Seaside Golf links on the West and North coast of Ireland very often have high dunes set in wild terrain.

This is less common on the East Coast where the dunes are often shallow such as at Portmarnock.

The course here is a prime example of routing and design that has created a World-ranked Championship course.

Portmarnock is a classic natural course that is tough but fair. This has led to the club hosting more important tournaments than any other club in Ireland. It is also well appreciated by many of the leading Golf Professionals who have played the course.

Portmarnock was the venue for the first Irish Open Championship in 1927 and a further 18 times.

Numerous other important tournaments have been held at the club, including:

  • The British Amateur Championship
  • The Walker Cup
  • The World Cup
  • The Irish Open Amateur Championship
  • Irish Professional Open
  • Women’s Home Internationals and many others.


Portmarnock Championship Course

(7466 yards, Par 72)

In 1893 two Scottish golfers from Sutton rowed over to Portmarnock peninsula to check out the viability of a site for a golf course.

William Pickeman and  George Ross thought the site was perfect and along with the well-known distillery owner John Jameson, they formed the club in 1984.

The Jamesons owned the lands having come from Scotland and founded a distillery in Dublin in 1780. Their private course was at the Northern end.

John Jameson readily agreed to lease land at the Southern part of the peninsula for golfing purposes for twenty-five years at a moderate rent.

The peninsula was prime golfing terrain and since 1858 had been used for golf by the Jamieson family who lived in St Marnock’s, a large property on the north side of the peninsula about 10 miles north of Dublin City.

Mungo Park Scottish professional and 1874 Open Champion designed the course with support from Pickeman and Ross and stayed on for one year as the club’s first profession.

They employed a fourth Scot George Coburn, as a greenkeeper. The formal opening of the nine-hole course was in December 1894 and changed the setting on the peninsula for the future.

The land is on a scenic promontory about two miles long sitting majestically on a narrow area of shallow Duneland with long valleys and small green hollows.

The course was extended to eighteen holes in 1896 by George Coburn. A further nine holes were added in 1971.

The four Scots who laid out the course did a great job and the course remains close to the original layout. It has simply been fine-tuned, by a few leading golf architects:

  • Harry Colt, who was working at nearby Royal Dublin in 1920.
  • Eddie Hackett, who knew the course well having been Head Professional there in 1939
  • Fred and Martin Hawtree who have been carrying out more recent improvements

It has had to be lengthened considerably to keep up with golf development technically and professionally.

The only major change in the routing was the insertion in 1927 of a new, now famous par three, the 15th hole.

In 2003 the first hole was remodelled resulting in a stunning opening hole with a new green that requires a very precise approach shot.

The course is surrounded by water on three sides. It is laid out with two loops providing fantastic routing similar to Muirfield. It keeps you guessing as each hole has a different angle to the wind compared to the previous hole.

There is no protection from the wind off the Irish sea and Dublin Bay that are generally a constant factor to consider. With the course being relatively flat it provides a challenge by being heavily bunkered.

The test for golfers starts gently and gradually grows to a dramatic and brutal finishing stretch. There are no tricks or surprises just natural links with very little man-made.

The fairways are visible with large greens that are very challenging. Several greens are elevated but the runs offs are fair.

The putting surfaces are immaculate, fast and true. Overall it is links golf at its purist and is considered to be one of the fairest courses in the world.

It is a considerable test from the back tees. The Championship course is consistently ranked amongst the top golf courses in the world.


Portmarnock Golf Club Selected Holes

Hole 14

411 yards, Par 4, Index 2

A dogleg left with a rolling fairway with its green tucked into small mounds.

It slopes back to front with undulations.

An excellent green, guarded by bunkers to the front and right.

Hole 15

204 yards, Par 3

A challenging hole with a great view that plays along the seashore.

Anything left can end up on the beach.

The green is defended by three fearsome bunkers.

Hole 16

577 yards, Par 5

Has a wonderful cross bunkering ridge as part of ten bunkers in total.

The green is quite small considering the length of the hole.

There are three pot bunkers to the right of the green and one protecting the left.

Hole 17

472 yards, Par 4, Index 4

A long par four that is protected by the clever placement of eleven bunkers.

Hole 18

452 yards, Par 4

It provides a great finish. For the tee shot, three bunkers guard the right side of the fairway.

The splendid green complex is located in a bank of smaller sand dunes with the clubhouse as a backdrop.

Three bunkers guard the front of the green.


Irish Open Championship

Portmarnock was the venue for the first Irish Open Championship in 1927, and has hosted the tournament 19 times out of a total of 66 events to date.

The 19 winners were:

  • George Duncan of Scotland in 1927 started the final round 14 shots behind, scored 74 and won score 312
  • Abe Mitchell of England in 1929 won with a score of 309. He played in the Ryder Cup 1929, 1931, and 1933
  • Syd Easterbrook of England in 1934 won with a total of 284, 25 better than the winning score in 1929
  • Bobby Locke from South Africa in 1938 was the first non-British winner of the Irish Open at Portmarnock
  • Fred Daly from Northern Ireland in 1946 was the first Irishman to win the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in 1947 and played in the Ryder Cup
  • Dai Rees of Wales in 1948 won with his total of 295 being two better than Norman Von Nida.
  • 1954–74: No tournament
  • Ben Crenshaw from the USA in 1976, twice winner of the Masters Tournament.
  • Herbert Green from the USA in 1977, won two major championships. Inducted into World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007.
  • Ken Brown from Scotland in 1978 one-putted 8 of the last 9 greens to win by one stroke from Seve Ballesteros and John O’Leary
  • Mark James from England in 1979, captained Europe in the 1999 Ryder Cup
  • Mark James from England in 1980, performed well on the Senior tour
  • Sam Torrance from Scotland in 1981, played 8 times in Ryder Cup, Torrance was honoured with the MBE (1996) and OBE (2003), for his outstanding contributions to golf.
  • John O’Leary from Ireland in 1982, 3rd Irishman to win Irish Open, played in Ryder Cup and World Cup
  • Seve Ballesteros from Spain in 1986, won 5 major Championships, an exciting player in the Ryder Cup
  • Bernhard Langer from Germany in 1987 shot 67-68-66-68 for a record-shattering total of 279 beating the previous best by seven shots.
  • Ian Woosnam from Wales in 1988 – In the second round on the 15th, he put his drive in the sea. Playing 3 off the tee he made the green and holed a 40-foot putt then went on to win.
  • Ian Woosnam from Wales in 1989. Won Masters and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2017.
  • Jose Maria Olazabal from Spain in 1990, twice winner of the Masters
  • Michael Campbell from New Zealand in 2003, winner US Open and World Matchplay Championship


Portmarnock Golf: Local Attractions

Trinity College 

Ireland’s oldest university founded in 1592. Its library receives more than half a million visitors per year, making it the most important one in Ireland.

It contains about 7 million printed volumes and significant quantities of manuscripts, including the Book of Kells, which arrived at the college in 1661 for safekeeping after the Cromwellian raids on religious institutions. 

The collection housed in the Long Room includes a rare copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic and a 15th-century wooden harp, which is the model for the current emblem of Ireland.

The Book of Kells dates to about 800 AD and is a magnificent illuminated manuscript of 680 pages containing Latin texts of the Four Gospels. Irish monks wrote it and later buried it fearing Viking raiders. Upon rediscovery it has been in Trinity College Dublin since 1653.

The date and place of origin of the Book of Kells have attracted a great deal of scholarly controversy. In 806, following a Viking raid on the island of Iona in Scotland which left 68 of the community dead, the Columban monks took refuge in a new monastery at Kells, County Meath.

It must have been close to the year 800 that the Book of Kells was written. The manuscript’s celebrity derives largely from the impact of its lavish decoration, the extent and artistry of which is incomparable.

Abstract decoration and images of plant, animal and human ornament punctuate the text of glorifying Jesus’ life and message.

There are full pages of decoration for the canon tables:

  • Symbols of the evangelists Matthew (the Man), Mark (the Lion), Luke (the Calf) and John (the Eagle)
  • The opening words of the Gospels
  • The Virgin and Child
  • A portrait of Christ
  • Complex narrative scenes, the earliest to survive in gospel manuscripts, representing the arrest of Christ and his temptation by the Devil.
  • The Chi Rho page (folio 34r), introducing Matthew’s account of the nativity, is the single most famous page in medieval art.

The Guinness Storehouse

Located in the heart of St James’s Gate in Dublin City, the Guinness Storehouse building was once the fermentation plant of the brewery.

It has been the home of Guinness since 1759. The former 7-storey fermentation plant has been remodelled into the shape of a giant pint of Guinness.

A tour will explain everything about this world-famous beer. Today it offers a Guinness experience. You can explore the ingredients, history and culture that tell the Guinness story.

At the end of the tour take in the views of Dublin from the Gravity Bar while enjoying your perfectly poured, perfectly chilled pint of Guinness, included in your ticket.

National Museum of Ireland 

There are 3 locations in Dublin:

  • Archaeology at Kildare Street
  • Natural History at Merrion Square
  • Decorative Art and History at Collins Barracks.

Here you can view Celtic and Medieval art, such as the famous Ardagh Chalice, the Tara Brooch and the Derrynaflan Hoard.

The museum has the finest collection of prehistoric gold artefacts in Europe and much more including prehistoric Ireland and the time of the Vikings in Ireland.

Other attractions in Dublin:

  • St Patrick’s Cathedral
  • The Little Museum of Dublin
  • Merrion Square
  • Christ Church Cathedral
  • Kilmainham Gaol
  • Houses of Parliament
  • Dublin Castle
  • Mansion House

If you would like to book a custom golfing holiday in Ireland, contact us to discuss your needs.

See all our Ireland golf tours:

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