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Ahead of this week's Irish Open, we've power ranked the best courses Ireland has to offer

From Portrush to Portmarnock and everything in-between, the Emerald Isle has a range of stunning courses.

AS THIS YEAR’S Irish Open approaches, there is a greater sense of excitement and anticipation than previous years as the tournament is set to return as one of the highlights of the golfing calendar.

Having struggled to capture the imagination of the public and entice the game’s big name stars to the shores in recent years, this year’s tournament, which starts on Thursday, promises to showcase the best of Irish golf to the world once again.

It’s often forgotten that Ireland boasts some of the finest courses and as the Irish Open takes place in Royal County Down for the first time in 75 years, we decided to power rank the best this country has to offer.

10. The K Club

General view of the K Club Source: Tom Honan/INPHO

Known for its impeccable staging of the 2006 Ryder Cup, The K Club mightn’t be one of the best courses Ireland has to offer but on significance alone, it deserves a place in the top ten.

The County Kildare club has two courses, both designed by Arnold Palmer and has also hosted the Smurfit European Open for nine years between 1995 and 2003 and then again in 2005.

9. Baltray (County Louth)

Des Smyth Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Golf Magazine recently called Baltray ‘one of the best kept secrets of Irish golf’ and it’s the County Louth’s course’s peaceful nature which makes it unique. Has staged both national and international tournaments with the Irish Open last paying a visit in 2009.

8. The European Club

Eamonn Brady putts out on the 11th green Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Arguably one of the most challenging courses in the country, The European Club in Wicklow has been a recent addition to the list of great venues on our doorstep.

7. Adare Manor

Paul McGinley plays to the 15th green Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Possibly the best parkland course in the country, Adare Manor provides an entirely different challenge from that provided by links golf. A 14-acre lake on the front nine, for example, is one of the stand out features with the Adare Manor resort and castle acting as a pleasant setting.

6. Tralee

2066455557 Source: David Cannon

Perhaps not one of the more well known courses but Tralee deserves its place on this list for the stunning views on offer alone. It was recently included in the Top 10 Ocean courses in the world and with sea views available on nearly every hole, it’s little surprise it’s a popular course for tourists and locals alike.

5. Ballybunion

Padraig Harrington 29/6/2000 Source: INPHO

You’re probably sensing a theme here but Ireland does links golf like very few other countries. Tom Watson is a regular in Kerry and Bill Clinton was also a notable visitor during his term as US President back in 1998.

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4. Lahinch

The Old Course at The Lahinch Golf Club Source: Getty Images/INPHO

One of Ireland’s most renowned golfing’s jewels, Lahinch is the spiritual home of amateur golf as it hosts the South of Ireland championship each year. Alister MacKenzie, who also co-designed Augusta National, redesigned the Old Course in 1927 although it hasn’t hosted the Irish Open as of yet.

3. Royal Portrush

Miko Illonen 1/7/2012 Source: David Cannon

Royal Portrush is the only Irish course to host the British Open in 1951 and was recently voted 12th in the world. It has been remodelled since its original design by Old Tom Morris and there are suggestions the Open could yet return to Antrim in the near future.

2. Portmarnock Golf Club

The clubhouse at Portmarnock Golf Club Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

There really isn’t much between Portmarnock and Royal County Down and both are two of the finest links courses you’ll play anywhere in the world. This year, Portmarnock slipped to number two in Golf Digest’s rankings but having staged 13 Irish Opens, it’s undoubtedly the gem of Irish golf.

Much like many of the courses on this list, Portmarnock is a huge attraction for tourists but green fees, as you would expect, at the iconic North Dublin course will set you back an arm and a limb.

It recently hit the news after beginning the process to open membership to females for the first time, citing the staging of future tournaments as the reason to change their policy.

According to Golf Digest, ‘Portmarnock is a must play course for golf enthusiasts interested in the history and origins of Irish golf and remains one of the standard bearers for the game in this country.’

1. Royal County Down

A view of the Royal County Down Golf Club Source: Presseye/Matt Mackey/INPHO

It’s somewhat puzzling that Royal County Down is staging its first Irish Open in 75 years this week but over the next few days, you’ll undoubtedly see why it’s so highly regarded.

Rory McIlroy recently named the course as his favourite and that was reflected in its fourth-placed ranking in the top 100 courses in the world last year. Having opened in 1889, it’s one of the oldest clubs in Ireland and with a truly unique setting, there aren’t many courses that can rivals the views.

It seems to be a perennial battle between the Newcastle course and Portmarnock with both setting the bar higher and higher with each passing year.

Do you agree with our rankings? Let us know your favourite courses in the comments box below…

Pádraig Harrington came agonisingly close to qualifying for the US Open

About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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