Royal County Down Golf Club - Top 100 Golf Courses of the World
Royal County Down (Championship), Northern Ireland
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Royal County Down Golf Club
County Down
BT33 0AN
Northern Ireland
ArchitectGeorge L. Baillie, Old Tom Morris, Harry Vardon, Harry Colt
Head Professional/Director of GolfKevan Whitson
Telephone+44 (0) 28 4372 3314
Location30 miles S of Belfast
Websites Golf Club Website
Pro Shop Website
VisitorsContact in advance - not Sat or Wed
Club Secretary/ ManagerDavid Wilson

Visit for a golf holiday at Royal County Down


According to the results of a Top 100 survey, Royal County Down is the most scenic golf course in Britain & Ireland.
There is always lively discussion about which golf course is better than another, but none is more passionate than the debate over the relative merits of Royal County Down and Royal Portrush. If you haven’t played either of them yet, we recommend a golf trip to Northern Ireland; you certainly won’t be disappointed by Royal County Down.

Royal County Down Golf Club is at Newcastle, a little holiday town nestling at the feet of the majestic Mountains of Mourne. It’s an exhilarating location for a classic links golf course where the Bay of Dundrum sweeps out into the Irish Sea and where the mighty peak of Slieve Donard (3,000 ft.) casts its shadow over the town.

A Scottish schoolteacher called George L. Baillie, who was on a personal mission to establish golf courses, originally laid out the first nine holes at Newcastle and they opened for play in 1889. Later that year, Old Tom Morris was paid the modest sum of four guineas to extend the course and 18 holes were ready for play in 1890. Harry Vardon modified the course in 1908, the same year King Edward VII bestowed royal patronage on the club.

Royal County Down maintains tradition; the “Hat Man” still mixes the pairings for the Saturday matches (foursomes in the winter and four-balls in the summer) as he did around 100 years earlier.

Bernard Darwin commented that the greens “lie, moreover, in a good many instances, in those pleasing little hollows which are the most adroit flatterers in the whole world of golf.” In 1926 Harry Colt was commissioned to make further alterations to the course which included addressing the gathering nature of the original greens and reducing the number of blind drives.  

Old Tom however deserves most credit for the layout and he was presented with an idyllic piece of ground on which to design a golf course. The sand dunes are rugged but beautifully clad in purple heather and yellow gorse, the fairways are naturally undulating, shaped by the hands of time. The greens are small and full of wicked borrows.

Measuring more than 7,000 yards from the back tees, Royal County Down is a brute. It’s a mystery that this fantastic course, with one of the finest outward nine holes in golf, has never hosted an Open. Factor in the ever-changing wind and you have as stern a test as any Open Championship venue. 

The 4th and 9th holes are both universally admired. The 4th must be one of the most scenic long par threes in golf described as follows by one commentator: “Innumerable gorse bushes, ten bunkers, three mountain peaks, and one spire equal the most magnificent view in British golf”. The 9th, a long par four, is perhaps one of the world’s most photographed holes, the line from the elevated tee is directly at the Slieve Donard peak and the sweeping fairway lies eighty feet below  - magnifique.

Sure, the course has a level of eccentricity; there are still a number of blind drives and some of the bunkers are fringed with coarse grass, which gathers the ball with alarming regularity, but this simply adds to the charm. If a measure of a great golf course is the number of holes that you can remember, then Royal County Down is one of the greatest courses of them all.

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Average Reviewers Score:      
No doubt that RCD is a very special golf course, set at an almost unparalleled scenery and most of the holes are very original. That said, I agree with a previous post that it is too complicated for any player with a handicap of more than one digit: for a weaker player such as me, I find it is all penalty. In my case, a 12 handicapper, playing in a calm and sunny day, my experience was bittersweet as I spent most of time frustrated or looking balls. May be I was ovrewhelmed by the scenery or nerves, but the truth is I really did not get or intuit the greatness of the first 9 holes, of which everyone speaks. In any case, I recognize that this is quite possibly the most spectacular golf course that I have ever faced, and that everything makes you feel special. I hope to return to enjoy it as it deserves but, for now, I can´t give RCD the albatross mark because I find it too penal for most of players.
27 November 2014 Respond to above review
Well … the day finally came and my round at RCD came true. Since I started to play some of the World Top Ranked courses I really wanted to be here at Newcastle and experience for myself how good RCD is, as words and text were not enough. The round came on the final day of a 24 golfers group I led to Northern Ireland after Royal County Down (Championship) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerplaying Royal Portrush (Dunluce), Portstewart (Strand), both Ballyliffin (Old & Glashedy), Ardglass and RCD. The round was held on a Friday, but as we stayed at the great Slieve Donard Hotel (adjacent to the course) I couldn’t stand and went on a walk Wednesday, Thursday and even Friday night way after the round to take some more photos in the sun.

I have played Pine Valley, Cypress Point, Shinnecock, Merion, Winged Foot and some more, and all I can say is that RCD comes very close if not better even than Pine Valley. I believe it is a greater course than Cypress and Shinnecock, not only because of design and variety, but also due to the great scenery that surrounds the course with the Ocean, the Mourne Mountains and the dunes plus colored gorse that makes it look totally natural.

Royal County Down (Championship) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerWe arrived early on the course as the Proshop is a compulsive buy attraction not only for shirts or sweaters but also every kind of souvenir you can imagine as ball markers, glasses, paintings, club covers, logo balls, etc. Many of my group spent quite a bit and will exhibit their sweaters very proudly back in Argentina. The day was not perfect and sunny, but not bad at all as we only had rain on one hole (my 15th!), just wind and not the strong wind a course by the Ocean can have.

The 4 starting holes are as great as you can imagine, regarding #1 is a gentle par 5 where a good driver can give you a birdie chance but the second shot needs to be very accurate. Then 2 and 3 are 2 great par 4s with a very challenging tee shot but as we played downwind a 3 wood was enough. Arriving to 4th hole you find the first monster, 215yds into the wind with danger all around Royal County Down (Championship) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerand all I can say is bogey was not bad! Tee shot on 5th is tough to find but once you get on the fairway most of the job is done. 7th the short par 3 is easy, but a shanked PW led me to a very disappointing double! Last 2 par 4s on the front 9 are great where the last one is maybe the nicest hole in Ireland and maybe one of the toughest. When you get over the hill, a picture there is mandatory!

Back 9 went downwind from the great par 3 10th to par 3 14th (another shank and another double!), being 13th another great hole where second blind shot is a great challenge. Last 4 holes into the wind were tough but I managed pretty well, being here finding fairway makes the difference between a par and really big numbers. In 15th, the only hole where we had some rain, I have a great story: while standing there, one of the excellent caddies said “This should be the 1 Stroke Index Hole”. 454yds into the wind was a great challenge and my low cut driver went to the fairway Royal County Down (Championship) - Photo by reviewerto 215yds to the pin. Then I hit another low cut hybrid with such a good luck that the ball went into the hole and EAGLE!! Finding the cup from that distance is 100% luck!

After finishing the round the walk discovering the Club House is mandatory, there are lots of memories and pictures including one of Rory and Gmac playing on their own carrying their bags just days after the 2010 US Open at Pebble showing great amateur spirit by both of them. A great round and better experience, a must play course, a demanding challenge and the certainty that this course should share number #1 with Pine Valley. Many people will disagree and I can stand with that, but after having walked both of them my feeling is that none of them should be #2, they are timeless and it will be a very tough job to build a course better than these too.

I am a very thankful guy about the luck and honor of having been here and my promise is I WILL BE BACK!!! There should be a seven balls rating and be called UNBEATABLE where RCD and Pine Valley should stand.
13 August 2014 Respond to above review
Whatever you have heard about RCD, whatever you have read about RCD and whatever you do in golf for the simply have to arrange to play at RCD.
13 August 2014 Respond to above review
I had the massive pleasure of playing this truly great course in April. Stunning scenery, with the Mountains of the Mourne in view throughout, massive dunes, and true linksland. I played from well forward, but found it plenty of golf course for this 8 handicapper. 8 and 9 are legendary, but too many great holes to list. I made 3 at 15, and thought I might post a score, then 16, a great risk reward short par 4, got me. Great greens, utterly fair, and beautiful, but very very tough. Two tiny criticisms: I liked 18, though many seem not to, but I thought 17 not just a bad hole, but wholly out of place with all the rest. I also thought the marvellous, rough round the edges bunkers, quite tough enough without the addition of heaps of very soft sand. All in, though, a place every golfer MUST go to.
03 August 2014 Respond to above review
Best golfing experience I have ever had to put it simply. There are some great deals in winter. friendly staff. I will be back every year!!
07 July 2014 Respond to above review
This is unquestionably the best course that I have played. I have been fortunate to play some outstanding courses, including Pine Valley, but nothing comes close to RCD, it is truly spectacular. The 9th is utterly breathtaking.
27 September 2013 Respond to above review
Quite simply one of the best golf experiences of my life. I am a 6 handicapper that played RCD in April 2013. It has an aura that I have felt only at St Andrews and Pinehurst previously. This is an astonishingly good golf course, which is eminently playable with room off the tee and sensible greens. Each hole is a self contained joy with no replication within the course. Views are stunning (I was hugely lucky with the weather) and the design / architecture is flawless. Even the blind shots work at RCD. The only comment from me is that apart from the existence of burns, personally I am not a fan of water on a links course. This manifested iteslf as a triangular pond on 17th fairway. Played Annesley course in the afternoon which was huge fun with a number of the middle holes using the same topograhy as the "big" course. Staff were welcoming and knowledgeable. Every golfer should play at RCD.
26 June 2013 Respond to above review
Very special course. Spectacular layout, excellent condition, great caddies. Really a flawless course.
14 October 2012 Respond to above review
I played this fabulous course three times just a few days ago. What a treat! Even in benign conditions it is quite a challenge, but always with a friendly wink in the eye. And the artistry is everywhere. Of the courses I've played it is second only to Muirfield, and that is just maybe. Drop everything and go play RCD!
15 March 2012 Respond to above review

Ebrahim30 May 2012
This is really a masterclass in design and beauty. Manicured and presented in superb condition. A shot makers paradise. A difficult course and managing your game is of high priority. Had services of a wonderful caddy, Tim. Made all the difference. We were fortunate to play this course on Monday, May 21, in perfect weather. What a treat. Definitely up there with the greats like Portrush and Muirfield. Its worth mentioning that if given a chance, one should venture north to Ardglass( 30 min drive) and play a wonderful hillsde and cliffhugging links.
As a native of Belfast living now in the uk, I have been so fortunate to play at RCD for many years. I played today for only £50 and in 40mph cross winds realised how beautiful this place is. It has to be the best front nine in the world and perhaps the toughest with the wind. If you are lucky for a dry day as I was today the course is a sight to behold. The clubhouse extension and a more visitor friendly environment is most welcome than days gone past. With 7 pars on the first 7 I felt invincible but then 8 & 9 bit. They have to be 2 of the toughest and stunning golf holes you will ever play. I don't like 16&17 but RCD will always be for me the purist a joy to play.
05 January 2012 Respond to above review
I've lived within 30 miles of RCD my whole life, but it was only a month ago that i finally got to visit. What put me off for so long? Well a few things; the stuffiness, the green fee, and a longstanding genuine preference for parkland golf. I'm also quite a cynical person - the sort who swears advertising doesn't work on them. All told, I should have been a candidate for hating the place. Instead, I absolutely adored it. Rarely in my life have I ever witnessed hype so justified. The course is simply magical. I don't need to do a blow by blow account of the course, that's been done a dozen times below. The best I can do for potential visitors is tell you to book a tee time as soon as possible. Amazing.
01 January 2012 Respond to above review
My thoughts upon arriving at Royal Country Down were along the lines of wondering if there was any way this magnificent course could live up to it's stellar reputation. To put it simply, the course did that and more. This was a great and unique experience for me. I have played all the past and present Open courses and most of the top links in the UK, and I agree with the placement of Royal County Down as the top course in the UK. So what makes this place so special? For me there are three factors. First, the setting is unparalleled. Between the mountains and the Bay runs a magnificent landscape of rolling dunes, just high enough to be spectacular without being impossible to walk or play. Second, the course was in fantastic shape with excellent greens, firm but well conditioned fairways, and difficult but playable rough. Finally, the course has 18 championship holes. For me #'s 3,4 and 9 stand out, but each hole has it's own unique character and challenge. After a birdie at 10 and eagle at 12 I was flirting with level par, but my finish left something to be desired. Regardless I loved this course. There's not much to complain about. Maybe a few too many blind shoots for the purist, and the final 4 holes may lack some of the drama of the rest of the course, but these are minor nits compared to the overall magnificence of this layout. All golfers, make your way to Newcastle at some point in your life. You won't regret it. Richard Smith, Knoxville, Tennessee
02 August 2011 Respond to above review
We played RCD on 27 June 2011. It was just a fantastic experience. The course itself is just stunning - layout, scenery, the lot. The conditioning is first class, down to the finest details. The greens were very true and in great condition and the service very warm and friendly. It is an extremely difficult course for any golfer, so don't go expecting to play to your handicap and if you do, then well done, you have played your socks off! If I were to highlight one feature that sets it apart from many courses I have played and puts it in the "good enough course to hold a Major" category, it is the difficulty around the greens. Whether it is an approach shot, a putt or a short chip, keeping the ball on the putting surface is a real challenge. Every hole is great, but holes 1-9 are just so good. If there is a better view than from hole 4? Hole 7 is a fiendishly hard 125 yd par 3 - my ball pitched 6 feet from the pin and ended all the way down by the bunker on the left. Hole 5 is superb and hole 9 has great views of Slieve Donard hotel and mountain. We also played Portrush (both Dunluce and Valley) and Portstewart - all first class golf courses but there really is something very unique about RCD that is difficult to define unless you've been there. Good fun to see some of the comments from other reviewers who give less than 6 stars. We are all entitled to our opinion, but for me anyone that gives this course less than 6 stars needs counselling!
30 June 2011 Respond to above review
My friends and I played Royal County Down in May. Very hard golf course, but very good. Lots of wind. We liked Dunluce in Portrush, but Royal County Down was also very good. Maybe Portrush is in better condition, but Royal County Down is more difficult. 9eme is a splendide. We loved the hotel as well. Great experience. Superb Royal County Down. François K, Paris
07 June 2011 Respond to above review
Possibly the best course I will ever play seeing as the only three that seem to be considered to be better are all private clubs in the US! It really is an absolute gem of a golf course and if you get to play it on a good day then you are in for one of the very best golfing experiences.
05 April 2011 Respond to above review
Excellent - we played the course in the end of March and had an super day, right from the warm welcome to the drive back to Belfast airport. The course just has stinning hole after stunning hole. A pure joy to play and thank god I had a good driving day as the fairway bunkers and rough are penal. Admittedly with the T's slightly up one of our party Mr Meek managed an excellent 42 pionts of a 6 handicap not bad. The lunch was also excellent the only small piont is the greens were a little bumpy - but it is March ! The big grip though is the course not being on Skycaddie and no markings. This is fine for top amatour competitions but we can all get the yardage with much pacing out and carefull checking of course planners. It just takes time which would be much better spent taking in the views and enjoying the course. So please can you get the course mapped and speed up play, knowing you have 125 yards to carry a bunker is one this as a 14 handicapper hitting the shot is another !
30 March 2011 Respond to above review
As some very knowledgeable person said - "the finest combination of beauty and challenge in golf" No way this course could deserve less than a 6-ball mark.
09 January 2011 Respond to above review

John25 January 2011
From the first minute you arrive at RCD, you know you're at the best! I'm an 11 handicap and played to it! Including birdies on the 8th and 13th. Yes some holes scare the living daylights out o you and some are blind....but buy a course planner at the cheapest option for £5 and you give yourself a fighting chance. Greens are the best you'll ever putt on! The bunkers are a tourist attraction. To start your round,go to the visitors locker room and admire the memorabilia and pictures of the golfing greats to get the nerves going. If you love'll never ever find a better experience. Best holes for me are 8 and 16 for pure breath taking spectacularness (if that's a word??)
DF27 January 2011
Good post John. Have to agree with you about the 8th - it's my favuorite par 4 in the world. The 9th gets all the accolades and rightly so but the 8th is the highlight for me. 3rd is an exceptionally good par 4 also.
Wow. Visually, this is as stimulating as some of the stunning courses on the Monterey Peninsula and in terms of design it offers variety that is rarely found elsewhere. In terms of condition this is the finest links course I have ever played and not far off the very best inland courses which might usually have the edge in the middle of the summer. I can imagine this course would be immaculate all year round! If I was being picky I could agree with some that perhaps there are a few too many forced carries and blind shots. Holes 14 and 17 don’t really do it for me as they feel slightly out of place. I realise the water on 17 is natural but it just seemed faux. This doesn’t detract from what is an incredible piece of design, but just stops it from getting top marks in my scribble book. The green complexes are not particularly undulating compared to the Colt greens at Portrush but they can be commended for being lightening fast and as true as you like. Bunkers- awesome. Fine course, great design, will be back!! Adrian W
08 January 2011 Respond to above review
An incredible 1st trip to RCD with my father last year. The front nine is better than any front nine that I've ever played (have played at least 30 courses in the top 100). Friendliness of our caddie added to our delight. Highlite of our trip was a left handed shot (by my right handed father) from 100 yards that ended up 3 feet from the hole at #11. Can't tell you if its the best that I've ever played, but definitely in the top 3.
04 January 2011 Respond to above review
For the middle handicapper, RCD is not reasonably playable. In fairness, the Club suggests it is for low handicappers. A major criterion for me for a truly top course is tjhe balance of risk-reward for a range of players from scratch to mid-20s. RCD had very friendly staff when I played with five others in July 2010 and is in a beautiful location. Some of the holes are just plain silly. Even our six-handicapper found it very frustrating to lose balls for shots very close to being well struck. The lady in our two groups was expected to hit 150m carries off the tee. How many women do you know who can do that? Why the fixation on punishment? Royal Melbourne (West) remains my benchmark for a great course for players of all abilities. I rank RCD well below many other Irish courses. A glorious walk; a most enjoyable day (and I did play quite well off 13) but as a (members') course it ranks well below Portstewart, Old Ballybunion, RDGC, Tralee (Barrow), Co Louth (Baltray) and a personal nostalgic funny favourite, Laytown and Bettystown. RCD has the scenic "wow" but I won't return on my biennial Irish pilgrimages.
28 November 2010 Respond to above review

Nick29 November 2010
I find this review extremely hard to fathom and seriously question its credibility. RCD is consistently ranked among the world's best courses and to compare it to an extremely average course such as Laytown is in my opinion borderline blasphemous.

The point which you make in relation to the ladies tees is completely mis-informed. At RCD unlike many other courses, they have tried to maintain the core aspects of the design in their addition of forward teeing grounds, this is an admirable practice, as it would completely ruin the design if a tee were placed at the foot of the 11th or second fairway, women in so many places don't play a course that resembles that from the whites or blue and as such great credit must be given for their efforts to maintain the challange while shortening the course, I believe it is also noted that unless a woman is of a certain standard(below 14 h/cap I think) then the course really isnt suitable.

On you point in relation to good shots being lost, I must ask you did you take a caddy? The only way a well hit ball can be lost at county Down is if an incorrect line is taken from the tee on a blind hole. Even though this is an old school design, with only minor tweaking over the years, you point about lack of risk reward is laughable.

First off this is a links course, at how many links courses do you see the out and out risk reward that the mis-guided/average punter speaks of? answer very few. At RCD there are more than enough holes where the golfer can take a shot on in the hope of obtaining a reward. At The second he is rewarded with a much clearer and easier shot into the green if he takes the brave route down the right side, on the 5th the player can bite off the corner with the result of a straighter shorter shot into the green. On the 12th, the player is presented with a genuine eagle opportunity should he take the green on in two, but touble lurks left and right. On 13 (one of the best par 4's on the planet) the usual shot is an iron or fairway wood which leaves an extremely difficult shot, blind and across the angle of the green, if the golfer choses driver this becomes considerably easier. the 16th, can this be more a blatant example of risk/reward,one can ply to the left with an iron, or choose to take on the green by carrying the scrub down the right.

Yes the course is punishing, especially if you get on the wrong side of some of the greens, but it is a much fairer test than the monotonous Royal Dublin (if not under par through 9, you may as well walk in). I respect the fact you have played Royal Melbourne,one of the greats, but from your review I get the picture, you have no real understanding of architecture. This is a course much from the punitive school, similar to Pine Valley or Carnoustie, just because it is difficult, doesn't mean its a poor course.

If you played it from the correct set of tees it should have been more than playable, but I will admit on a first visit it can seem daunting, especially if the weather is poor, but your opinion of the course is quite frankly way off the mark, how can so many others be so wrong?
Joey29 November 2010
I must completely agree with Nick on this one. To say any of the courses you've listed are even in the conversation is a bit silly. There is but one course that can compare truly in Ireland and that's the Dunluce course at Portrush. Not to take anything away from any of the courses you've listed but come on! Please give it another go and keep it straight. It is among the very best!
Thomas29 August 2014
The fairway markers (White Stones in the fairway ) are set for the PRO TEES ,very few people play from them ,therefore from the vistors tees you can hit a great drive clean over the stone and never see your ball again as it is the WRONG LINE. This is seldom pointed out to anyone unless they have a caddie. Not very fair to visitors .
We played this course on Friday 19th of November on a clear blue sunny day. The setting of the course is amazing, located at the base of the mourne mountains. The whole experience was amazing, even though the course runs along the coast line and you can hear the sea crashing against the shore you do not get a view of the sea during your round. It was a bit dissapointing to have the tee markers next to the ladies tee box's but i suppose this is to be expected during the winter season. We had played Royal Portush on our trip also and would probably rate Royal County Down that small bit better but our 2 excellent course's to have marked off my list. The winter green fee of £50 was a hugh bonous also. All in all found the RCD a great experience.
21 November 2010 Respond to above review
Quite simply the best course in the world. From the moment you arrive you just know you are in for a special day. Walking down the first fairway and turning around to look up at the mountains of Mourne is one of the greatest views from a starting hole anywhere in this world. The course is brutally tough with super fast greens and bunkers that are like mini sand dunes. The views from the course are amazing (especially the 4th. If the weather is kind you will have a day to remember. Words cannot describe how good this course is - every links junkie must play this course before they die!
10 November 2010 Respond to above review
Played RCD last week and truly found it to be a magical course. It was in good condition, however, they had recently slit seeded the greens so they weren't quite as true. The scenery was amazing! They have the most fantastic bunkers of any course I've visited outside Pine Valley. The putting surfaces were more subtle than I usually enjoy, and that's my one critique. For our group, we prefered Portrush to RCD. But, just slightly. This is a truly unique place though. So difficult to play if you're offline at all! Loved it and can't wait to return.
10 October 2010 Respond to above review
Stunning golf course in a stunning setting. Front nine is the best group of holes I have played but the back is a little bland in comparison with only 13 and 14 standing out for me. Greens are fantastic with subtle borrows and some horrendous "run aways" if you dare to be aggressive. For me, although County Down is fantastically memorable in places, I would give the Dunluce links at Portrush a comfortable edge as a more complete golf course with both standing head and shoulders above Portmarnock. Impossible to beat a 2 day trip to Portrush and Newcastle - and then draw your own conclusions
25 September 2010 Respond to above review
Easily my number 1 course that I've played so far. Played here late August 2010. Weather was sunny but a nice breeze was blowing in from the Irish Sea. Sometimes the breeze would whip up, particularly on the higher tee boxes. I was so consumed with the scenery that I relaxed into my game and played some pretty good golf. The second and third tee boxes are simply stunning views, as is the view down the 9th. Pro shop staff, starter and all other I met were very friendly and welcoming. Will definitely be back!
02 September 2010 Respond to above review
Excellent experience. Stay at hotel makes it all worthwhile. Head out sit on a bench and watch a few groups play as you wait to get started. Playing the course is worth the money its a rare chance to play an upper tier course. Must play
27 August 2010 Respond to above review
left a review last year and having been a second time even bettet the course itself has no equals but in addition we hired caddys and had a playing lesson with the pro. The whole expirence has to be had by any serious golfer the caddy knew every line and could locate misdirected golf balls like a blood hound. When asked if i would find one very wide drive responded if your ball was wrapped in bacon and i had lassie i wouldnt find it priceless The staff were fantastic all round but the course is sublime expensive but worth every penny and if anybody tells me there is a better track anywhere then they havent been
23 August 2010 Respond to above review
World class links layout, world class scenery, world class feel. Best of the best for me. I lived in Scotland for 4 years and played most of the top courses in Scotland and Ireland - this one is best easily. Much better than Whistling Straits and Bandon Dunes too.
18 August 2010 Respond to above review
Great course, amazing views (especially the front 9). I put this as my second favourite links course behind Birkdale. if the back nine was as good as the front nine then there would be very few equals to RCD. I love this track and cant wait for another visit (and it really should be on the Open roster, it would be a brilliant test for the World's best).
01 August 2010 Respond to above review
Played RCD last week and couldnt believe my eyes. Ive wanted to play this course for years and wondered if all the stories were hype. We were greeted with a warm welcome on arrival by the very friendly staff and it just got better and better. Its by far the best course in Europe and the best course I have ever played on above names like Turnberry, Kingsbarns, Blue Canyon, Sawgrass and Valderrama. I've walked Pebble Beach although prettier as a finishing 18th, it doesnt compare with RCD as a course. The opening 9 holes are just stunning, mind blowing, a few blind shots but all fair and marked, all you need is a course planner to see the trouble, the best surprise is on the 9th, wait till you play and see it, probably the best 9 holes anywhere in the world and the 9th is just amazing. The back 9 doesnt disappoint either. The greens were perfect, quick and true, the gorse was fair, very little long grass and if you stayed on the fairways the rewards were there. When we got back into the clubhouse between our 36 holes the staff couldnt do enough for us. If there is only one golf course you play in Europe or the rest of your life - play RCD.
05 July 2010 Respond to above review
We played RCD twice last week. Truly spectacular course. Definitely one of the best courses we ever played, ahead of Portmarnock Old and County Louth which we also played last week and on par with Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and Turnberry. The sea views, the dunes and the gorse are beautiful and the golfing challenge is exceptional. If you want to be critical, you could point out the relative weakness of the last 3 or 4 holes which do not benefit from sea views or the higher dunes of the first 9 holes. Also, you have to say that this course is super difficult and you are unlikely to play to your handicap unless your driving is flawless. The greens were indeed not in great condition last week, as mentioned by another reviewer, but this was due to recent aerification so I would not reduce the rating on that basis. All in all a spectactular course in our view. Also, we stayed in the Slieve Donard Hotel right next to the course which was fantastic. Excellent spa facilities, nice rooms, great location next to the sea and the golf course. The combination of this hotel and golf course are very hard to beat. We extended our hotel stay by a night because we loved it so much. And check out the Quinn's Pub for evening entertainment.
10 June 2010 Respond to above review
Great course with great scenery however too many blind tee shots and not as fair as Royal Portrush but definately worth a visit.
04 June 2010 Respond to above review
Truly a great course. Blind shots aplenty ... splurge for a caddy! Everything a lins course should be. Very difficult with many memorable holes and beautiful views. Not for handicaps over 20 unless you have lots of balls and patience.
04 June 2010 Respond to above review
Played RCD today with some friends. As ever it is a cracking layout and truly one of the best. However, sorry to have to say that the greens were truly appalling, Hollow cored, bumpy slow and a hugely disappointing experience. The tees were also up ahead of the ladies. Would have nice if they had mentioned it to us in advance.
26 March 2010 Respond to above review
Played Royal County Down with my father in the spring of 2009. It was a top 3 golfing experience and to be able to share it with Dad was fantastic. It all started with a great caddie who spent a few minutes on the first tee explaining the history of the town and the golf course. The course looks long off the tee boxes, but plays much shorter due to very fast fairways. I realized that you can hit 3 woods and 5 woods all day and keep some trouble out of play. The front nine is the best front nine that I've ever played (and I've played 20 of the top 100 in the world). The yellow gorse along with the undulations are unworldy. A bit pricey, but I'd gladly pay it/play it again when I visit Northern Ireland.
23 January 2010 Respond to above review
I played it in May of 09. It is simply the best course I have ever played. It is fun, unique and the views are spectacular. Many shots look intimidating although there is often more room than there appears.
17 January 2010 Respond to above review
Possibly the best course Ive have ever played. We play the Old Course, Kingsbarns, Old Head, Royal Portrush, The European Club, Portmarnock....This was the best. Great condition, Great Greens, Great Layout.....A must if you are going to Ireland!!
15 October 2009 Respond to above review
turned up expecting to find the best golf course i have ever played. it was better than that completley in a different league to carnoustie,troon etc its almost like we need a new category of golf course. why? scenery awesomet but the course design is fantastic play safe ok then you are hitting long irons and woods into every green take libertys then it will eat you if you stray even slightly. Greens were in october mode but ran true and 44 putts told me everything i needed to know about the flaws in my stroke. That is the great thing play well score well play badly your history. The definition of the course is great. club house freindly all around just mind boggling
09 October 2009 Respond to above review
As good as it gets. to go to a course with the highest expectations, and for those expectations to be surpassed was a big surprise and a real treat. the setting and scenery is awesome, but the condition of the course and the challenge it presents is really what won me over. exceptionally quick and true greens (in far superior condition to those at portrush that we played the following day) made putting a pleasure, and the numerous blind drives (all of which have markers to aim for) make the stunning views as you walk over the brows of the hills such a joy - the 9th in particular as you walk over the marker that you have driven over is a picture you won't forget in a long time. Not as tough as Portrush or Carnoustie but then golf in my opinion should not be a constant slog to make par or salvage a bogey. I will return, and would recommend anyone who has not had the pleasure of playing this course to book up as soon as possible. this is without doubt the best golfing experience i have ever had.
25 September 2009 Respond to above review

EAMONN CRAWFORD25 September 2009
Hutchy06 May 2010
Re the comment about a 62. I had the pleasure of watching a fearless Rory McIlroy score a 61 across the Dunluce Links in 2005, I think he was 16 then. It was the first day of the Championships,the course was set up fairly easy and the weather was benign. I am not taking anything away from McIlroy it was an excellent round, and the man has just hit a 62 at Quail Hollow after hitting a 67 at RPGC in his previous 'break' week. He will without doubt add a lot more course records. But then compare it with the British Seniors in 2004 with a plethora of great players and in bad to appalling weather conditions with Pete Oakley scoring 70, 68, 73, 70 to win by 1 shot from Tom Kite and Eduardo Romero. Make no mistake these mature golfers know a thing or two about course management and this shows how tough RPGC really can be. Then of course RPGC did have an Open. This discussion about which course is best will doubtless go on and on, I have played both and on balance prefer Dunluce, but it is just a preference, they are different courses with different strategies and different cultures. Please don't take snapshots of each course on any one day and present them as facts, they can only be impressions. Dont compare them, just appreciate each individual course for what they both are, challenging, beautiful and unique.
World Class! This course is absolutely phenominal. The scenery is stunning and you cannot help walking around with your head on a swivel. The course itself is spectacular and was in excellent condition. I love the grassy bunker edges, the run off areas around every green that sweep an errant shot away from the hole and the elevation changes that keep you thinking. The staff were friendly and very helpful. It is definitely worth every penny.
08 September 2009 Respond to above review
We started our NI tour with County Down which was definitely the more challenging course and suits the low handicapper best. There were no easy holes but the sight on every tee takes your breath away and you do really feel special. That feeling is somewhat diminished when you arrive back at the clubhouse and find out, that you are segregated from the members to your own visitors changing rooms and bar – something that loses the spirit of the game I feel! Apart from that a great course certainly the best in the UK.
10 August 2009 Respond to above review
RCD is a beautiful course, with the sounds of the Irish Sea heard on every hole. My son and I agreed that playing RCD was like playing golf in The Lord of the Rings. Everyone writes about the view down the fairway from the crest on #9; and it is indeed spectacular. But I must confess that we enjoyed the view on every hole -- each hole was a new view from a new perspective. And yes, I'm glad that the first 3 holes played downwind! Magical course -- look forward to returning.
09 August 2009 Respond to above review
Played on friday 10th July and the course is sensational. Very tough with no room for error but rewarded if good shots are hit. View off the 9th tee must be the best in golf. Had long discussions with playing partners about if RCD is the best course we'vw ever played, having played, Carnoustie, St Andrews etc and the only arguement against RCD was that the if viewed as a 'golf course' not setting or surroundings etc, Carnoustie just takes it but overall RCD is the best. Pine Valley must be one hell of a track to beat RCD.
12 July 2009 Respond to above review
I'm also from Melbourne and have just returned from a golf tour of Ireland/Northern Ireland, Scotland and the north of England. I'd have to agree that RCD is simply the best course i have played. It is a magical place, and a truly wonderful golf course. I think it shades RP by a short half head - it flows better, and rewards great shotmaking a little better. RP is fabulous, but RCD is a little more fabulous. I'm puzzled by those who say its finish is a let down. i rate 16/17/18 higher than RP and higher than just about anything else i've played, including all of the major Australian courses. RCD is just strong throughout - there are no weak elements. As for the blind tee shots - let's all start a people power movement to encourage modern designers to build these sort of courses. Fantastic.
05 July 2009 Respond to above review
I played Royal County Down for the first time in may and yes, it is the best course i have ever played. Coming from Melbourne Australia, Royal Melbourne Golf Club and the other gems of the Sandbelt are our benchmarks. BUT, RCD exceeds all those standards because the terrain and design is exceptional. The Melbourne Sandbelt courses are all products of the 1920 boom in golf and are characterised by fast rolling greens. RCD, by contrast had greens with very little of character and that surprised me. The challenge at RCD was getting onto the green but once there, little was expected of the golfer by contrast with melbourne sandbelt courses.
11 June 2009 Respond to above review
Played RCD on May 28 with high expectations that were completely satisfied. The course is a rolling wave of dunes and ball=seeking sand that is actually quite fair despite the criticism as to blind tee shots. Course in flawless condition. No complaints. Also thought that the staff was very accomodating with no sign of visitor bias as noted in past reviews. Magical day indeed.
06 June 2009 Respond to above review
I played the course in mid February in a howler of a wind. To be honest i didnt think the course overly long. we played from the tees infront of the championship ones. I hit a drive and a pitching wedge onto the first thats how windy it was! The course was brilient but i wasnt to impressed with the greens i thought they were very sandy and hard to putt on for that reason. The 8th and 9th holes i thought were the hardest on the course. Some tough holes on the back nine but alot of the holes were down wind i got onto the 13th (par 5 i think) with a drive and a Sand wedge brutal wind. The club house facilities were first class and the best i have ever seen. You have to be a really accurate and straight driver to get round. Great course but i dont think that i would pay £180 to play it. I feel that alot of clubs will need to drop their prices in order to attract golfers to play their courses. i wonder to RCD want to do this?
13 May 2009 Respond to above review
RCD is a treat. We played the course after a sneak preview the evening before. The starter was so kind to lend us his personal scoresaver to prepare for the course. These people in Nortern-Ireland are so welcoming and kind. No complaints on the clubhouse atmosphere. ullish but will do. The course is brutal and beautiful. Take a caddie with you or you'll never come home. Every hole is unique. I liked the opening hole, the quirkiness of hole 11 (blind tee shot over an intimidating mound) the elegance of hole 9 and the challenging par 3's. The single weak part of the course is hole 15-17 but it will not blemish your round. I'll be back!!
30 April 2009 Respond to above review

Declan11 May 2009
Played off the white tees on a calm today. Firstly, most top courses have reduced rates - RCD is still 180 STG on weekends - making it very expensive. The course is immaculately kept, stunning scenary. there are a fair few blind drives and a good few holes where you dont see the bottom of the pin so hard to see where on green to go for. I found the course to be first class - better than Portmarnock or Baltray. On the negative side it is not visitor friendly - No distance markers, pin placements, strokesaver very difficult to follow and no food or even a crisp or peanut for visitors after a game - we got in at 5pm on a Sunday. Would I go back ? yes but wouldnt pay 180 again
Norman11 May 2009
Yes I agree RCD is amazing
The views are spectacular and the front nine is excellent, but the back nine lets the course down and is no better than average for a Scottish or Irish links. A great course but not a match for Portrush.
26 April 2009 Respond to above review

stephen voce10 October 2009
Average back 9? Please take me to all these other Scottish & Irish courses that sre just as good.I promise i`ll stop laughing!!
We played RCD last week on the first part of our golf trip and everyone there was so nice. My wife was welcomed to walk along with me and the course itself is beyond description. Just the feeling one gets walking this course and all the history and the beauty of the course is just an amazing experience. Thanks to everyone and we will be back.
01 April 2009 Respond to above review
Just returned from a week of some of Ireland's best. Played Portrush, European Club, Portmarnock and RCD plus a few others on the West Coast. RCD was hands down the best. I caught it on a tough day with about a 4-5 club wind. The members I spoke to in the morning said good luck with a bit of an evil chuckle, "it's a blowy one!". But hey, it's March and it was at least sunny. The course is challenging enough from the back tees but the ultimate test in this wind. I've played many of the World's best courses, so far this one is the best. Make the trip and play it, because you can. An amazing experience.
28 March 2009 Respond to above review
I'm a caddy at the course, and find it hard to believe how many people think the back 9 to be a poor 9 holes, and for the final 2 holes to be any less daunting than the previous 16! 17 has one of the most undulating greens on the course (ive seen many a four putt there) and having caddied here for 11 years, 90% of my clients claim 18 to be one of the most difficult finishing holes in gol. 550 yards, 26 bunkers, and one of the smallest greens on the course say otherwise! hope to see you all this summer!
04 March 2009 Respond to above review
When I was a student at Queens University in the early '70s, I played RCD almost every Wednesday afternoon for four years. I've played a lot of courses since then, in many locations. RCD is the best.
27 February 2009 Respond to above review
i grew up (still live there) only a stones throw from the course, quite literally. my dad became a memeber back in the 90s and got me into golf. growing up and learning on the rcd has dramatically helped my game. going to other course seems alot easier when you are used to the challenge the rcd presents you with. great green keeps, great members and even greater golf. give it a go, even if its just for the amazing veiw that comes along with it. note green fees are very expensive in the summer, so try for off season, if this is not possible dont go for the budget smaller course.. although it is a perfectly good course it does not offer the same challenges and fantastic holes as the "big" course.
26 February 2009 Respond to above review
My No1 in GB & I and unsurpassed anywhere. Difficult to imagine the course without The Mountains of Mourne and Dundrum Bay, but they add hugely to the magical experience; Dornoch has a pretty good stab at competing. I have played there only 3 times but everyone I have played with has been similarly touched. The first time I played RCD was in terrible rain but the course shone through. It is at the pinnacle of the all-defining "courses to play before you die." Everything is wonderful, including the welcome (Muirfield, Ballybunion and Birkdale take note). And to eat, go to the Bucks Head in Dundrum. I am back there again in 2 months and all else until then is mere practice...Tim Gorman
25 February 2009 Respond to above review

Cedric26 February 2009
Tim, completely agree with your latest reviews on RCD (my favorite course anywhere too!) and Royal St George's (that I hope to play again this spring). But I rate Birkdale, Ballybunion and Muirfield at the top of my list. And I thought the welcome there was wonderful! Just tends to prove a one day experience can be very different from the next one. You mentioned somewhere that Muirfield was overrated, that I definitely can't agree with! The whole experience there is quite unique...
Played it yesterday and this course is simply the very best ive ever played. Its setting is jaw dropping and the course itself is the finest test of any players ability. Ill never forget the view that awaited me after walking to the brow of the hill on the 9th hole. My favourite holes were the 3rd, 9th and 16th although the entire front nine was flawless. I agree with previous posters that not every hole is world class however the good holes are not simply good, they are the best. Its been 24 hours since i came off the course but i havnt been able to think about anything else. Cannot wait to return.
14 January 2009 Respond to above review
The best front nine stretch in the world - towering ancient dunes, firm and fast fairways. Some of the best golfing ground in the world. The course ends with a wimper, disqualifiying it as the best - but justified to be top ten on any list.
30 December 2008 Respond to above review
Fantastic course in immaculate condition (greens can be frightening). The front nine are as good as anywhere you'll ever play and the setting is breathtaking
18 October 2008 Respond to above review
Just total, raw golf. Nothing is tricked up. If you like golf as it should be played - au naturel - then RCD is as good as it gets. It may not get the attention of the R&A for this reason, but, framed by the Mourne Mountains and the Irish Sea, it is by some distance the finest setting for a golf course I have ever seen. If you can tear yourself away from your own swing travails for a minute, take a moment to savour the ever-changing colours: the deep greens, purples and yellows. Sure, the purists might dislike the blind shots (and it is frustrating to not know exactly where you're going on any golf course), but the course plays surprisingly fairly despite them. My personal favourite holes: the brutally tough 3rd, the quirky 7th and the sublime 13th (the latter, in particular).
27 August 2008 Respond to above review
Best course I've ever played. I've played almost 700 courses WW, so this is special. Played Portrush the next day, and it was a dissappointment after playing RCD.
18 August 2008 Respond to above review
I played Royal Portrush and RCD on alternate days and while RCD was definitely up there, I preferred Royal Portrush both for the views and as a test of golf (even though I shot a better score on RCD). Having said that RCD has a certain magic and anyone who is in London can make an overnight trip to Belfast and play both courses. It really should be resurrected in the British open rota. Once the wind gets going, those pros won't know what hit them. The greens were some of the fastest I've played.
18 July 2008 Respond to above review
This is it - The Holy grail! Nothing compares, played Pine Valley a few years ago, not in the same league. RCD has the lot, to not stage The Open here is a disgrace.
14 June 2008 Respond to above review
Had the pleasure of playing RCD on May 26 after playing European on the 25th and Portmarnock the 27th. Conditions were not the best on any day, but RCD at least was dry. As a California native, having played most of the best here and up to Bandon Dunes a number of times, and with the Old Course, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns under my belt last year - RCD is simply the best course I have seen. I absolutely loved it (despite playing horribly). There is only one hole that I would describe as ordinary (the final par 3, before the turn for home), the balance were memorable in their own rights. I loved the mix of holes, routing, views, bunkering, etc. Simply a magical experience. My playing partner mentioned Muirfield and Royal Dornoch as competition, so we will have to see.
30 May 2008 Respond to above review

Tim Gorman24 February 2009
Dornoch is worth the effort and definitely shares a 'special' feel a la RCD. Muirfield however, is overrated and certainly is no better than Gullane 1 or the west Links at North Berwick - very fine courses all!
Yellow gorse is only seen for a few weeks in the early part of the year and it was in full bloom when I played here in late April, adding a wonderful extra dimension to the RCD experience. Royal County Down - Photo by Jim McCannUnlike my previous visit when portakabins were in use during refurbishment and I could not even get a packet of nuts or crisps to eat after my round, the clubhouse was now fully refurbished and the pro shop staff extended me a very warm welcome as a visitor. I could hardly blame the wind for not scoring well this time as it was a dull, calm day but those fearsome bearded bunkers (which I described last time as “fairly straightforward and not too deep” – was I drunk when I wrote that?) and aforementioned gorse conspired to punish each and every shot that strayed from the fairway or missed the intended target around the green. I agree with other reviewers who mention the dunes that could have been incorporated into the original design and the relatively weak closing holes. but if you have been badly beaten up on the earlier part of the course (like me, for the second time) then you need a little respite before you finish the round. The fantastic view from half way along the elevated 9th fairway, the intimidating drive on the 11th tee and the lovely short par four 16th hole are all golfing highlights on a course that is not just magical, it’s spellbinding! Jim McCann
06 May 2008 Respond to above review
As a local golfer I think you cannot underestimate rcd - it's the best front nine I have ever played. In my experience, I have played Cypress Point and Torrey Pines and none of these are up to rcd. Many a round have been ended at the tricky 13th as I know all too well playing off 7 round this course. It's a course well worth playing at least once - enjoy it even if the price is a bit steep.
30 April 2008 Respond to above review
This is simply my favorite course on earth! Not the fairest test on the links planet due to all the blind shots (Pros might prefer Portmarnock or the Ailsa regarding that matter) but nonetheless a course that every golfer should play at least once. For it is absolutely unique! The front 9 must be the best on the planet, if not tell me please where that would be! If I’d want to be picky, I’d say that 17th is the weakest hole and that both 17th and 18th would gain a lot if gorse was set on the alongside the fairways to isolate it from the Annesley course. Guys in the Pro shop are wonderfully welcoming and the newly refurbished club house is really classy. A delightful experience, rare enough to be said, played with almost no wind! But I’d go out in any weather and surely will repeat the pilgrimage to Ulster regularly. Cedric
29 April 2008 Respond to above review
Played before the 2007 Walker Cup so the condition was amazing, with the greens cut short and rolled daily. I grew up on a US Open course so not afraid of quick greens but my 30ft eagle putt on the first only to be overshadowed by my 25ft birdie putt and 18ft par putt...on the same hole. The best opening 9 holes is golf anywhere. Having now played much of the Irish circuit, this is a cut above the rest. Looking forward to another test this summer.
13 April 2008 Respond to above review
Had the great pleasure of playing RCD in 60 mph gales last week, and I must say it was the most fun I have had on a golf course. The front nine is extremely dramatic - certainly the finest front nine of any course I have played (and I have played a good chunk of the Top 100). Set amongst hauntingly beautiful dunes, there is real atmosphere from the very first hole. Some slight criticisms: the back nine are inevitably weaker then the front nine (but are by no means weak); perhaps too many blind tee shots for the purists; and poor warm up facilities (nice practice greens but no range).
20 October 2007 Respond to above review
Not sure how this golf course has such a high ranking. It is a good golf course and it is a good test of golf but for me and my three playing partners it has something lacking. Some good holes and original bunkering but having traveled from Scotland to play it I was left wondering what all the fuss is about. Hope I don't upset anyone with my comments but for me RCD has no magic.
11 October 2007 Respond to above review

Chris Jones11 October 2007
Wow...all about opinions I know but no magic? Difficult to relate to this review ....
RCD Fan19 October 2007
Having played a few times, this review is lost on me!
Jacko23 July 2010
Are you sure you were at the right course?????
Gregor Chapman17 July 2011
Yes, I was left rather underwhelmed. I think the hype of recent years is due to Tiger's patronage.Gimmicky but not a championship links
Nick17 July 2011
Did the above reviewer even play the golf course? Are you sure you didnt play the Annesley course, which even at that contains some magical holes? Is the view from the first fairway out towards dundrum bay not majestic? Is the sense of excitement one feels as you come down off the blind tee shot not magical? How about the view from the 4th tee? is this not magical? The bearded bunkers? The bowling green like fairways? How can so many of my fellow scribes be so wrong when they describe the view from the 9th tee as being one of the most special on any golf course in the world? I havent even spoken spoken about the actual strength of the golf course, which is without doubt one of the finest layouts on the planet. The 3rd, 4th, 8th, 9th, 13,15th consistently creep into any collection of ther world's best holes. I am all for free speech and am an advocate of the very particular subjective nature of opinions on golf course, as so many factors can influence the golfer's opinion. But the words used above to describe one of the world's greatest courses that is consistently ranked in the world top 10, is pure golfing ignorance.
I’ve played Pine Valley (world #1) and Royal County Down beats it. The terrain is a perfect mix of spectacular with smaller scale undulation and the holes have both tactical interest and quirk: twisting and turning, going up over ridges and along valleys. The bunkers are peerless in links golf, each one a fearsome hazard and beautiful too.
01 September 2007 Respond to above review
I played a stroke play competition today off the medal tee's - this course is both the finest and toughest test of golf I have ever had. The greens were fantastic, the rought was brutal and the bunkers are out of this world!!! I can't say anything about the front 9 that has not been said many times before, but I think the back nine is frequently underrated. I'm sure very few people play the last 6 to their handicap, regardless of what is said about weak finishing holes.
12 July 2007 Respond to above review

michael downey27 February 2009
I quite agree. The 17th is a bit ordinary, the 16th is great fun to go for, but if you can par 14, 15 and 18 every time,then good for you!
Best front 9 in the world. 17 and 18 are a weak end to one of the greatest layouts in the world. When I first played it, I noticed the jaw-dropping mega dunes just to the north of the course and thought that the course would continue in that direction. I am not sure as to why Old Tom Morris couldn't continue building the course further along the beach. If the course could access those dunes to the north, there would simply be not argument as to what the best course in the world would be. In fact, I would guess that to play through those dunes to the north would place a clear gap between Royal County Down and all the rest of the contending courses in the rest of the golfing world.
05 July 2007 Respond to above review
2nd best links course I've played behind Arcadia Bluffs in Michigan, USA. I've also played Portrush, Muirfield, Carnoustie, Turnberry, Dornoch, Kingsbarns, Troon, Old Course, etc etc and none can hang with County Down. Only thing I didn't like was the pond in the middle of the fairway, a bit rinky dink for such a fine track.
06 January 2007 Respond to above review

Keith Baxter01 February 2007
A question was posted in the Top 100 forum, which asked: "A couple of recent reviews on Royal County Down have commented on the pond on the 17th fairway. How long has it been there? Was it part of the original Tom Morris design?" As we didn't know the answer, we asked the Club Secretary who responded: "The pond is an original feature and is the site of an ancient spring lying on one of the lowest points of the course. The pond was lined with concrete some years ago and is considered by the Members as an integral part of the course. It is not an architects whim!"
Ortwin Klang20 March 2007
Another 6 points although the 17th or 18th over the hill is disturbing
Golf courses ranked as highly as RCD should have 18 holes of cunning and beauty. Unfortunately, it does not. Dont get me wrong, this is a superb golf course, with unimaginably good design and thought for the majority of the holes. The 2nd is to die for. However, just what was in the thought process of the creater when he decided to put a pond in the middle of the 17th fairway, I will never know. A pond on a links! Come off it, this isn't Florida. This is the emarald isle, and this is supposed to be the best links on the planet - it didn't rival Lahinch in my book, which portrays the true definition of links golf. Can't say I wasn't disappointed by that. Having said that vitriol, I am very enamoured by RCD and hope to play it again very soon, perhaps just to stand in the middle of the 9th fairway. Great ham sandwiches as well. Definitely worth the trip.
01 December 2006 Respond to above review
Played RCD on Tue 26th October, superb condition and its plain to see why this is the benchmark for all other courses. Tough but fair, strategy is the name of the game. Attention to detail and pride in work stand out. Staff on and off the course were friendly and informative. Best conditioned course and golf experience to date, loved it.!
01 November 2006 Respond to above review

Chris Bates24 April 2007
As someone who has played a good few of your top 100 courses RCD isnt no 2 or any where near the top, in fact the course was in exceptionally poor conditional last time I played, whereby elsewhere every other course was in top condition, RCD presented in MAY the worst prepared greens I have ever seen on any top golf course anywhere in the world. If you are in Ireland play the Island or the European both are better tests of golf and in better condition. forget making the trip into Northern Ireland it just isnt the worth the money. TOP 100 its about RCD lost this number 2 spot to a course more deserving.
Adrian Gaspar25 April 2007
I wouldn’t usually respond to these ‘responses’ but I’m a big fan of NI golf and a massive fan of RCD. I took a party of experienced (mainly single figure) golfers over last year for a weekend, with a warm-up at Ardglass, where I am now a member, and a Sunday round at RCD. Between us we have probably played 60 or 70 of the Top 100 (inc. The Old, Turnberry, Muirfield, Kingsbarns, Portrush, Ballybunion and Royal St George's) and the consensus was that RCD was the best course they had played and that the combined weekend was almost as good as it gets, when you include the hospitality that all golfers in NI receive. To suggest you should avoid NI for golf is frankly….‘bonkers’. Look at the reviews from experts like Jim McCann on NI golfing tracks (inc those on the Antrim coast, Castlerock, Portstewart etc) and get the picture of a real golfing hotspot. The inland tracks (Malone) are pretty good as well. PS. I don’t work for the NI Tourist Board and am a proud Englishman.
Wow...played in a strong wind (tail-end of Hurricane that threatened the Ryder Cup!) last week and left with no doubt that this is the best course I have ever been fortunate to play! The views are stunning and the course is testing but very fair. The newly extended clubhouse is very impressive and the welcome very friendly.
25 September 2006 Respond to above review
Wonderful course--played in late June on a week-long golf vacation in Ireland and NI. Not bad value for the money--put in the "splurge" category as a course that must be experienced at least once. Reminded me a lot of Cypress Point: not "rustic," rather untamed--golf on a grand stage. A bit snooty but not too much so. Very enjoyable.
01 July 2006 Respond to above review
Outstanding . Excellent . Brilliant . Played RCD on May 19th in the strongest wind in which I have ever played but still finished the round with a smile on my face ! Golf writer Peter Dobereiner once wrote that the essence of golf is to say that it enhances the feeling that it is good to be alive - that is Royal County Down. Favourite holes were the 4th ( par 3 ) and the 9th and 13th ( par 4s ). Staff very friendly,course was in perfect condition and if you are in the area try and play at Malone GC just south of Belfast.
22 May 2006 Respond to above review
As a season ticket holder at Carnoustie I was intrigued to see how the two courses compared. They don't. RCD isn't better than Carnoustie but there is something different about RCD...... There is an eerie atmosphere about RCD, almost scary, its like you have gone back in time, I half expected to see Old Tom Morris chipping out of these spectacular hairy bunkers. The view from the fairway half way down on the 9th has to be one of the finest in golf. The welcome we got from the local pro was so warm and friendly it just added to our great day. RCD - A special special place. KD
21 May 2006 Respond to above review

Rab shannon18 May 2011
I know exactly what you mean. There was an eerieness about this place. I can't put it into words so I won't.
Played this awesome gem 11th may. Off back tees you need your A game. Must avoid bunkers,greens have to be hit or else u`ll run up a huge score. Beautiful greens,spectacular location. Best course in ireland.
13 May 2006 Respond to above review
Definitely the best Irish course we played on our trip. Difficult driving course in a magnificent setting. Yes, there are 3-4 holes that don't measure up to the rest, but taken as whole, it is a grand experience, and well worth the travel time. No matter the length of your stay, this course must be at the head of the list.
11 May 2006 Respond to above review
Best course I've ever played or maybe ever likely to. Agree that the front nine is fantastic, but the back nine also has some good holes - 10, 11, 13, 15, 16 & 18 are not too shabby. Received a friendly welcome in the pro shop and clubhouse when I visited. The course has got to be special, as it inspired me to spend over £100 in the shop after the round and the hake and chips for a fiver was pretty damn good too !!
06 April 2006 Respond to above review
RCD is good, no doubt, and everyone has highlighted its good points so I feel compelled to mention two bad points: Visitors are not allowed access to most of the clubhouse. The course gets progressively worse as you go round – the first few (well, 10, at least) holes will be among the best you have ever played. By the 13th they become ordinary and, apart from the 18th (which is okay); the finish is not good at all. I have played it twice and don’t intend to play it again. I can never understand why it is so highly rated – it has 10 outstanding holes and 3 or 4 truly awful holes.
24 January 2006 Respond to above review

T Toal08 October 2010
Truly awful holes?? You have no idea what you are talking about. Enough said.
Neil28 May 2012
My opinion is just as valid as yours. I assure you I have played enough top courses to have an idea of what I am talking about. It's a few years ago now but I recall the worst features including a par 3 over a pond, a very short downhill par 4, the pond (not an architect's whim) on the 17th and views of a caravan site.
Hans28 May 2012
I played the course in March this year and while there is a pond on the 17th which have no business being there I recall neither a par 3 over a pond nor any awful holes.
Playing RCD is a breath taking experience.... The front nine is the best nine holes of golf I have ever played anywhere (including most of the great courses in GBI). The only disappointment is the closing holes which do not hold up to the overall standard of the course. While I agree with a comment I read here that the course would play better if the nines were reversed, it is truly a great course and among the best in the world. I cannot wait to get back there. Kelly Conway
18 December 2005 Respond to above review
Despite playing this in a howling gale - by far the most sustained battering I have ever taken on a golf course - it still stands out as an awesome place to play golf. The mountains behind were invisible so the dramatic ups and downs of the dunes instead took centre stage. I would love to come back and play this in the sunshine and see what sort of a challenge it really poses, as the scorecard was irrelevant when we there. The course condition was superb and the clubhouse is being rebuilt, presumably in preparation for the Walker Cup. One of the best without a question.
06 October 2005 Respond to above review
Spectacular course -only weakness is a few average holes toward the finish. First 9 is probably the best going. Having said that, I rate Portrush just as highly even though it may not be as pretty. David Worley.
05 October 2005 Respond to above review
I could shoot 100 here every day and love every minute. It is DisneyLand for golfers!! Without question this is my favourite golf course in the world. Royal Melbourne, Augusta, Muirfield and the rest included. (and I have played them all!!) It is a roller coaster for 18 holes. Your kness shake on every drive you have to thread between tufty bunkers and think rough. My favourite holes... the whole front 9 and the 13th. 13 is magnificent and best viewed from the 14th tee box. On the front, the 3rd is great!! I would agree that the club would be well served to reverse the 9's. Making the 10th (par 3) the first would not be a bad idea at all, espeically when it would be used as the 19th hole in matchplay events. My advice to anyone visiting Ireland, play County Down twice before you move elsewhere.
03 October 2005 Respond to above review
There isn’t really much that can be added to other reviews. Although a relative newcomer to golf I have played quite a number of high profile/championship courses in a pretty short golfing life and only Turnberry comes close. As a high handicapper I found it playable (off the middle tees) albeit with relatively light winds. Ironically the difficulty of the course meant I concentrated like never before, did not lose a ball and only ‘3 jabbed’ once, so certainly rates as the highlight of my embryonic golf career. I read a review of RCD once describing it as a ‘work of art disguised as a golf course’, which I think sums the place up. Note – to fellow high handicappers, if you are lucky enough to play RCD please take your ‘A’ game (I guess I was lucky) otherwise you will get eaten alive
03 October 2005 Respond to above review
Outstanding. Possibly not as tough as Muirfield or Lytham for the top players (fewer bunkers) but, in my opinion, just as good a test of golf for the average club player - and aesthetically in a different class. A potential nightmare for poor players - in fact if you are over 18 hcap just walk round due to the dunes, heather and gorse. Every hole is visually a treat. As a golf test then I would say all holes, other than 1 and 17 (which are merely reasonable), are top drawer. The views from the 4th tee and the 9th fairway are stunning (only Nefyn compares). Simply the best course in the British Isles.
01 October 2005 Respond to above review
This is the best course in Ireland, and is among my favorite courses in the world along with Pine Valley, Cypress Point and Muirfield. It ranks a 10 in shot values, difficulty, memorability and is 2nd in aesthetics only behind Cypress Pt. Double bogeys lurk on every hole, and yet the low score of the week was posted here among our group by a player who hit every fairway. Near perfect in every way, and a thrill to play.
07 September 2005 Respond to above review
Don't bother keeping score out here on your first visit. RCD will eat you for lunch - just accept it and enjoy the course. Tiger Woods shot 83 here a few years back! Personally, I think if they reversed the nines this would be ranked even higher. The back nine is excellent but inevitably suffers in comparison to the magnificent front nine, widely and rightly regarded as the best nine holes in golf.
11 July 2005 Respond to above review
Jim (see above review) and I played on that exact same day so I won't add a lot to his now famous reviews on courses all over the British Isles... I think I will just use his own words:"a big course for big boys!".Extremely tough,beautiful.Even though the weather was not the best we could dream of(most likely 70 kph wind) we all had a big smile on our faces.We will return!
15 June 2005 Respond to above review
What can be said that has not already been written in the course reviews above and below? I agree that this is a brute of a course and fully deserving of a place on the Open rota - but then blind tee shots in the modern game are SO old fashioned, aren’t they? This classic links would be difficult to play on a day with good weather but when played on a day when the wind is blowing hard such as I had then it was by far the most demanding 18 holes that I have ever played. Greens were a little threadbare (but all the faster for it), fairways were fairly tight and lined with penal rough, ‘bearded’ bunkers were fairly straightforward and not too deep. I also agree that nearly every hole is both frightening and exciting and you must keep focused all the way round as danger lurks everywhere. There are many elevation changes to make this an almost literal rollercoaster of a golfing ride. Pity the club don’t throw in a Strokesaver for the greenfee paid as there are no yardage markers on the course and, believe me, you need every little bit of help that you can get on the way round. This is a small criticism though, because the club are doing their best to accommodate visitors as the clubhouse undergoes major structural changes in 2005. Many consider the great big shaggy monster of Carnoustie to be the toughest Open venue. I’m sorry, but that venue is a mere pussycat compared to this Irish tiger. Jim McCann.
15 June 2005 Respond to above review
Played the course in Sept 2004 & loved it; especially the front nine. I live near Oakmont & Laurel Valley & have played both several times. Royal County Down is definitely better. I'll be back.
02 January 2005 Respond to above review
This is the best course in the the UK & Ireland. It is a great layout and was in fantastic condition, with high quality greens.
14 July 2004 Respond to above review
Played this magical course in a slight mist so the mountain backdrop was missing. If there is a slight criticism, it is that there are a few blind shots, but well worth its high rating.
27 May 2004 Respond to above review
By some distance the best course I have ever played. I know I'm not alone in that judgment and let me confess immediately that I have yet to experience a round at Muirfield, widely considered to be the only course in the British Isles that can rival it. I have, though, walked the latter several times and doubt very much it could ever surpass County Down in my affections. What makes Northern Ireland's finest so special? A sense of drama, as much as anything. Almost every hole is at once thrilling and terrifying. There are no marker posts here, only small, whitewashed stones, invariably surrounded by the roughest rough imaginable. Some holes require a blind tee shot to carry fully 200 yards to reach the fairway. It's no place for a novice. The huge bunkers are deliberately unkempt around the edges - they appear bearded. The mountains of Mourne provide the backdrop. The greens are as good as greens can be - lightning fast, true and devilishly contoured. Old Tom Morris's design is genius itself, from the ticklish short 7th to the unique - I use the word advisedly - dogleg 15th. Curiously, there is one poor hole. What happened to the 17th I'll never know. That apart, County Down is the ultimate - again, I use the word advisedly - links experience. I can pay it no higher compliment. It's worth almost any green fee, simply because a day here is an experience you'll never forget. My only regret was playing Portrush two days later. It was frankly an anticlimax - but only because RCD was an impossible act to follow.
23 May 2004 Respond to above review

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