Golf Digest Ireland's Top 100 Ranking 2012
Royal County Down has been voted as Ireland’s No 1 course for 2012 by Golf Digest Ireland.

Royal County Down has been voted as Ireland’s No 1 course for 2012 by Golf Digest Ireland.

The complaining can officially begin - Golf Digest Ireland has released the Volvo-sponsored “Top-100 Ranked Irish Golf Courses for 2012” and not all will be pleased.

The status quo has been maintained as far as the leading lights are concerned with no change in the composition of the top-10, just some leapfrogging.(Click here for the 2008 ranking, here for 2009 and here for 2010.)

The top-3 remains the same with Royal County Down voted the top course in Ireland ahead of Portmarnock and Royal Portrush. However, Waterville has jumped two spots to fourth ahead of Ballybunion’s Old Course with Lahinch up one to sixth and Tralee up three places from 10th to seventh.

The big “losers”, if that is the correct term, were The European Club, which slipped four places to eighth, and Adare, which is down two spots to 10th ahead of County Louth, which remained in ninth place.

Those who believe that their clubs have been unfairly ranked can now include readers of Golf Digest Ireland on their hit-lists as “rank-and-file golfers” contributed to drawing up the list this year.

“With a view to making the ranking extra special, we considered it appropriate to enlist the views of what could be described as ordinary, day-to-day golfers,”  said Linton Walton, editor of Golf Digest Ireland. 

First launched eight years ago, Golf Digest Ireland’s official Irish golf course ranking has become a popular marketing tool for Irish clubs and an unofficial barometer of the health of the industry. And in a change from the 2010 list - the 2011 ranking appears to have vanished into the ether - clubs which are in receivership or administration were included this time, having been excluded from the list issued in November last year.

According to Golf Digest Ireland:

The thorough nature of the exercise can be gleaned from the fact that at the beginning of each year, Golf Digest Ireland writes to every club in Ireland with an 18-hole course and asks if any upgrade work has been undertaken over the previous 12 months.  In this context, no fewer than 83 golf clubs wrote back this year, outlining details of various projects they had addressed. Where appropriate, these clubs were then added to last year’s Top-100. Also added were the leading 20 golf clubs which did not make last year’s rankings along with all those clubs which are currently in receivership or administration.  From this comprehensive list, the final ranking was made.

Padraig O’hUiginn, the former Chairman of Failte Ireland, has continued in the role as chairman.  For the latest rankings, he has been joined by Eddie Connaughton (Agronomist), Kate McCann (Former Irish international), Mark Gannon (R&A Selector), Valerie Hassett (Munster Interprovincial), Ally McIntosh (GDI course design columnist) and Cecil Whelan (founder of the Links Golfing Society).

The panel also featured: John Kelly (PGA professional and former PGA Order of Merit winner), Dougie Heather (Former chairman of International Sports Management and former Irish International golfer), Linton Walsh (Editor of Golf Digest Ireland), Kevin Whitson (PGA Professional) and Mark MaGowan (PGA professional).

The further addition of a representative of the Golf Digest readers’ panel completed the list. 

“Through the pages of our magazine, we invited participants on this panel among our readers and were delighted with the response,” added Linton Walsh. “Those selected, were then brought to a design and assessment presentation at The K Club before heading off on assignments to visit many of Ireland’s best courses.  Their subsequent reports gave a valuable, added dimension to this year’s process, through the eyes of every-day golfers.  Overall, we believe that the representative nature of our panel is critical to its credibility.”

The scoring system employed to assess golf clubs was as follows:

Degree of difficulty/fairness 10 points

Shot making/variety 20 points

Design variety 10 points

Wow factor 10 points

Memorability 10 points

Condition 10 points

Playability 10 points

Apart from “new entries” such as Fota Island’s Deerpark course (40th), The Old Head of Kinsale makes the biggest leap, rising 23 places from 47th to 24th. Castletroy leaps 22 places to 63rd while Doonbeg is up 13 to 23rd and Ballyliffin’s Old Links up 10 to 22nd.

While Adare Manor has slipped two places to 10th in the overall list, it retains its position as the country’s leading parkland stretch ahead of Mount Juliet, Killeen Castle and the Palmer Course at The K Club.

Golf Digest Volvo Top 100 Ranked Golf Courses in Ireland 2012

(Movement from last year)

Royal County Down1. Royal County Down

Movement (=)

Where – Co. Down

Portmarnock GC

2. Portmarnock

Movement (=)

Where – Co. Dublin

Royal Portrush3. Royal Portrush

Movement (=)

Where – Co. Antrim

Waterville4. Waterville

Movement - (Up 2)

Where – Co. Kerry

Ballybunion Old5. Ballybunion (Old)

Movement (=)

Where – Co. Kerry

Lahinch GC6. Lahinch

Movement – (Up 1)

Where – Co. Clare

Tralee7. Tralee

Movement – (Up 3)

Where – Co. Kerry

The European Club8. The European Club

Movement - (Down 4)

Where – Co. Wicklow

County Louth9. County Louth (Baltray)

Movement (=)

Where – Co. Louth

Adare10. Adare

Movement – (Down 2)

Where – Co. Limerick

11. County Sligo (Rosses Point) (=)

12. The Island (=)

13. Ballyliffin, Glashedy (Up 3)

14. Enniscrone (Up 3)

15. Mount Juliet (Down 2)

16. Donegal (Up 3)

17. Portstewart, Strand (Up 3)

18. Killeen Castle (Down 4)

19. Royal Dublin (Down 1)

20. The K-Club, Palmer (Down 5)

21. Belmullet, Carne  (Up 4)

22. Ballyliffin, Old Links (Up 10)

23. Doonbeg (Up 13)

24. The Old Head of Kinsale (Up 23)

25. Rosapenna, Sandy Hills (Down 4)

26. Killarney, Killeen  (Down 3)

27. Portsalon (Up 8)

28. Carton House, Montgomerie (Up 2)

29. Carlow (Down 5)

30. Cork (Down 1)

31. Portmarnock Links (=)

32. Lough Erne (Down 10)

33. Dooks (Up 4)

34. Rosapenna, Old Tom Morris (Down 1)

35. Castlerock (Down 7)

36. Headfort, New  (Up 4)

37. Druids Glen (Down 10)

38. Concra Wood (Up 1)

39. Luttrellstown Castle (Up 10)

40. Fota Island, Deerpark (New entry)

41. The K-Club, Smurfit Course (Down 7)

42. Seapoint (Down 16)

43. Narin And Portnoo (Up 8)

44. Heritage (New entry)

45. Slieve Russell (Down 3)

46. Palmerstown House Estate (Up 8)

47. Tramore (Up 11)

48. Connemara (Up 8)

49. Carton House, O’Meara (Up 3)

50. Powerscourt, West Course (Down 12)

51. Belvoir Park (Down 8)

52. Malone (Down 11)

53. Portumna (Up 8)

54. Farnham Estate (Down 6)

55. Dun Laoghaire (Down 9)

56. Westport (Down 11)

57. Hermitage (=)

58. Portrush, Valley  (Down 14)

59. Bunclody (=)

60. Dundalk (Down 10)

61. Tullamore (Down 8)

62. Glasson (Down 2)

63. Castletroy (Up 22)

64. Mount Wolseley (Up 12)

65. Arklow (Down 3)

66. Clandeboye (Up 3)

67. Rathsallagh (=)

68. Killarney, Lackabane (Down 4)

69. Dromoland Castle (Down 4)

70. Druids Heath (Down 15)

71. Ardglass (Down 3)

72. Royal Belfast (Up 1)

73. Shannon (Down 1)

74. Grange (Up 10)

75. Powerscourt, East Course  (Down 12)

76. Castlemartyr (Down 2)

77. Laytown and Bettystown (Up 9)

78. Strandhill (Up 5)

79. Castle (Up 1)

80. Mullingar (Down 2)

81. Rosslare (Up 17)

82. St. Annes (Down 11)

83. Kilkenny (Down 17)

84. Skellig Bay (Up 3)

85. Knightsbrook (Down 6)

86. Bantry Bay (Down 16)

87. Galway (Down 6)

88. Galgorm Castle (Down 6)

89. Courtown (Down 14)

90. Ballinrobe (Up 1)

91. Ballybunion, Cashen  (Up 2)

92. Balbriggan (Down 15)

93. Kirkistown Castle (New entry)

94. Tulfarris (New entry)

95. New Forest (New entry)

96. Galway Bay (Down 7)

97. Moyvalley (New entry)

98. Dingle, Ceann Sibeal  (New entry)

99. Castleknock (New entry)

100. Woodenbridge (New entry)

According to Golf Digest Ireland: “The following clubs were voted just outside the Top 100 but deserve a special mention:




Dundrum House

Esker Hills


Glen of the Downs

Killarney (Mahoneys Point)

Lee Valley


Radisson Roe Park


South County

St. Margarets

The Curragh


The Golf Digest Volvo Top 30 Ranked Links Golf Courses for 2012

1. Royal County Down

2. Portmarnock GC

3. Royal Portrush

4. Waterville

5. Ballybunion (Old)

6. Lahinch

7. Tralee

8. The European Club

9. Co Louth (Baltray)

10. Co. Sligo

11. The Island

12. Ballyliffin (Glashedy)

13. Enniscrone

14. Donegal

15. Portstewart (Strand)

16. Royal Dublin

17. Belmullet (Carne)

18. Ballyliffin (Old Links)

19. Doonbeg

20. Rosapenna (Sandy Hills)

21. Portsalon

22. Portmarnock Links

23. Dooks

24. Rosapenna (Old Tom Morris)

25. Castlerock

26. Seapoint

27. Narin And Portnoo

28. Connemara

29. Portrush (Valley)

30. Arklow

The Golf Digest Volvo Top 30 Ranked Parkland Courses for 2012

1. Adare Golf Club

2. Mount Juliet

3. Killeen Castle

4. The K-Club (Palmer)

5. The Old Head of Kinsale

6. Killarney (Killeen)

7. Carton House (Montgomerie)

8. Carlow

9. Cork

10. Lough Erne

11. Headfort (New)

12. Druids Glen

13. Concra Wood

14. Luttrellstown Castle

15. Fota Island (Deerpark)

16. The K-Club (Smurfit Course)

17. Heritage

18. Slieve Russell

19. Palmerstown House Estate

20. Tramore

21. Carton House (O’Meara)

22. Powerscourt (West Course)

23. Belvoir Park

24. Malone

25. Portumna

26. Farnham Estate

27. Dun Laoghaire

28. Westport

29. Hermitage

30. Bunclody