Treasure island — Ireland far better value for elite green fees than UK or USA

There has been much weeping and gnashing of teeth in the Irish golf industry of late over the demise of the dedicated golf department at Fáilte Ireland, the tourism body for the Republic of Ireland. 

Where there was once a visible face wearing out shoe leather and pressing the flesh all over the world, that role has now been absorbed by the department that also looks after hill-walking and other noble outdoor pursuits in what can only be described as a cost-saving exercise of dubious worth. The good men and women continue to meet industry heavy hitters to bring big business here but we still need a golfing czar to co-ordinate all effort.

It beggars belief in an age when the island of Ireland boasts the world No 1 in Rory McIlroy that the Irish Open, for example, is being put somewhat on the back burner. Fáilte Ireland has belatedly come on board this year with a token presence but with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB), the junior partner in the all Ireland body Tourism Ireland, doing the hard yards these days, it’s only natural that Fáilte Ireland feels comfortable taking a back seat.

It’s a risky strategy but it’s working for now as their counterparts north of the border work to increase their annual earnings from golf from £33m (€45m) to £50m (€68m) a year by 2020.

Fáilte Ireland's change in focus bring back memories of 2006 when the decision makers at the top decided that Pádraig Harrington wasn't worth the expense and axed him as an ambassador. With seven months he ended Irish golf's 60-year wait for a major winner.

Launching the strategic review of golf tourism in Northern Ireland 2015-2020, Enterprise minister Arlene Foster said there "has never been a better time" for a new plan to tap into the sport's tourism and business potential.

"Our reputation for golfing excellence will be increased further with the hosting of the Irish Open by Royal County Down this year, along with its return again in 2017, and indeed the prospect of holding the world's biggest golf tournament, The Open Championship, by the end of the decade,” the minister said. 

"The importance of golf tourism lies in attracting high-spending visitors and dispersing their spending power throughout the visitor economy.”

Failte Ireland’s golf strategy is something of a mystery, though there has been significant online advertising. 

But there are many more things they could tell the world about Irish golf.

For instance, the estimable Pat Ruddy of The European Club reckons that Ireland’s Top 12 venues are 53 percent less expensive than their American counterparts and 41 percent cheaper than the top UK courses. 

He's even done all the sums.

How top green fees compare in Ireland, the UK and the USA. (Please click image to expand)

“That is the finding of a survey of the guest fees being charged at leading golf holiday destinations at peak times in high season 2015 in the United States of America, in the United Kingdom and in the Republic of Ireland,” Mr Ruddy writes.

“The survey of published guest fees was undertaken in March 2015 (with the exception of Skibo whose last published rate was 2012) and the conversion to Euro was done at mid-March exchange rates.

“Underpinning the Irish price advantage is the fact that ten of the venues are world-class seaside links five of which are included in the latest *GOLF listing of the World’s Top-100 Golf Courses*.

“The USA list does not include the exclusive old clubs where money alone will not secure a game. The Irish top venues score both on price and accessibility. The welcome mat is always out in Ireland.”

Of course, while courses such as Royal County Down and Royal Portrush would feature on any visitor’s list of top Irish courses, they are situated in the United Kingdom.

But given the weak euro, the Irish golf industry should be shouting this news from the four corners of the globe, especially the United States.

Why pay nearly €900 to play Pebble Beach and Trump Doral when you can come to Ireland and play five of the world’s Top 100 in Portmarnock, Ballybunion Old, The European Club, Waterville and Lahinch for the same price?

The Wild Atlantic Way is a superb marketing idea but that west magical stretch of coastline is also festooned with great golf courses and more modest tracks you’ll still remember until your dying day. 

Letting the world know about them should be the one of the biggest jobs in tourism. 


  • Shadow Creek €469 
  • Pebble Beach €464 
  • Trump Doral - Blue €422 
  • TPC Sawgrass €415 
  • Pinehurst No. 2 €384
  • Cascata €365
  • Spyglass Hill €361
  • Whistling Straits €355
  • Greenbrier Old White €355
  • Karsten Creek €300
  • The Boulders €286
  • Bandon Oregon €282

Total cost 12 games: €4458


  • Pelican Hill €281 
  • Greenbrier €281
  • Chambers Bay €280
  • Troon North €280
  • Blackwolf Run €275
  • Harbour Town €272
  • Grayhawk €272
  • Trump Los Angeles €262

United Kingdom

  • Carnegie Skibo (2012) €416
  • Kingsbarns €313
  • Royal Lytham €303
  • Trump Scotland €296
  • Muirfield €289
  • Royal Troon €282
  • Sunningdale Old €282
  • Archerfield Links €277
  • Royal Liverpool €275
  • Trump Turnberry €270
  • Royal County Down €262
  • Castle Stuart €262

Total cost 12 games: €3527


  • Royal Birkdale €262
  • The Grove €256
  • Gleneagles €248
  • Royal Portrush €248
  • Celtic Manor €246
  • Walton Heath €242
  • Royal St. George's €234
  • St. Andrews Old €234
  • Carnoustie €221
  • Prestwick €215
  • Royal Aberdeen €215

Republic of Ireland

  • Old Head of Kinsale €230
  • The K Club Palmer €220
  • Portmarnock*  €195
  • Ballybunion Old*  €180
  • Tralee €180
  • Trump Doonbeg €180
  • The European Club*  €180
  • Waterville*  €170
  • Lahinch*  €165
  • The Royal Dublin €150
  • County Sligo €125
  • County Louth €120

Total cost 12 games: €2095

*GOLF's World’s Top-100 Golf Courses