Northern Ireland is the United Kingdom's smallest country in terms of both land mass and population. There are fewer than 2 million residents and it makes up just a small sliver of the Emerald Isle.
But in terms of a golf destination, Northern Ireland punches well above its weight. in recent years, homegrown stars Rory McIlory, Graeme McDowell aand Darren Clarke all won majors. The country also hosted a widely successful 2012 Irish Open at Royal Portrush, and in 2019, the R&A returns The Open to Portrush for the first time since 1951.
With the worst of The Troubles in the rearview mirror, tourism and especially golf tours have returned in a big way lately. The country is most famous for its two Royal courses, County Down and Portrush, but the roster goes far deeper than that, both with links and even inland parkland courses around Belfast.
Ginella discussed Northern Ireland on Golf Channel's Morning Drive and ranked the courses to play. You can view his picks and reasons in the video above.
Ginella's Top 5 golf courses in Northern Ireland
I can't argue much with his list, as these are the go-to links to play when visiting. In my opinion, Northern Ireland can go toe-to-toe with Ireland's popular southwest in terms of appeal for golf groups. Here are a few things the North can boast over the southwest:
- The best one-two punch in golf: Royal County Down and Royal Portrush.
- A great city to explore. Belfast is a great size for tourists and has all sorts of sites, from historic and uplifting to more graphic and hostile histories of The Troubles. It's a fascinating -- and now safe -- place to poke around.
- Southwest Ireland has the Ring of Kerry, but Northern Ireland's County Antrim has the remarkable Giant's Causeway, as well as Dunluce Castle ruins, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and more unique sights. And of course, whiskey at the Bushmills Distillery.
- The roads are superior to most of Ireland (especially northwest Ireland), should you plan on self-driving during your golf tour.
Speaking of the northwest, it's a natural add-on for longer trips to include the Glashedy Links and Old Course at Ballyliffin, the Dunes Course at Enniscrone, the Sandy Hills Course and Old Tom Morris Course at Rosapenna and more.
Interested in playing golf around Belfast? You can browse course reviews and tee times on its destination page.