There are many different rankings out there for the best, top, must-play courses around the world. To determine the best golf courses in Ireland and Scotland we combined the rankings of a few of the most reputable sources available: Golf Digest, Golf Magazine, and Top100GolfCourses.co.uk. These sources generally rate each course on such criteria as difficulty, memorability, design variety, scenery, conditioning, and atmosphere. By combining the rankings from these main sources, we’ve come up with a list that accurately ranks the best of the best. Below is the cumulative rankings for each of these amazing golfing destinations.
Top 10 Golf Courses in Ireland:
1. Royal County Down (North, $$$$) – One of the oldest golf courses in Ireland, Royal County Down is a beautiful, difficult, world class golf course with great facilities that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
2. Royal Portrush (Dunluce) (North, $$$) – Royal Portrush is a natural, well conditioned course strung along the beach, with nicely spaced holes and plenty of difficulty.
3. Ballybunion Old (Southwest, $$$$) – A spectacular course with amazing scenery along the course and from the 19th hole. It has a wonderful variety of challenges.
4. Portmarnock Old (East, $$$$) – Host to 18 Irish Opens, Portmarnock is a wonderful course with great history.
5. Lahinch Old (Southwest, $$$$) – Pure Irish golf with a great historic feel; exciting, memorable, and also very scenic.
6. Waterville (Southwest, $$$$) – A stunning course on a beautiful peninsula location.
7. The European (East, $$$$) – A difficult, well-conditioned course in a beautiful setting, with a friendly, family run feel.
8. Tralee (Southwest, $$$$) – Designed by Arnold Palmer, Tralee is a beautiful, fun, exciting course. I once played here in 40-50 mile per hour winds, with gusts up to 70 mph! It was not just golf, it was an adventure! I had a 400-yard drive on the 14th hole, and a 160 yard drive on the next! It was surely one of the most memorable rounds of golf in my life.
9. County Sligo (Northwest, $$) – Scenic, challenging, and with a friendly staff.
10. County Louth (East, $$) – Baltray, as it is affectionately known, has hosted many championship tournaments, yet somehow remains a bit of a hidden gem.
Honorable Mention: Old Head (Southwest, $$$$) – One of the most amazing settings for a golf course in the world. Set on a narrow headland with 300 foot cliffs to the ocean on all sides, this place is amazing. I’ve never been so excited and scared to play a round of golf in my life!
Top 10 Golf Courses in Scotland:
1. The Old Course at St. Andrews (East, $$$) – One of the oldest, most famous golf courses in the world, The Old Course at St. Andrews is a magical track.
2. Muirfield (Southeast, $$$$) – The world’s oldest golf club according to direct written evidence, Muirfield is home to The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.
3. Royal Dornoch (North, $$) – A historic, challenging course with beautiful views and an exciting routing along the North Sea. Dornoch is a wonderful course with a magical feel and is certainly worth the trek north.
4. Turnberry Ailsa (Southwest, $$$$) – Home to multiple Open Championships, the Ailsa course at Turnberry is a very scenic course, overlooking the ocean, the granite island of Ailsa Craig, and on the other side, the beautiful resort recently purchased by Donald Trump.
5. Carnoustie (East, $$$) – A wonderfully difficult course that has generated memorable Open Championships such as in 1999, when Jean van de Velde stumbled on the 72nd hole.
6. Royal Troon – Old Course (Southwest, $$$$) – Home to the famous “Postage Stamp” par 3 eighth hole, the Old Course at Royal Troon is another great Open Championship venue with history, difficulty, and beauty.
7. Kingsbarns (Southeast, $$$$) – Opened in 2000, Kingsbarns is a beautiful, natural course that looks like it has been around for hundreds of years, and has a wonderful view of the North Sea from every hole.
8. North Berwick Links (Southeast, $$) – Home to the famous par 3 15th “Redan” hole, North Berwick Links is a beautiful, playable, enjoyable course.
9. Loch Lomond (Southwest, $$) – Alongside the banks of Loch Lomond, this course is in a wonderful, secluded setting.
10. Cruden Bay (Northeast, $$) – Set on a rugged, sand dune-filled landscape, Cruden Bay is an exciting course that will guarantee a memorable round.
Honorable Mention: Trump International (Northeast, $$$$) – Designated by Mr. Trump as the finest in the world, the newly build Trump International comes fairly close. Some critics say that it is not as natural as the classic Scottish courses, but its fans praise its beauty and excitement.
Have our top ten lists inspired you to start planning your own golf trip to Ireland or Scotland? Our golf specialist will be happy to help you with your tour. Do you think we missed any amazing courses? Let us know in the comments!