Hogan’s Alley: Get your Ireland on!

In this edition, Pioneer Golf CEO Bill Hogan outlines some timely information about booking your Ireland golf vacation.

Experienced golf travelers know that there are always reservation deadlines required to secure the top golf courses for their trip. In 2022 and 2023, this is more important than ever due to the pent-up demand for international travel once this pandemic subsides.

Ireland is no exception. The top golf courses in Ireland will start taking reservations in early April for the 2022 season. Therefore, it is imperative to start making plans now if you want to play the most famous links courses next summer.


The two top-ranked courses in Northern Ireland are always the most in demand, and often will sell out over a year in advance. Therefore, if you want to add these to your itinerary, now is the time to contact Pioneer Golf so that we can provide you with a proposal and you can maximize your chances to play these “Royals”.

Many consider Royal County Down GC to be the best links course in the world. Currently ranked #6 in the GOLF Magazine Top 100 Courses in the World, the limited amount of visitor tee times at this exclusive club are always in high demand. By all means, plan ahead and build your trip around this course. The conditioning is always tremendous, and the high dunes along Dundrum Bay are always a steep challenge even to the best players. Old Tom Morris created this masterpiece back in 1889 when “County Down” came into existence.  The two nine-hole loops return to the clubhouse, with the “home” holes offering spectacular views of the Mountains of Mourne, the clubhouse, and the legendary Slieve Donard Hotel.

Royal County Down GC

The Royal Portrush GC Dunluce course is ranked #13 in the GOLF Magazine World Top 100 and recently hosted the 2019 Open Championship won by Ireland’s Shane Lowry.  For me, Portrush is as good as it gets, and the rolling fairways and beautiful views are world class. It is not an easy course, especially when the wind is up, but walking these historic fairways with the Dunluce Castle ruins along the cliffs creates memories for a lifetime.
For years, people have asked me if I prefer Royal County Down over Royal Portrush, or vice-versa. Well, being a tad contrarian, for some reason I’ve always preferred Portrush over the higher-ranked County Down.  It’s not because of some “shot value” nonsense or any kind of analytical formulas, but rather it’s just that Portrush fits my eye better, and I have more fond memories of my experiences there. But either way, you can’t go wrong!
I’ve often told clients to save their shopping budget for their day at Portrush, because in my opinion, they have one of the best logos (and pro shops) in the world of golf.

I recall a day some 15 years ago when I was walking through the elegant clubhouse accompanied by the famed Royal Portrush Club Secretary, Wilma Erskine, who pointed out to me the scorecard of the new Dunluce course record of 61.  For the life of me, I could not possibly understand how somebody could go around that golf course in 11 under par.  Then, to my amazement, Wilma looked me in the eye and deadpanned: “You know Bill, he’s only 16 years old!” That was the first time I ever heard of Rory McIlroy.

When the Royal & Ancient GC selected Royal Portrush to host the 2019 Open, they decided to make some course adjustments and create some new holes. I asked myself: how in the world can they change such a masterpiece?  But when it was all said and done, the new holes greatly improved the layout, and the changes were universally acclaimed. In particular, the new 7th hole is a par 5, playing almost 600 yards long. It fits into the valley landscape beautifully and is a masterful upgrade.


Many other famous Irish courses are opening their 2022 reservation “diaries” in April, and those early birds will get the worm!  Portmarnock, Royal Dublin, County Louth and others will take early bookings and travelers are again reminded to contact Pioneer Golf now to start making their plans and placing reservations.

In the other parts of Ireland, the top requested courses, such as BallybunionLahinchOld Head and Ballyliffin will also see demand spike in 2022. And Adare Manor, although not a links course, is perhaps the most luxurious golf resort in Europe (think Augusta, but open to the public) and will host The Ryder Cup in 2027. Personally, I could spend a week at Adare Manor and not even leave the grounds.  It’s really magical and the limited capacity means it fills up long in advance.

Adare Manor
But perhaps no course in Ireland is going to make a bigger splash than the new Tom Doak design at Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort, featuring the best name in the game: St. Patrick’s Links.
St. Patrick’s Links
Scheduled for a soft opening in 2021, St. Patrick’s Links required years of planning and the early reports are all incredibly positive. Being that Doak has created such amazing designs in recent years, including Tara Iti and Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand, Pacific Dunes in Oregon, Barnbougle Dunes in Tasmania, Streamsong Blue in Florida, among others, and given that this natural canvas can rival anything on earth, I anticipate this to be another highly ranked Tom Doak “must play.”
After all, what could be more Irish this week than planning your trip and including St. Patrick’s Links?
–  For golf travel ideas, visit Pioneer Golf