, you’ll probably enjoy yourself on the Old Course - or nearby Royal Portrush (which finished fourth behind Royal Dornoch) more than RCD. If you’re a low-handicapper (or just a masochist), County Down is definitely your horse.
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