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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 23 June, 2023
Expert travel writer: Fionn Davenport

Royal County Down is no ordinary links. It’s arguably the world’s best golf course you can play without being a member.

It’s the kind of course that people play in their most ecstatic dreams, with an abundance of blind shots, long carries and nestling greens laid out like a velvet carpet.

It’s a golfing stage with few equals, a riot of gorse and heather skirting the Irish Sea and backdropped by the Mountains of Mourne – the inspiration for one of Ireland’s most famous folk ballads.

RCD’s beauty, however, comes with a bite: this is not a place to miss too many fairways, nor is it advised to venture out without some local knowledge – many a first-timer has lost their way in the penal rough or looking for a line that is invisible to all but the lucky, or the more experienced.

One thing is guaranteed; whether it’s your first or fortieth time, RCD is a place you’ll want to come back to, again and again.

Logistics

Price from: £270
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around
Duration: 4 hours

Getting there & doing it

You need to book tee times through the Secretary’s Office. The Slieve Donard Hotel is next door and is a great overnight and dining option. The course is only 45 minutes from Belfast – perfect to pair with a city break. See our Belfast guide for recommendations of where to stay.

When to do it

The course is open all year round, seven days a week, but the best time to play is between May and September, when the weather is at its best. Visitors are welcome all day Thursday mornings, Sunday afternoons and all-day Monday, Tuesday and Friday.

Destination guides

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Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Belfast

Northern Ireland, United Kingdom (UK)

Exterior view of the local parliament during the daytime

Northern Ireland’s capital makes for a surprisingly arty city break, with convivial and cosy pubs, elegant architecture and cutting-edge cuisine.

Round-ups

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Round-ups that include this experience

34 World’s best golf courses

Spectacular landscapes, impeccable fairways and greens, brilliantly-designed holes and plenty of golfing folklore – we asked golf expert and journalist Fionn Davenport to recommend his top 30 golf courses from around the world.