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No.3 Doonbeg, County Clare (2008 position 5)
Rooms & Suites: 200 Price: €432 Courses: 1 W: doonbeglodge.com Best for: Luxury, Couples, Families, Small Groups
Ireland is very well represented in these Top 50 rankings, but for us there is only one place that could take the top stay and play venue for this country. If Doonbeg, on west Ireland's beautiful Clare coast, didn't have a golf course it would still be a fantastic place to stay, such is the quality and setting of the accommodation. The fact that it also boasts a Greg Norman-designed links of almost unrivalled drama beside the crescent-shaped Doughmore Beach is why it rides so high in our rankings here - the overall package is simply so hard to beat. Just an hour's drive from Shannon airport, itself just over an hour's flight from several English and Scottish transport hubs, the course is scarcely a decade old, yet feels much more mature than that. The reason for this is largely because Norman, essentially, routed these 18 stunning holes through and around the existing dunes with minimal earth movement required throughout the entire process. The holes themselves are individually truly memorable, but there are a few which just stand out, like the 1st, 6th and 13th. There is also the odd quirky moment, as well, such as a bunker in the green on the 12th, and the short 14th which even at only around 100 yards can be nigh-on impossible in any sort of wind. The magic carries over into the Lodge and Cottages, where the décor and spec is of an exceptional standard whether you're in the deluxe rooms, courtyard suites, ocean view suites or links suites. For an informal meal pre- or post-round, Darby's is the place to go, but if you are after something a little more formal, The Long Room, with its wonderful Atlantic views and fondness for locally sourced dishes never misses the mark. If you are too tired after all the golf and fine dining and want a spot of ‘me time' the aptly named White Horse Spa offers as comprehensive a range of treatments as you'll find, including being wrapped in warm leafs of seaweed harvested from the west coast of Ireland - if you so wish!
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