The Royal County Down Golf Club (RCD) is judged by the highest standards of links golf courses and passes the test. It’s located in Northern Ireland close to the border of the Republic with the beautiful Mountains of Mourne in the distance and great views of the Irish Sea.

I played there with two Americans from Arizona and we all thoroughly enjoyed the challenge that the 18 holes presented. I would recommend RCD to every lover of links golf.

This is one of the golf courses in Ireland you won’t want to miss, and at just an hour’s drive from Belfast, it’s easily reachable.

Here it goes, the complete guide to golfing The Royal County Down Golf Club.

The course and fairways run fast in all but the wettest weather so RCD demands and rewards accuracy. Don’t miss this top golf course in Northern Ireland.

The Royal County Down Golf Club Status

Rarely does RCD appear outside anyone’s top 10 golf courses, and certainly never when you look specifically at links golf. Links courses, sand-based and well-draining, require imagination with golfers using the contours to score well.

Links golf provides the opportunity for using a range of shots not needed on modern-designed courses with their lush fairways and artificial hazards. It’s you against primarily natural terrain.

The Championship Course gets all the attention but there is a second 18, the Annesley Course, which visitors are also welcome to play.

About The Royal County Down Golf Club

The Club was first formed in 1889, designed by George L. Baillie and Old Tom Morris, the former Open winner. Subsequently, there have been adjustments, the last by golf architect Donald Steel, to leave the impressive Par 71 playing 7183 yards off the back tees.

The course made use of the natural terrain which involves fairways separated by coastal grasses, heather and gorse which make excellent natural hazards. Strategic bunkers also find wayward shots with the greens a real challenge once you arrive there.

RCD has been used regularly for all the major amateur competitions and the Irish Open, most recently in 2015, the British Seniors Open and both the Curtis and Walker Cups.

The Greens and Fairways

The Championship course is a monster off the back tees but there are four other alternatives, the shortest of which knock almost 1000 yards off the 7183 yards.

Golfers should select the option most suitable to their ability, especially because there are some carries off the long tees that may be difficult to reach.

The fairways are narrow with the greens having subtle slopes and run-off areas for misplaced shots.


Championship yardage

Hole 1 (Stroke Index 13) 539 yards Par 5 is a gentle start that rewards accuracy off the tee, something demanded regularly as the round progresses.

Hole 2 (SI 9) 444 yards Par 4 is the first of several 400 plus yard Par 4s on the championship layout.

Hole 3 (SI 3) 475 yards Par 4 is a second and more difficult with handicap golfers likely to be short and in need of an accurate chip and run, and a single putt, to get a par.

Hole 4 (SI 15) 229 yards Par 3 is the longest of the 4 Par 3s with its high stroke index (SI) meaning accuracy is the main prerequisite.

Hole 5 (SI 7) 440 yards Par 4 has a large green without much bunkering but plenty of sand before you get there.

Hole 6 (SI 11) 396 yards Par 4 plays from a raised tee and has a large bunker front right of the green and two others either side of the green itself.

Hole 7 (SI 17) 144 yards Par 3 has a front bunker catching many balls, a further one on the left and two smaller ones for long shots.

Hole 8 (SI 1) 429 yards Par 4 has a well-bunkered fairway but the problems around the green are the run-offs and bushes on the right.

Hole 9 (SI 5) 483 yards Par 4 demands an accurate drive to the fairway 60 feet below with only the longest hitters able to get to the lower level in one shot.

Hole 10 (SI 18) 196 yards Par 3 has 4 bunkers in front and either side of the green in the front half with bushes guarding the back.

Hole 11 (SI 8) 442 yards Par 4 has a blind drive and plenty of sand for those landing short of the green.

Hole 12 (SI 16) 525 yards Par 5 requires carry off the tee before becoming a straight hole which has a small unguarded green but plenty of sand short of it.

Hole 13 (SI 2) 446 yards Par 4 is guarded by bushes off the tee with the winding fairway requiring a shot over rough for those seeking a par.

Hole 14 (SI 12) 212 yards Par 3 has plenty of sand at the front and bushes that will take a long shot.

Hole 15 (SI 4) 468 yards Par 4 has the fairway narrowing short of the green with bunkers behind so 15 requires good course management.

Hole 16 (SI 14) 337 yards Par 4 is a short hole but its defence includes a narrow fairway, plenty of sand short of the green and a run-off into bushes when you are long.

Hole 17 (SI 10) 443 yards Par 4 requires an accurate drive to a narrow fairway and good club selection to avoid all the sand further up the hole.

Hole 18 (SI 6) 548 yards Par 5 is long and narrow with plenty of fairway bunkers yet none around the green where other dangers arise such as run-offs, dunes and rough.

7183 yards Par 71

Code Of Conduct at The Royal County Down Golf Club

This Royal County Down Golf Club review needs to mention some rules that visitors must observe. Appropriate dress is required by everyone.

That briefly means no denim, no collarless shirts, and only tailored shorted. Shirts should be tucked in while trainers and track/leisure suits are not permitted.

The Facilities

RCD has a comfortable bar overlooking the 18th and excellent dining facilities, both snacks and more substantial meals. While there is no accommodation on-site, the town has plenty including comfortable, good value B&Bs.

The Royal County Down Golf Club professional’s shop is fully stocked and includes items with the Club logo.

The changing rooms have individual lockers for visitors.

Green Fees and Rentals

The Royal County Down Golf Club tee-times are available for visitors on the following days: Mon., Tues & Thurs mornings and Sunday afternoon.

The rates are subject to an annual update.

Peak Season Fees per round midweek £270; 36 holes in the day £370; Sunday pm £280

Winter Rates: November – February £90; March £110; April £160.

Concessions are available to members of the ILGU which administers Irish golf.

Equipment for hire – GPS trolleys £20: Pull Carts £5

Caddies should be booked in advance and their knowledge of the course where there are some blinds shots is invaluable. They are self-employed and to be paid separately. The costs are as follows:

Senior Caddies £60 per round
Standard Caddies £40 per round
Fore Caddies (minimum requirement per group) £80 per round

Choice of Tees
Blue 7186 yds can involve carries of 250 yards
White 6878 yds can involve carries of 200 yards
Yellow 6641 yards can involve carries of 175 yards
Green 6249 yards is suitable for handicap seniors
Red 6249 yards Ladies

To book a tee-time at the Royal County Down, send an email here, or call: +44 (0) 28 4372 3314. Find the golf club on the map, here

Enjoy a Round at The Royal County Down Golf Club

Golfing at the Royal County Down Golf Club is not cheap but it is rewarding. It is important to understand the best tees for your ability because your review of The Royal County Down Golf Club is likely to be coloured by how well you have played. Try the Annesley Course as well if you are in Newcastle for a few days.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.