Ireland is undoubtedly one of the very best countries in the world in which to play golf. The scenery is spectacular, the roads are uncrowded, the Guinness is plentiful and the people are incredibly friendly. On top of all that, there are far more outstanding courses than the Irish know what to do with and so they're more than happy to share them with visitors.
The vast majority of us head for the magical collection of links courses on the west coast or experience the qualities and pedigree of Royals Porthcawl and County Down up north. But there's a new, fast-emerging region on the block: a warm welcome to the south-eastern corner of the country.
Carved through a splendid estate full of mature oak, beech and lime trees, it was designed by Jack Nicklaus in collaboration with Canadian architect Howes and has a distinctly “American” feel. The story goes, that Nicklaus’ offer of shots to an ageing Christy O’Connor at the match to celebrate the opening in 1991 was politely turned down by O’Connor, who went on to win 2&1. The Irish Open, was held here from 1993-1995 as was the American Express Championship in 2002 and 2004.
Rosslare Links is a genuine links course from the tips of its sizeable tees, through its fast and undulating fairways to its wonderfully true but tricky greens. Blessed with all the authentic characteristics of golf amid the dunes – like tough bunkers, springy turf and the occasional unpredictable bounce – it’s tough enough that even the soothing sound of the surf won’t settle your nerves.
An outstanding Jeff Howes creation covering 7,000-plus yards within the former Hall-Dare estate; Wexford GC is enormously attractive, with plenty of elevation and no shortage of big boulders to punctuate the scenery, there’s much to admire about this well maintained and appealing course, especially the views; and Seafield, near Gorey, is tricky to categorise. Described as part heathland, part clifftop, part parkland, it could be said to be genre-busting. Designed by Peter McEvoy, it makes the most of its idyllic coastal setting. Mature woodlands and water hazards on the front nine are in stark contrast to the long fairways, crosswinds and bunkers on the way home.
St Helen’s Bay
A glorious seaside course that takes full advantage of its location right on the coast with some breathtaking holes and an almost ever-present breeze. With numerous tropical trees carefully sited, the occasional historic wall built during the famine to provide work for the unemployed, and a sprinkling of attractive water hazards, the course provides plenty of visual appeal.
A good starting, or finishing point, for your south east tour. It’s one of the finest – and driest – parkland layouts around, boasting USGA-spec greens so it’s in excellent shape year-round. It’s just four miles outside Dublin city centre and would be a fitting end to one of the best trips you can do.