This Week at WorldGolf.com: March 14, 2007
Northern Ireland's golf courses offer travelers the real deal in links-style golf and much more
I'm downright giddy after spending a week experiencing the links golf in Northern Ireland. It still gets less attention than Scotland golf and the southwest Irish courses. But for its quality, not only in the world-class category but second-tier options, Northern Ireland can't be beat.
Royal County Down and Royal Portrush are a fantastic one-two punch. When I was driving along the coastline and approached the town of Newcastle, I could see a golf course on massive, rugged dunes on the horizon. It was indeed Royal County Down. I got the shivers. What a fantastic piece of property and as difficult of a links course out there. You'll get about the same effect driving into Portrush, only the Dunluce Castle ruins perched on rocky cliffs sits a few miles out and can be seen from the course. If you asked me which of the two I liked better, my answer would change depending on my mood. Maybe time will reveal a true winner, but donít play one without the other.
There are enough solid seconds to fill out a week's tour. Ardglass is a personal favorite and unlike any other links course Iíve seen. It doesn't play through dunes, but overlooking the ocean on jagged black rocks. Castlerock and Portstewart are also value-laden championship links. Ballyliffin, though across the border in Ireland, is near the northernmost point on the isle, and is a pain in the butt to get to, but the two courses are definitely on my perfect Northern Ireland itinerary.
When you pass the Ireland-Northern Ireland border, there is no customs (I didn't even see a "welcome" sign, come to think of it). All you see is a handful of money-exchange stores. That's about the only noticeable difference for tourists going between the two and credit cards are accepted everywhere. I spent four days in Pound Sterling country and never needed to use any. And thinking Northern Ireland might be unsafe as a result of the skirmishes up through the mid-90s is borderline ignorant. It has the second lowest crime rate in all of Europe, and the roads I encountered were in better shape than the northwest and southwest Ireland roadways.
If you have a week open for links golf, you'll find as good of an itinerary here as anywhere in the British Isles.
As always, WorldGolf.com welcomes your comments.
Golfers traveling to Ireland usually head southwest for a shot at one of the ranked golf courses, such as Ballybunion or Lahinch. That leaves whole stretches of Ireland's rocky, windswept northwest coast largely undiscovered - good news for those golfers seeking the challenging terrain of classic links golf without the crowds and tourist greens fees.
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