I love golf in Ireland, and it does not get any better than Royal County Down!
Most rate County Down as amongst the ten best courses in the world, and many as the best of all.
Sited in the coastal town of Newcastle on the east coast of Ireland midway between Dublin and Belfast, County Down has a wonderful setting.
Many a word has been written about the beauty of the mountains of Mourne, and County Down has them as a gorgeous background to a course set in wonderful duneland hard against the sea.
Adding to the drama is the splendrous Slieve Donard hotel- it is the only place to stay on a visit to County Down, and backs right on to the course.
Slieve Donard is a relic of a bygone age, but a majestic place to stay and play.
Royal County Down GC was formed in 1889, with Old Tom Morris being responsible for the original routing. However the course was extensively remodelled by George Coombe, and then later by no other than Harry Colt. Some regard Colt as the greatest architect ever, and it was he who introduced the new 4th hole par 3, joined 2 holes to make the magnificent 9th hole, and introduced the golden gorse that now dominates the landscape at County Down...
Royal County Down has its detractors who are not fond of the multitude of blind shots as the course winds through the most magnicent of dunesland imaginable.
I do not subscribe to that point of view, and believe County Down to be one of the very top courses, and golf experiences to be found anywhere.
I have played the course a number of times now, the latest time with my son Tim in his warm up to the 2009 Open Championship. The course was in magnificent condition as a number of pros use County Down as a warm up to the Open.
The first 3 holes play away from the Mountains of Mourne along the coastal dune with the sea on your right. Each of these holes are top class, and they set the scene for one of the best nines in golf. The new Colt par 3 fourth heads back toward the start over a sea of gorse - an extremely intimidating shot if ever there was one, but then around every turn, and over every dune, each new hole brings a new adventure that you will want to repeat.
And then you tee off on the 9th hole over the biggest dune you could ever dream up, and as you crest the top of the dune the magnificent 9th hole with Slieve Donard and the mountains of Mourne as a backdrop is unveiled. This is an experience you will never forget!!
The back nine is pretty good too, although it does not quite maintain the same level of excellence. I love the par 3 10th, and the 11th over the dune...
It is the last 3 holes that are often critiscised at County Down as not quite up to the standard of the rest of the course. These are not bad holes, but have neither the appeal, or strategic merit of their predecessors. They have been reworked a number of times, but just don't have the character to match the rest of the course.
Nevertheless, Royal County Down is a brilliant golf course, and a course every serious golfer should travel to experience.
Royal County Down is a Travelling Golfer 'must play!'
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