Royal County Down Golf Club Championship Course Review

One of the most photographed courses in the world, Royal County Down boasts arguably the most spectacular setting of any of our traditional links

Royal County Down Heads Up New Golf Monthly Top 100 Rankings
Photo: Getty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the most photographed courses in the world, Royal County Down boasts arguably the most spectacular setting of any of our traditional links

Royal County Down Golf Club Championship Course Review

Top 100 Ranking 2021/22 - 1

Previous Rankings 2019/20 - 4 2017/18 - 3 2015/16 - 2 2013/14 - 2 2011/12 - 2 2009/10 - 4

Summer Green Fees

Round: £270wd, £280 Sun pm; 36 holes: £370wd

Visitor Times: Welcome all day Monday, Tuesday and Friday, mornings on Thursday and afternoons on Sunday

Medal Tee: Par 71 – 6,878 Yards

Website: www.royalcountydown.org (opens in new tab)

Changes since previous ranking

The dune ridge on the 2nd has been lowered to allow a better view of the green from the fairway. There are new bunkers to the left of the 5th and 8th fairways plus new championship tees on the 12th and 16th. The pond on the 17th hole has now been removed.

Royal County Down Golf Club Championship Course Review

Now over a century and a quarter old, this fabled links in Newcastle on the County Down coast boasts a truly impressive roll call of architectural influences through the ages, starting with Old Tom Morris who first extended the links to 18 holes back in 1890.

Not only is it one of the best golf courses in Northern Ireland but one of the best in the entire world.

Royal County Down Golf Club

Looking back down the par-3 10th towards the clubhouse (Photo: Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Since then, Harry Vardon, Harry Colt, Donald Steel, and most recently, Martin Ebert, have all stamped their mark on this truly magical place.

Related: Top 100 golf courses UK and Ireland

Royal County Down boasts arguably the most spectacular setting of any of our traditional links.

The Mountains of Mourne provide a glorious backdrop throughout with the sea to your right as you head out over a stirring opening stretch. When the gorse is in bloom, there’s no lovelier place to play.

Royal County Down Golf Club

The stirring backdrop of the Mountains of Mourne (Photo: Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

View a range of accommodation options near Royal County Down Golf Club Championship Course starting from as little as £80 a night.

Many standout holes

Royal County Down provides an exhilarating, yet challenging, rollercoaster ride through the dunes via blind tests and some gloriously natural bunkering.

Among a strong cast of standout holes are the tough par-3 4th, played from an elevated tee, and the wonderful 9th, with its blind drive back towards town via a hidden fairway some 60ft below.

Royal County Down Golf Club

The green on the excellent par-3 4th (Photo: Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There’s always a real sense of anticipation both here and on the 11th as you stride over the crests to see if your drive is as perfect as your eye saw it.

And for those who found the triangular-shaped pond in the fairway a little way short of the 17th green a little incongruous, some good news.

The pond is no more after the most recent changes to the links, which have also facilitated a better view up to the green on the 2nd thanks to a lowered dune ridge.

Royal County Down Golf Club

Looking back down the 3rd from the tall dune behind (Photo: Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Some modern-day golfers may rail against blind holes. Whatever your personal perspective, surely even the most ardent ‘see it all in front of you’ campaigner would get a huge thrill making their way around this breath-taking links.

Assessor Feedback

A combination of a towering mountain range in the backdrop on many holes and the Irish sea flanking the opening three makes for visual appeal that is hard to surpass.

From the moment you arrive and see the magnificent gardens around the clubhouse until your final step off the 18th green, you can only be impressed by the quality of everything about the place.

This is always a wonderful place to play golf. As close to golfing heaven as you will find… or hell, for it is a hard course to play well!

GM Verdict

One of the most photographed courses in the world, Royal County Down boasts arguably the most spectacular setting of any of our traditional links.

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf