What better way to wake up than knowing you have a big breakfast waiting and you’ve got all the time in the world to get there. Ireland has hundreds of hotels — from five-star luxury to everyday comfort — and when it comes to golf you’ll never have to look too far for somewhere to rest your head.
Here are 12 of the best hotel/golf course combinations in Ireland, where you can expect drying areas, storage facilities, battery charging, early breakfasts on request and exceptional golf. If you ask nicely, you might find some even shine your shoes and clean your clubs.
1. Carton House
Carton House lies to the west of Dublin, in a 1,200 acre estate that’s so big it crosses two counties. The luxury hotel boasts 165 bedrooms and suites, as well as three dining venues. Guests can fish on the River Rye, walk the estate’s nature trails, explore the house’s centuries old history, cycle a nine kilometre track or choose between two very different styles of golf course.
The Montgomerie course plays like an inland links, flowing over a rolling, open landscape and between deep pothole bunkers. The greens are among the best in Ireland. Little wonder then that the course has hosted the Irish Open three times.
The O’Meara favours a parkland style, weaving between the woodlands and over the hillsides. It is renowned for its finishing holes beside the river, where the par three, five, three stretch can ruin any score card. Nearby courses include the K Club, which promises plenty of five-star luxury of its own, Palmerstown Stud, Rathcore, Naas and Kilcock.
The five-star Castlemartyr blends a stunning 17th century manor house with a contemporary new wing, all wrapped up with an 800-year old castle once home to the Knights Templar. The hotel comes with two restaurants — The Bell Tower is exceptional — a popular spa and the golf course designed by Ron Kirby (of Old Head fame). The low, bumpy fairways, fescue grasses and hypnotic rhythm are all reminiscent of links golf, and keeping the ball flight low certainly has its advantages. It is a very playable course and hotel guests can enjoy complimentary club hire (Titleist AP1’s), which is a quality touch. Clubs can also be taken to nearby courses such as Fota Island, Cork, West Waterford and the spectacular Old Head.
3. Dromoland Castle
The drive through the golf course to reach the majestic Dromoland Castle, in Co. Clare, will set any golfer’s pulse racing. The luxury of Dromoland runs far deeper than that, however, as glamorous and elegant rooms combine with a feeling of stepping back in time. That’s no great surprise when your room is in a 16th century castle. The golf course was redesigned in 2003 and this wonderfully colourful and flowing creation takes in streams, lakes and woodland. It’s a beauty.
The Cliffs of Moher are only 50km away, while Lahinch, Trump Doonbeg (more five star luxury) and Shannon golf clubs are also highly recommended.
4. Diamond Coast Hotel
While not attached to a specific golf course, its proximity and direct access to Enniscrone Golf Club in Sligo makes the Diamond Coast Hotel an ideal golfing location. It helps, too, that Carne lies to the west and Co. Sligo to the east. It’s a triumvirate of world-class links courses (check out the hotel’s Wild Atlantic Way package), and no one should ignore the fabulous Strandhill either. There are 92 very large bedrooms and its contemporary design will suit golfers down to the ground. Don’t forget to take a walk on the 5km blue flag beach which runs below the golf course.
5. Druid’s Glen
Boasting two golf courses — one of which has hosted the Irish Open four times — Druid’s Glen Resort in Co. Wicklow has everything a golfer needs… including a dozen or so excellent courses in the vicinity: Macreddin, Wicklow, Greystones and Powerscourt chief among them. The hotel has 145 recently refurbished rooms and the Druid’s Heath course is right outside the front door. It is Druid’s Glen, however, which receives the plaudits. The course was designed by Pat Ruddy and Tom Craddock, and it is the most thrilling parkland in Ireland, with manicured tree-lined fairways and spectacular water features — most notably on the back nine. The par four 13th is one of the toughest holes you will ever play.
6. Mount Juliet
In terms of parkland golf it doesn’t get any grander than Mount Juliet. How could it when the resort covers a 1,500 acre estate, boasts a stud, a five star hotel (in an 18th century house), a spa and a Michelin starred restaurant (The Lady Helen).
And then there’s the golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus. Mount Juliet House has 31 unique rooms, many with views over the river and Ballylinch Stud, although you’re unlikely to see the golf course. It’s a minor disappointment and, perhaps, builds the suspense of playing a course which has hosted the Irish Open and the AMEX World Golf Championships, when Tiger Woods (-25) beat Mount Juliet into submission in 2002. Nearby courses include Kilkenny, Carlow, Gowran Park and Waterford, but be sure to test yourself on Mount Juliet’s 18 hole par-53 putting course. It includes lakes, bunkers and bridges.
7. Muckross Park Hotel, Killarney
Muckross Park Hotel is on the outskirts of the bustling Kerry town. It also sits in the glorious 25,000 acre National Park, promising a beautiful setting. The hotel is not tied to a golf course but its location near some of the greatest links on the planet, as well as Killarney Golf & Fishing Club’s impressive two courses on Lough Leane, make the 70-room Muckross Park Hotel an excellent choice of golf hotel. The hotel arranges discounted tee times, golf club cleaning and private dining facilities for golfers. Throw in awards for ‘Best Restaurant on the Wild Atlantic Way’ and a highly regarded spa and you’ll quickly see the attraction. Courses in the area include Waterville, Dooks, Tralee and Ballybunion, as well as the picturesque Beaufort.
8. Portmarnock Links
The Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links is one of Ireland’s most fortuitously located golf hotels. A few miles north of Dublin City Centre and even closer to the airport it combines exceptional golf with the promise of Dublin’s culture and nightlife. It is also undergoing a multi-million euro investment, with €1m already injected into the upgrade of Bernard Langer’s links course, including a new short game area. Investments in the hotel include refurbishments to hotel bedrooms and a new spa and gym.
The course is a highly regarded modern links with big greens and complex bunkering. It is no place for the faint of heart… but it is a perfect golfing epicentre, with The Island and original Portmarnock golf clubs only minutes away.
9. Slieve Russell
The golf course setting at the four star Slieve Russell couldn’t be more bucolic. Holes rumble over rolling drumlins, through trees and around the enchanting lakes of a 300-acre estate in Co. Cavan. It is one of Ireland’s premier parklands but two more are within an hour’s drive — Lough Erne to the west and Concra Wood to the east — making Slieve Russell an ideal golfing destination. Farnham Estate and Co. Cavan golf clubs are also nearby.
The hotel has a spa and is also an extremely popular wedding venue. It also has the added advantage of being secluded and peaceful.
10-12. A Hotel Medley
Not all hotels are close to golf courses, but that doesn’t mean they don’t satisfy the needs of those who need to swing a club. Hayfield Manor in the centre of Cork City boasts a two acre front lawn with a driving range. Guests can enjoy the range using specially produced lightweight practice balls. Each of the hotel’s 88 rooms includes a putter.
Mount Falcon, outside Ballina, Co. Mayo, may be renowned for its fishing activities but it also boasts a 9-bay driving range (4 housed in a Canadian log cabin), open to the public. In 2011, Mount Falcon won the Ireland Golf Tour Operator Association’s Boutique Golf Hotel of the Year Award. The Cliff House Hotel lies a few miles west of Youghal, in Ardmore, right on the ocean’s edge. Its driving bay allows golfers to hit environmentally-friendly golf balls towards a floating pontoon in Ardmore Bay.
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