Co. Louth Co. Louth Co. Louth (aka Baltray) is one of Ireland’s great links, 45 minutes north of Dublin. It has graced this coastline since 1892, but it will forever be known for more recent events: Shane Lowry winning the Irish Open in 2009. It does, however, have a long and distinguished history, with its impeccable design embracing old school strategy and finesse. This is especially true with the slopes around the greens, and on the four excellent par threes. The putting surfaces are sublime and are forever mentioned when Co Louth is appraised. Today, raised tee boxes help to show off the beauty of the course’s holes which typically fall into two types: the subtle and the shapely. The biggest dunes are pressed up against the sea and this is where the most dramatic holes exist, with the renowned run from the 12th to the 16th promising some outstanding thrills. Killeen Castle No other course can boast such a glorious landscape as Killeen Castle. Six hundred lazy acres, drenched in trees, wrapped around a 12th century castle… how could it not be the idyllic setting for a Jack Nicklaus ‘Signature’ course. This is the longest course in Ireland (7,677 yards), and home to the Solheim Cup in 2011, but golfers of all abilities will enjoy this expansive course. There are five tees (choose wisely) and fairways always appear wide and inviting, which makes this a delicious driving course. Every hole is strong, but the par five 12th, with its stream cascading across the front of the green, may be Killeen Castle’s signature hole. 20 Carlow They don’t come much older or more distinguished than Carlow Golf Club. The club dates back to 1899, although the current site wasn’t employed until 1922. Tom Simpson revised the layout in the early 1 940s and the course has remained unchanged since then. Given the current trend of modernising older parklands, Carlow is a perfect example of why clubs should embrace their roots. A big rolling landscape provides some elegant and natural settings for small, devilish greens. The terrain is well wooded but despite chaperoning holes so beautifully the trees rarely cause problems. The acclaimed 8th is a perfect exception as the hole descends sharply through a dark corridor of beech and oak. It may not have the dramatic shapes of big modern parklands but Carlow fiercely embodies the art of subtlety and old-school quality. Mount Juliet The sylvan setting of the Mount Juliet estate is home to one of Ireland’s most popular parklands. The course was designed by Jack Nicklaus, and opened in 1991. Mount Juliet also boasts a magnificent hotel and the Michelin-starred Lady Helen Restaurant. This is top-tier stuff and the course is just as elegant, sweeping over the landscape, through the trees and throwing in the occasional but dramatic splash of water – the 3rd, 4th 13th and 18th most notably. It is a generous course where golfers of all abilities will find plenty to excite them, be it the short par three 3rd over water, the tree enshrined setting around the 13th green or the par five 17th, curving between sentinel-like oaks. But perhaps most exciting of all is the entire package, because the Mount Juliet experience is something truly special.