Ranked 4th in the World
Ranked 1st – Courses outside of the US
Royal County Down Golf Club Course Review
Royal County Down Golf Club where the mountains of Mourne slide into the sea. Royal County Down Golf Club is a seaside links course located in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. Its one of the most visually stunning courses you can ever play and every bit as tough as Pine Valley is supposed to be. The course was founded in 1889 and Tom Morris was commissioned to design the course for two guineas. Royal County Down consistently ranks in the top 5 golf course in the world and its easy to see why this course holds that lofty distinction. The course is set in huge sand dunes that are not seen on most of the great links courses in Ireland. The bunkers look like they’re are from another era, most have that rough natural look to them with sand in the bottom and fescue grasses growing around the rims. The fairways and greens run hard and fast and there is a premium on ball placement here or you will have to contend with the devilish gorse that’s spread throughout the course. If you can, play in the morning because you will most definitely want to play it again in the afternoon, its one of those courses you could play all day if you had the time and stamina. For a true Northern Ireland experience, stay at the Slieve Donard Hotel and walk the 150 or so yards to the clubhouse.
1st Hole 539 yds – Par 5 – You start off your round at RCD with a medium length par 5. The best shot here is down the left side of the fairway giving you the best angle for your second shot. Your second shot is hit downhill to a fairway with a lot of undulation and mounding lay up short of the bunker on the right for your best approach to the green. The green is elongated and narrow here with a steep slope right front, one thing you will notice about Royal County Down greens if you miss them you still have a good chance at par as everything is cut down around the greens where you can putt or play a chip shot.
2nd Hole 444 yds Par 4 – Your tee shot here is blind and uphill to a generous fairway, like a few courses that I visited in Ireland they use white stones to signify your target if the hole is blind, your tee shot here is no different. The green is elevated yet again and you have to hit your ball over the bunker at the bottom of the small hill 50yds from the green, the green is elongated and narrow again. There is a bunker that guards the left front of the green and any ball missing right will kick down into the mown area below the putting surface
3rd Hole 477 yds Par 4 – One of the best strategic holes on the golf course – your aiming point is at the bunker on the left side of the fairway, any ball finding the right side of the fairway here and you may have a blind second shot into the green. The right side of this hole is trouble all the way to the green with nasty bunkers and mounding. The giant black and white pole is the middle of the green here at you should use it as your aiming point. There are two bunkers guarding the green left, one deep bunker short of the green and one at the middle of the green. If your in trouble right on your tee shot your best best is to aim short of the deep bunker left to avoid running up your score.
4th Hole 228 yds Par 3 – One of the best par 3’s in the world, from the tee here you hit over a sea of gorse to a green that is guarded by believe it or not 10 bunkers, most of the bunkers are hidden making your tee shot all the more treacherous. There is no room to bail out here your best chance to get up and down if you miss the green is left as there is a nicely mown area for chipping or putting. The green is fairly flat here and if you can get your second shot close you will have a good chance to save your par.
5th Hole 448 yds Par 4 – This hole doglegs right of the tee and your tee shot is semi blind, there is a white stone on the hill of the right which indicates the middle of the fairway. The fairway slope right to left so a tee shot right of the white stone will land you in the fairway. The green is set behind a dune so the further left you get the better look going to have on your second shot. The green is has one bunker left and two bunkers right, one short and the other back/middle. The green is flat for the most par with the front right having a gentle slope up towards the back of the green.
6th Hole 398 yds Par 4 – Another blind tee shot here, may be a good thing when you see what’s ahead in the fairway. Aim for the white stone on top of the hill, there is no need for a driver here as the fairway narrows to 15 yds and there is a large deep bunker right where the fairway narrows. The green here is small and has a very deceiving reverse bowl, I was 3 ft left of the hole here and my ball slowly rolled of the green. There’s lots of strategy involved in this hole and many ways to play it, a very cool hole.
7th Hole 145 yds Par 3 – Don’t be decieved by the length of this hole no matter what tee your playing, the only advice your caddy will give you here stay right of the pin at all costs. The green slopes severely from right to left, missing the pin here left and you will most likely end up in the very deep bunker left and yes I said pin not green. Take a look at the pictures.
8th Hole 430 yds Par 4 – This hole is doglegs slight to the right, there are two bunkers that guard the fairway left and right, the left side of the fairway is the line in here as it opens up your second shot. The second shot is to a small green that runs off on all side before the green meets the fairway, kind of a sunken reverse bowl. The right side of the green has a severe slope leading into a grass bowl so being left of the pin here is favored.
9th Hole 486 yds Par 4 – One of the most photographed golf holes in the world, this hole doesn’t play its full length. Your tee shot is hit 60 ft down to a very generous fairway, aim your tee shot at the far right end of Slieve Donard Hotel for the best line for your second shot. Your second shot feels like you in a large dune valley, there are two large dunes that guards the entrance to the elevated green on both sides and a bunker in between the dunes for any shot short. The green is guarded by two bunkers left and one right and has small runoffs around various sections.
10th Hole 197 yds Par 3 – This medium length par 3 has four bunkers on all four corners of the green, from the tee, the green appears as if there is a narrow opening as a result of the sand dunes on either side but once your past the dunes the hole opens up around the green.
11th Hole 440 yds Par 4 – This hole doglegs right, the tee shot is hit over a 25 ft high hill, the line is at the black and white pole on top of the hill, the fairway slope from right to left so the further right you are the better angle you’ll have for you second shot. The second shot is uphill to a smallish green protected by two bunker left and right at the front of the green.
12th Hole 527 yds Par 5 – Your tee shot on this hole is half blind the left side of the fairway isn’t visible from the tee, there is a large mound 100yds from the tee that blocks it out. Your best line is to play it off the bunker right towards the fairway, there is a hidden bunker left that you can’t see. If you ball finds the fairway you have several options go for the green and thread it between the four bunkers left and right as you get closer to the green. Your second option is to lay it up short of all the bunkers or try to get it past the first set of bunkers. The green is very small here and has a sunken reverse bowl with the right back having a run off. There are no green side bunkers here making giving you a good chance to get up and down if you miss the green.
13th Hole 444 yds Par 4 – Your tee shot here is hit through a two large sand dunes on either side, from the tee to hole feels a little claustrophobic. Your line here is at the gorse on the hill, the hole turns right and the further left you hit it the more open the green is. There is a large black and white pole that you aim at if you go down the right side. This large green has some undulation in it and aim at the middle of the green for the best shot, there is a bunker that guards the front left part of the green, missing the green right is safe you’ll be putting or chipping from that side.
14th Hole 212 yds Par 3 – This hole plays shorter than the yardage, the green is 20ft below the tee, there is trouble all around the front of this hole five bunkers are waiting for an errant ball, the green has a gentle reverse bowl to it so there are no flat puts here. You safe target here is at the right edge of the green anything a little long you’ll be chipping back onto the green which isn’t a bad thing.
15th Hole 467 yds Par 4 – One of the tougher and longer holes on the course, your drive is hit uphill to a generous fairway, its mainly a matter of getting up far enough to see the pin on your second shot. For anyone in trouble there is a deep gulley that splits the fairway into two. If your tee shot find the fairway you will have no trouble for going for the green, there are three bunkers short of the green to catch any errant second shot so be aware of them, aim between the bunkers and you will not have any issues. The green as one deep bunker short left and a severe slope on the right to catch errant balls. The right side will leave you with one of those hard questions do I chip or putt it.
16th Hole 337 yds Par 4 – A old style risk reward hole here, its drivable for the longer hitters and a relief for everyone else. The trouble here is on the right, any ball right of the fairway will end up in the longer rough or bunker, there are 5 bunkers right here to catch an errant shot and two bunkers left one at the green and one 40 yds short. If you decide to take on the green aim at the left trap near the green, for those of us who are mere mortals a shot short of the left bunker will give you a good look at birdie. The green is fairly small with only a portion of it flat – middle/back left everything else on this green runs away from the pin. It’s a fun hole that you can literally hit any club on depending how your round is going.
17th Hole 435 yds Par 4 – The tee shot here is straight away, the only trouble is on the right where two bunkers catch any shorter shots hit in that direction. Your second show is hit over perhaps one of the strangest sights in links golf, a triangular pond in the middle of the fairway. Your second shot has to be accurate as there are 7 bunkers around the green in various places to catch an errant second shot, The green is fairly large but has a fair bit of undulation in the back portion
18th Hole 550 yds Par 5 – The last hole at Royal County Down gives the player a chance at a little redemption if they can successfully navigate the 15 bunkers that line this hole. Down the middle is the best line here, nothing is hidden and all bunkers are visible. Your second shot bends gently to the left again, down the middle won’t hurt you here unless you stray off course. Your third shot is to a smallish green guard by a two bunkers left and right, as you can see from the third picture missing the green leaves you with devilish chip or putt back onto the green.