Southwest Ireland: A parade of magical golf links line the coast

WATERVILLE, County Kerry, Ireland -- Three world top-100-caliber golf courses -- Lahinch, Ballybunion and Waterville -- elevate southwest Ireland into one of the most sought-after links golf destinations on the planet.

It's less than an hour's drive from the Shannon Airport to the newly named Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland near the village of Doonbeg. This luxurious home base offers easy access to a Greg Norman design that's being re-imagined by Martin Hawtree, as well as the quirky but lovable Old Course at Lahinch Golf Club, a links replete with blind shots and the famous Dell and Klondyke holes.

A ferry ride across the River Shannon will take you to Ballybunion Golf Club. Playing the adored Old Course at Ballybunion is a must, although getting lost in the dunes of the Cashen Course can be fun, too. The Arnold Palmer-designed Tralee Golf Club and underrated Dooks Golf Club, redesigned by Hawtree in 2006, serve as gateways to the scenic Dingle Peninsula.

Going a bit off track to tour the peninsula reveals the westernmost course in Europe, the Dingle Golf Links (known by its Irish name, Ceann Sibeal). Furthest south, Waterville Golf Links tends to be the final stop, unless Old Head Golf Links in Kinsale makes the itinerary. Tom Fazio's 2006 renovation realized the full potential of Waterville's beautiful setting along the Atlantic Ocean's Ballinskelligs Bay and the River Inny Estuary.

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.
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Southwest Ireland: A parade of magical golf links line the coast
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