The 18th hole sits in the shadow of Killeen Castle.  (Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor) Tralee Golf Club's third hole is a par 3 named "Castle" for the outlook post that sits next to the green.  (Brandon Tucker/GolfAdvisor) The 18th hole at the Dromoland Golf & Country Club sits near the Dromoland Castle. (Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor)

Castles and golf courses: Ireland's fab five

Americans love castles.

Looking for something more real than Cinderella's Castle at Disney? Try playing golf in Ireland. Dozens of golf clubs in Ireland and Northern Ireland have the word "castle" in their names, but only a handful deliver the real deal.

Here are five of the best castle courses on the Emerald Isle:

Killeen Castle, County Meath

This Jack Nicklaus parkland course, which opened in 2009 just outside Dublin, looked and played fabulous during the 2011 Solheim Cup won dramatically by the Europeans. The sheer majesty and mystique of the 12th-century Killeen Castle hovering over the property helps Killeen Castle golf course stand out from the crowd.

Tralee Golf Club, County Kerry

There's a lot to love about Tralee Golf Club, arguably Arnold Palmer's finest design. The views of dunes, oceanside cliffs and the beach below conjure up scenic surroundings for a round of golf. Castle ruins are introduced on the third hole, an exposed par 3 right along the coast. Golfers can actually explore the castle turret that dates to the 1190s behind the third green. Stepping inside reveals the staircase and "murdering hole," where boiling water and other dangerous devices were tossed down on unwanted intruders.

Lahinch Golf Club, County Clare

The ruins of Dough Castle provide the perfect line for the tee shot on the par-5 12th on the Old Course at Lahinch Golf Club, one of the world's most beloved links. The lone standing wall with five windows, which dates to 1306, stands next to the seventh hole of Lahinch's Castle Course. Lahinch's Dell hole ranks as one of the most unique par 3s.

Dromoland Golf & Country Club, County Clare

The Dromoland Castle Hotel might deliver the best combination of castle accommodations coupled with an excellent course. A family of Gaelic royalty once owned the Dromoland Castle, which dates to the fifth century, but the main building that is the hotel was completed in 1835. It was revamped into a hotel in the 1960s. Ron Kirby, one of the original architects, and Irish golf legend J.B. Carr completed a $5 million renovation several years ago to spruce up a fine parkland playground.

Ardglass Golf Club, County Down, Northern Ireland

Ardglass Golf Club calls a clubhouse converted from a 13th-century castle home. After the round on a scenic cliff-top course, players should head to the upstairs bar in the clubhouse. Be sure to ask about the 13th-century shield unearthed during renovations and the spellbinding view from a hidden patio. Rumor has it the clubhouse might even be haunted. "We've made the claim that it is the oldest clubhouse in the world," member Peter McEvoy told me in 2010. "The R&A have been here, and they've not disputed it."

Feb 18, 2014

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Jason Scott Deegan

Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.