Mount Juliet 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 is also 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. New practice facilities have enhanced its reputation. European Club The European comes with all sorts of accolades – the best modern links course in the world chief among them – and a rich history that whirls around the legend who is Pat Ruddy. The European Club, put simply, is the course that Pat built. Set on the Co. Wicklow coastline, next to Brittas Bay, this is a big, lilting and muscular test of golf. Pat does not design ‘easy’ courses; he makes you work for your par and The European is especially challenging off the tee. Several of the green sites are more forgiving, but only from the fairway… hit offline and the renowned railway-sleepered bunkers will cause you endless headaches. 20 Carton House (Montgomerie) The two courses at Carton House are in sharp contrast to each other. It adds considerably to the experience of playing here (and staying here). The Montgomerie, opened in 2002, was designed as an inland links and it certainly boasts many of the features of a links: tumbling and deceptive fairways, deep bunkers and glorious greens. There are few trees on this landscape and when the rough is up, the course glows many shades of gold. This is one of Ireland’s toughest courses, so choosing the right tee and not trying to be heroic is the best place to start. Gentle doglegs abound and with that dramatic bunkering you need to stay above ground to score well. The 2005, 2006 and 2013 Irish Opens were held on the Monty, so you know Carton House has every ounce of quality you could ask for. 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 two magnificent hotels 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.