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Green escapes: Five great golf courses for a quick round near Dublin, Ireland

Jason Scott DeeganBy Jason Scott Deegan,
Senior Staff Writer
The Island Golf Club - hole 15
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The dunes provide a bird's-eye view on the 15th green at The Island Golf Club. (Jason Scott Deegan/TravelGolf)

Heading to the Emerald Isle Classic (Notre Dame vs. Navy) this fall, or just have some time to kill while in Dublin? Well just because you're not in Ireland for a golf trip doesn't mean you can't sneak in a round or two. Here are five golf courses you can book online.

DUBLIN, Ireland -- You don't have to be on a golf vacation in Ireland to play golf. Visitors come to Ireland and the capital city of Dublin for a variety of reasons: business, ancestry pilgrimages, castle tours, pub crawls and plenty more.

One of the big draws this fall is the Emerald Isle Classic at Aviva Stadium, where more than 30,000 Americans will watch Notre Dame play Navy in college football.

Traditionally, the best way to play the great links golf courses of Ireland has been to go through a golf packager. It still is for many reasons. But now that most of the top golf clubs in Ireland offer online tee times, you don't have to be on a golf package to play a round of golf or two.

Golfnow.com, for example, has made the "single-round golf vacation" easy, turning business trips or family vacations into a quick golf getaway. Tee times at more than 100 of the top golf courses in Ireland are just a click away.

Many of Ireland's finest golf courses are a short drive from Dublin city center. And virtually every club offers quality rental clubs. Here are five convenient options to consider adding on to your trip.

Royal Dublin Golf Club

Royal Dublin Golf Club lacks the scenery and dunes of Dublin's other A-list links, but its location three miles from the city center makes it ideal for visitors who don't have a car. Public transportation like bus routes or a short cab ride will get you there. This historic club established in 1885 is the second oldest in Ireland, but work done by Martin Hawtree in 2006 added 450 yards and brought the course up to modern standards. Its subtleties will punish any scorecard.

Portmarnock Golf Club

Just five miles up the road from Royal Dublin, Portmarnock Golf Club is the most revered Dublin links, ranking among the top 100 courses in the world. Portmarnock dates to 1894 and has hosted 13 Irish Opens in the modern era of the European Tour, crowning champions from Ben Crenshaw in 1976 to Jose Maria Olazabal in 1990 and Michael Campbell in 2003. The 7,466-yard championship course won't wow visitors with its views or terrain. It just pummels them with strong holes. The extra nine, added in the 1950s, is just as strong, even offering two surprises the other 18 holes can't: a scenic walk along the shore and an outstanding drivable par 4. The neighboring Portmarnock Golf Links, designed by Bernhard Langer, is a younger, more playable and more affordable links.

The Island Golf Club

North of Dublin in Donabate, The Island Golf Club is another old club (established in 1890) with a wonderful links. There's a story floating around that even Darren Clarke begged off playing from the tips during a round. A quirky layout starts with eight straight par 4s, ending the front nine with a par 3. The back nine ups the ante in scenery and difficulty. The par-3 13th overlooks the Malahide Estuary. The fairway of the par-4 14th hole, where the old clubhouse once stood, is a mere 12 yards wide with out of bounds on the right. The round climaxes at the par-5 15th, where the green hides in an amphitheater of dunes.

County Louth Golf Club

Perhaps the most under-appreciated links in all of Ireland sits north of the city across the Boyne River. County Louth Golf Club (also called Baltray) was established in 1892. It wasn't until 1938 that architect Tom Simpson perfected its routing. In 1993, architect Donald Steel upgraded the design to 7,031 yards, sturdy enough to host the 2004 and 2009 Irish Opens. County Louth has an uncanny ability to forgive the sins of high-handicappers, yet punish the pros.

The K Club

If links golf isn't your thing, try parkland golf at The K Club. The River Liffey creates much of the dramatic theater on the 7,350-yard Palmer Course, site of the 2006 Ryder Cup. Water comes into play on 14 holes. The 7,277-yard Smurfit Course hosted 13 Smurfit European Opens from 1995-2007. The pros can attest that the Palmer-designed Smurfit plays several shots tougher than the older Ryder Cup course. Water, gorse and large bunkers with extended fingers can rip your round to shreds.

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Portmarnock Golf Club - clubhouseThe K Club - Palmer Course - hole 14

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

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