When planning a golf trip to Ireland, there is no wrong path

This week's Horizon Irish Open at the K Club will showcase just one of a multitude of quality courses throughout the country, but here are three worthy of any itinerary

While this week's Horizon Irish Open at the K Club is the country's most prestigious event, it is also testament to the quality of in Ireland. Record crowds are expected to turn out to see the championship's strongest field, which will feature Rory McIlory, Shane Lowry, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke.

The K Club, site of Clarke’s heroic and emotional performance in leading Europe to victory in the 2006 Ryder Cup, doubles as one of the nation's top resort destinations for travelers. The combination of being a site of historic events and a top-notch facility creates an inviting allure as a stopping point on any trip to this region.

"Every family in Ireland has a connection to the game or plays it … to have a Ryder Cup here and now to continue to host our national championship means everything to us as a nation," says club general manager Paul Heery about the importance of that Ryder Cup and the revitalization of world class golf events at the K Club. 

The K Club
The K Club's Palmer Course in Straffan, Ireland.

Since 2006, the Arnold Palmer-designed North Course has undergone some minor facelifts, but has been toughened up significantly for the Horizon Irish Open, which will also return to the K Club in 2025 and 2027. Tournament director Paul Gillmon, who has extensive background in event and festival production, plans to celebrate the greatness of golf in Ireland on the grounds all week.

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“The vision is to create an entertaining property through the platform of a golf tournament through live music, a local food court area and VR activations,” he says, “not only for the golf fans to enjoy, but to introduce spectators to golf that are new to the game.”

The last Irish Open played at the K Club in 2016 produced some highlight moments from champion McIlroy, and this year another Irishman is hoping to produce some magic of his own in front of the home crowd. Two-time PGA Tour winner and K Club ambassador Seamus Power is reveling at this opportunity.

“[The K Club is] one of those places that’s built to host big tournaments, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like come tournament week,” he says.

But the K Club is not the only drawing card in the Dublin area. There are numerous paths that can be traveled to find quality golf, so there is no wrong way. Not far from the Dublin area there is a gem in Royal Dublin Golf Club, which was constructed on top of land now known as Bull Island, which was previously part of the Irish Sea. The washed up land over the sea wall became a Harry Colt design that first hosted golfers over 120 years ago, and to this day is a unique test of links golf just miles from the city scape. Raised greens, massive dunes and twisting fairways make it a links golf oasis in the city.

While a 2-hour drive in any direction outside of the urban bubble will lead to a collection of world-class links courses, down the southeast coast of Ireland is The European Club in Wicklow, home of legendary creator Pat Ruddy. The Irish course architect is well known as an eccentric in the game and a round is not complete without hearing him spin a story or two.

The European Club
The European Club is relatively new compared to many of the country's iconic courses. The Pat Ruddy-designed course was founded in 1987.

As both the owner and designer of The European Club, Ruddy welcomes golfers from around the world to his home — literally. He often spends his evening above the clubhouse and is likely the first or second face seen when walking into the clubhouse. For the better part of three decades, Ruddy has hosted golfers from over 100 countries. A young Tiger Woods was famously deceived by the lengthy first hole, confusing the opening par 4 for a par 5. Woods still shot 67 for what stands as the Links course record.

The European Club can offer the quintessential links golf moment in Ireland — a tooth-and-nail fight with mother nature as the waves of the Irish seas crash up against the back nine. Ruddy’s framework of bunker protected greens and devilish patches of gorse bush give off more of the Irish vibe, and Ruddy’s dry-panned advice for us to “go home" on the first tee was based more in reality than anticipated.

“I’m lucky to have had this land purchased in three pieces and ready for play in 1992 … golf courses get better with age, but unfortunately people go down with age. This course and my designs are my legacy,” the 78-year-old says. "I would like to be buried standing up (on the links) with a little window, so I can look out and see them go." 

Another must-play in this region is the links golf sanctuary on the southeast strand of Ireland, Rosslare Golf Course. It’s an admittedly large change of pace that gives off vibes that are part Pebble Beach and part Florida as palm trees line the clubhouse area. Upon setting out toward the whipping sea waves and the Harbour view, the wind will take a toll as head golf professional Jaime O'Sullivan says “it can be a two- or a four- to five-club wind. The prevailing wind is into you for at least 11 of the 18 holes, so it’s a stern test.

“In the sunny southeast of Ireland, it’s a seaside resort that visitors love with the peninsula and beaches on all three sides. On a sunny day there’s no better place to be.” O’

Rosslare also boasts a 12-hole beginner-friendly track referred to as the Burrow short course.

With record heat affecting most of the United States, it’s no secret that the enviable climate for most American golf fans looking to escape the heat makes Golf in Ireland the perfect respite to a simpler time in the game.