Royal County Down Golf Club: One of the Oldest Irish Courses

Updated On: November 07, 2023

Royal County Down Golf Course

In the seaside town of Newcastle, close to the foot of the Majestic Mourne Mountains, lies the impeccable ‘Royal County Down Golf Club’. The course was originally founded in 1889, by a group of Belfast men, who saw a unique opportunity to create a golf course in Newcastle.

The development of the golf course was sparked by a new railway line, from Belfast to Newcastle, making the seaside resort more accessible. This helped to make travel more convenient for the people of Northern Ireland.  Soon Newcastle became a popular hotspot during the Victorian times.

This newfound popularity saw the first formal golf course in the area, known as Royal County Down being put into existence.

Keep on reading to discover more on the exciting history of Royal County Down…

Royal County Down Golf Course
Royal County Down Golf Course (Image Source: Golf Digest (

The History of Royal County Down Golf Club

On the 23rd of March 1889, the original nine-hole golf course was opened in Newcastle. This was over 130 years ago, now its consider one of the oldest golf courses in all of Ireland.

The first design layout of Royal County Down was the work of Thomas Mitchell Morris, also known as ‘Old Tom Morris’. He first started out as a successful golfer, winning four open championships in his career.

Old Tom Morris Brings to life a Championship Course

Later on in life, Morris took on the role of designing golf courses, he was very talented and was soon sought after by golf clubs around the country, asking for his design expertise.  One of the courses he helped bring to life was, of course, Royal County Down in Northern Ireland.

Old Tom Morris was asked to build a championship course in Newcastle, for the small sum of four guineas, which was a lot of money back in those days. The design of the course had already begun before old Tom Morris arrived, but he was very influential in advising a further nine holes at the golf club.

Over a period of two days, in July 1889, Old Tom devoted his time at Royal County Down Golf Club. With his prestige design skills, the golf course added a further three new holes, In just one short year later, a full 18-hole championship course was open in July 1890.

Popularity at the Golf Course

Royal County Down quickly became a popular spot after many famous golfers had travelled and played on the course, leading them to recommend the golf club to others.

It was also given the honourable royal patronage in 1908 by King Edward VII. This was only given to exceptional clubs, just like the nearby Royal Portrush course.

To keep people interested and to continue to watch the popularity of the club grow, Harry Colt, another brilliant architect, was asked to make further improvements to the course.  He so happened to create the current fourth and ninth holes, two of the most photographic holes ever in the golfing world. This was because the holes offered a phenomenal backdrop of the Mourne Mountains.

World’s Best Golfing Course

Today, the Royal County Down Golf Club is home to two 18-hole link courses, the remarkable championship course, and the Annesley Links.

Time and time again, Golf Digest has ranked Royal County Down as the world’s best golf course. It’s a glorious course, filled with exciting holes, beautiful greenery and scenery, as well as the amazing atmosphere playing there brings.

The golf course has also hosted the Irish opens four times, with the last one taking place in 2015. A lot of prestigious golfing events both national and international have taken place on their championship course.

Best Golfing Experience in Northern Ireland

The course is a golfers dream, the best in Northern Ireland and the World. So, if you haven’t had the chance to play a round of golf at Royal County Down, you are seriously missing out.

It’s also a personal favourite course of Rory McIlroy, he is after all one of the greatest golfers in the world. If he thinks it’s an amazing course, we are in no position to question it. Go experience this unique Northern Irish golf course for yourself and find out why Rory McIlroy loves it so much.

We also recommend checking out the Annesley Links course, the hidden gem at Royal County Down, sharing the amazing setting as the Championship course.

Annesley Links is full of character, interesting holes and is much shorter than the testing championship course. But it’s still worth checking out for a quicker game of golf, where you’ll uncover magnificent scenic views of mountains, sea and dunelands.

Visiting the Golf Course

Visitors are welcoming to come to Royal County Down Golf club and experience the champion Links on the following days:

  • Monday’s, Tuesday’s, and Fridays: Both mornings and afternoons
  • Thursdays: Mornings only
  • Sunday: Afternoons only

All guest must make sure they book in advance through the Secretary’s Office. The prices for green fees vary depending on the time of year, to find out more check out Royal County Down.

More Things to Do in Newcastle:

When you have had one too many rounds of golf, check out the many tourist attractions in and around Newcastle:

  • Take a trip to the beach, Newcastle is home to many lovely beaches including the beautiful Murlough beach with its picturesque view of Dundrum Bay.
  • Enjoy an unforgettable spa experience at The Slieve Donard Resort and Spa, offering you the perfect opportunity to relax.
  •  A short drive from Newcastle and you’ll find Castlewellan Forest Park, it’s one of the best parks in Northern Ireland. At Castlewellan, you can check out its historic castle, peace maze and stunning landscape.
  •  One of my personal favourite things about Newcastle is its great selection of restaurants You must experience Villa Vinci, offering amazing Italian food by the sea, the food is delicious.

Whether you a heading to Newcastle to enjoy world-class golfing or to hit the gorgeous beaches, its a brilliant seaside resort with lots to offer different people.

Ps have you ever tried golfing at Royal County Down? What did you think of its championship course? Let us know in the comments below.

Also, check out more blogs that might interest you:

Everyone’s Favourite Seaside Resort: Bundoran| The Famous Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge| Best Northern Ireland Tours|Best Tourist Attractions in Northern Ireland

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