Depending on who you ask, there are fewer than 250 real links courses in the entire world—and the Emerald Isle has 60 of them! Is it any wonder it’s a favorite destination for golf enthusiasts?
If this is your first golf trip to Ireland, you might want to brush up on your golf etiquette so you don’t make a blunder and out yourself as an Ireland newbie.
Of course, some rules (always rake your bunkers, keep still during another player’s swing, for example) apply wherever you go, but there are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re golfing the best courses in Ireland.
Be prepared for all kinds of weather—possibly all on the same day.
Let’s be honest, it’s probably going to rain while you’re there, and in Ireland, you play through the squall. The golfer with the best rain gear has a distinct advantage. Be sure to bring a full rain suit, including a peaked hat, two sets of rain gloves, and waterproof golf shoes. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to have a second pair, so one is always dry.
You should also pack layers for warmth, like Under Armour turtlenecks, and an ultra lightweight down vest you can tuck in your golf bag just in case. Lots of wool socks are also a good idea.
Think twice about shorts.
You might be used to shorts at your favorite clubs back home, but in Ireland (and the U.K. in general), you really don’t see them much at all. If you do insist on bringing your favorite shorts, keep in mind that they have to be long and tailored. No tennis shorts on the links!
Also, be sure to check the rule about socks with shorts because some clubs require knee socks if you plan to skip trousers and show your legs.
Denim is not a good idea.
You probably already knew that jeans are a no-go on the course, but most clubs extend the no-denim prohibition to every piece of attire. That means no denim shirts, denim jackets, or even tailored denim shorts.
And while we’re on the subject of more casual attire at the clubs in Ireland, there are a few other no-nos to add to your list: Any type of sneaker or trainer, all sandals, athletic-style jerseys, and shorts or trousers with patch pockets are generally not permitted in the clubhouse. Some clubs even make you use the back entrance if you’re wearing shorts or casual attire!
Bring lots of golf balls.
You are going to lose a lot of balls on the links. Dunes, heather, rough and gorse might as well be black holes when it comes to finding a stray ball. You already know that pro shops are money pits if you have to stock up on golf essentials.
Even if you skip the pro shop and buy them at a local sporting goods store, you’ll still pay a lot more. A box of your favorite Titleist Tour Soft balls will run you about $35 at home and €38 in Ireland—the equivalent of about $47.
Don’t expect a cart on links courses.
You probably take your cart (referred to as a buggy in Ireland) for granted when you’re golfing at home, but that’s really not how it works in Ireland. They’re not widely used, and almost impossible to come by at the few clubs that do have them. It’s one of those things no one ever tells you about golfing in Ireland.
What you can expect is a little trolley you can use to push or pull your bag around the course. Or you can take a caddy—but you need to arrange them well in advance. Don’t show up and expect to find one waiting around.
Want my advice? Take a caddie! You’ll get another set of eyes on your golf ball, they’ll show you where to hit your shot, and even tell you some great stories about the course. Most courses utilize members as their caddies and they can tell you every blind-shot, the best angles to the greens and which way the putt breaks.
Warm up before you get there.
Picture this: You’ve just jumped off the plane and you’re on your way to your first golf adventure. All you need is a few minutes on the practice range to loosen up and chase away your jet lag.
There’s just one problem: Not many of the great courses in Ireland have practice ranges—or even ones conveniently close by. Make sure you do a little stretching before your tee time and hope for the best. First tee breakfast balls are often allowed…
Keep things moving.
Long, leisurely games of golf aren’t really a thing in Ireland. The Golf Union of Ireland is on a mission to speed up the pace of play and keep it at about 4.5 hours max. It’s the number-one complaint among golfers in Ireland, so be prepared to keep things moving.
Many clubs have embraced “ready golf,” which means more or less hitting the ball when it’s safe for you to do so, rather than adhering to the standard rule of “farthest from the hole plays first.”
Know your tee area.
Don’t expect to use medal competition, the “tips” or “back” tees on the elite courses in Ireland. In most cases, you’ll need permission to play the medal tees—and you’ll need your handicap certificate and a face-to-face with the general manager or head pro to get it. In most cases you’ll play from the tees and not off the backs.
A four ball and a foursome are two different formats.
In America, often when four players get together for a round, it’s considered a foursome—two teams of two players, each hitting every other shot. And it’s the same thing in Ireland, although sometimes they call it “alternate shot” instead of “foursome.”
But the fourball, sometimes called “fourball betterball,” is just a bit different. Both players in each team play their own ball, and the best score is the only one that matters. It’s important to know the difference in formats, because some clubs only play foursomes during certain times of the day.
Know how to properly repair your pitchmark.
This is a really big deal on links courses—not just because pitchmarks are ugly to look at and affect your play. It’s also important from a turf-health point of view: Properly repaired pitchmarks recover pretty quickly.
Unrepaired pitchmarks, on the other hand, can cause disease in the green that leave scars. If you want to know how to properly repair your pitchmarks, this blog post from St. Andrews gives you the right technique.
Mobile phones aren’t welcome on the course or in the clubhouse.
Smartphones are a common sight on the golf course in the U.S., but at the elite courses in Ireland, they’re a definite no-no. Don’t expect to bring up your favorite app or use it to calculate effective distances while you’re golfing the Royal Dublin or Ballybunion, for example.
And that no-cell-phone rule extends to the clubhouse, too, in most cases, as well, unless you’re in the locker room or out in a corridor. If you’re addicted to your phone, just think of it as a nice way to go unplugged for a day.
Ready to hit the links?
If an Ireland golf experience is on your bucket-list this year, we’d love to help you plan a personalized trip that ticks all your travel boxes. Why not get in touch today and see how we can bring your vacation to life? And if you’re not quite there yet, sign up for our free email course to learn all the details about planning your next golf trip across the pond.