13 Of The Best Irish Golfers Of All Time

We take a look at the best golfers from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

Four Irish golfers
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Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have produced some incredibly talented golfers through the years from Ryder Cup legends to World No.1s and multiple Major champions.

Similar to rugby, the island of Ireland is united when it comes to golf with both Republic of Ireland golfers and Northern Ireland golfers playing under the Golfing Union of Ireland at amateur level as well as in the Olympics.

Irish golfers have also produced some truly iconic moments in the game. So who are the best?

We have taken a look at 13 of them here, starting with modern great Rory McIlroy.

Best Irish Golfers Of All Time

Northern Ireland Golfers

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy holds the Claret Jug

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  • Born: 1989
  • Tour Wins: 37
  • Majors: 4

McIlroy was tipped to be the next big thing as a youngster and he has delivered on that early promise in his career so far. Four Major titles, 24 PGA Tour wins, three FedEx Cups, four Race to Dubais and over 100 weeks as World No.1. He has played in six Ryder Cups for Europe, winning four times.

When his career is all said and done, he will go down as one of the greatest ever.

Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke with the trophy after winning the 2022 Senior Open

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  • Born: 1968
  • Tour Wins: 21
  • Majors: 1

A winner all over the world, Darren Clarke is considered to be one of Europe's great modern ball strikers. He famously won the 2011 Open Championship, where he saw off the challenges of Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson to win his only Major title.

He also played in five Ryder Cups and captained the Europeans in 2016. Clarke also won the 2022 Senior Open.

Fred Daly

Fred Daly hits a wood

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  • Born: 1911
  • Tour Wins: 26
  • Majors: 1

Fred Daly was the first player from either Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland to win a Major title and play in the Ryder Cup.

His Major win came at the 1947 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool and he also represented Great Britain that year too.

Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell US Open winner 2010

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  • Born: 1979
  • Tour Wins: 16
  • Majors: 1

An 11-time winner on the European Tour, McDowell has several moments that have defined his superb career.

He won the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach, holed a crucial birdie putt on the 16th hole at Celtic Manor at the 2010 Ryder Cup which would go on to help Europe secure victory, and he also once beat Tiger Woods in a playoff to win the 2010 Chevron World Challenge.

Ronan Rafferty

Ronan Rafferty holds the Volvo Masters trophy

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  • Born: 1964
  • Tour Wins: 14

Another multiple time European Tour winner, Rafferty's finest career moment came at the 1989 Ryder Cup in which he delivered a crucial singles point on Sunday. He beat Mark Calcavecchia 1-up to help Europe retain the Cup in a famous 14-all tie.

The Northern Irishman won seven European Tour titles including the 1989 Volvo Masters at Valderrama.

Republic of Ireland Golfers

Padraig Harrington

Padraig Harrington

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  • Born: 1971
  • Tour Wins: 37
  • Majors: 3

Padraig Harrington is one of Ireland's greatest players thanks to a resume that includes two Open Championships, a PGA Championship, 15 European Tour wins and six Ryder Cups (four victories).

The Irishman also won the 2022 US Senior Open following his Ryder Cup captaincy in 2021. Harrington is known as one of the grittiest competitors on tour with one of the very best short games.

Joe Carr

Joe Carr hits an iron shot

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  • Born: 1922
  • Amateur Wins: 3

Perhaps a lesser-known name compared to others on this list, Joe Carr has a strong case for being Ireland's greatest ever amateur.

He won three British Amateur titles, was a semi-finalist in 1961 for the US Amateur, and was the first Irishman to play in The Masters. He did so in 1967 and played the first two rounds at Augusta National with Jack Nicklaus.

Shane Lowry

Shane Lowry holding the Claret Jug

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  • Born: 1987
  • Tour Wins: 6
  • Majors: 1

Lowry turned professional after winning the 2009 Irish Open as an amateur, and ten years later he would win his first Major title at the 2019 Open Championship, which was famously hosted at Royal Portrush. 

The popular Irishman won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in 2015 and went on to win the 2022 BMW PGA Championship. He made his Ryder Cup debut in 2021, playing under good friend and European captain Padraig Harrington.

Christy O'Connor Senior

Christy O'Connor Senior hits a golf shot

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  • Born: 1924
  • Tour Wins: 65

During the 1950's and 60's, O'Connor Sr couldn't stay out of the winners circle as he eventually racked up 65 wins as a professional.

He also played in ten Ryder Cups, being on the winning side once in 1957.

He and Harry Bradshaw won the Canada Cup, now more commonly known as the World Cup of Golf, in 1958 for Ireland.

Harry Bradshaw

Harry Bradshaw hits a wood

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  • Born: 1913
  • Tour Wins: 18

Bradshaw won many times as a pro on the European circuit and in Ireland as well as the 1958 Canada Cup, but perhaps his most famous moment came in 1949 at The Open.

During the second round his ball came to rest near broken glass of a beer bottle but instead of getting relief he played it as it lied and dropped a shot at the hole. It would prove crucial as he tied with Bobby Locke after four rounds of regulation play and then lost in a playoff the next day.

Christy O'Connor Junior

Christy O'Connor Junior celebrates with his arms out

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  • Born: 1948
  • Tour Wins: 16

Another iconic O'Connor, Christy Junior is best known for beating Fred Couples at the 1989 Ryder Cup with his iconic 2-iron on the 18th hole at The Belfry.

He won four times on the European Tour, including the 1975 Irish Open and 1992 British Masters. He was also T3 at the 1985 Open.

Des Smyth

Des Smyth holding a trophy

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  • Born: 1953
  • Tour Wins: 26

A total of 22 years separated Smyth's first and last wins on the European Tour. His first came in 1979 and last came in 2001 which makes him one of three golfers to have won in four different decades. Mark McNulty and Lee Westwood are the others.

Smyth won eight times on the European Tour and five times on the European Senior Tour. He played for Europe twice in the Ryder Cup and had a best Major finish of T4 at the 1982 Open.

Eamonn Darcy

Eamonn Darcy celebrates

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  • Born: 1952
  • Tour Wins: 16

Darcy's crowning achievement as a professional was beating Ben Crenshaw during the singles of the 1987 Ryder Cup which staved off the charging Americans.

He won four times on the European Tour, including the 1983 Spanish Open. His best Major finish of T5 came at the 1991 Open and he made four appearances for Europe in the Ryder Cup between 1975 and 1987.

Sam Tremlett
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A golfer for most of his life, Sam is a Senior Staff Writer for Golf Monthly. 

Working with golf gear and equipment over the last six years, Sam has quickly built outstanding knowledge and expertise on golf products ranging from drivers, to balls, to shoes. 

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