History of the Royal County Down Golf Club – 125th Anniversary Edition


“The kind of golf that people play in their most ecstatic dreams.” These words, penned by the legendary golf writer Bernard Darwin, perfectly encapsulate the essence of Royal County Down. Nestled along the sands of Dundrum Bay in the small town of Newcastle, Northern Ireland, this course is a symphony of nature and design. The club’s journey began in 1889 and soon afterwards Old Tom Morris laid out the first eighteen-hole course with the probable layout on the inside cover of this book. The virgin land proved ideal for golf, and within a month, players were teeing off. But it was George Coombe, the autocratic “Convenor of the Greens,” who transformed the layout. Inspired by the stunning setting, Coombe reshaped the holes, creating two north-south loops that still grace the course today.

In 1926, Harry Colt joined the design team, addressing perceived weaknesses. He introduced the now-famous gorse, adjusted green sites, and crafted the awe-inspiring 9th hole—a par four that challenges both mind and muscle. What sets Royal County Down apart is the thrilling marriage of design and dune structures – arguably the most attractive in golf. As you stand on the tee, purple heather, golden gorse, and fearsome bunkers frame your view. Drives often play blind over the rugged hills, guided only by small white rocks atop the dunes. The fairways twist and turn, revealing majestic holes that demand precision.

In summary, Royal County Down is more than a golf course; it’s a pilgrimage. As you walk its hallowed fairways, you’ll understand why Bernard Darwin’s words still echo across the dunes: “Ecstatic dreams indeed.”

This 125 year jubilee provides an updated and contemporary insight into the history of one of the earliest clubs in Ireland which laid down a vision for golf in Ireland for decades to come not only the world famous golf course but from the men and women who ploughed a furrow for the club and the future administration of golf in Ireland. The Club has hosted many major amateur and professional championships and is very much the gold standard by which other courses are judged.


This book borrows some of its information from the previous histories of Royal County Down Golf Club by James Henderson (1958), Arthur Jones (1975) and the Centenary book by McCaw and Henderson (1988).

“At Newcastle no other course of my acquaintance has any hill so magnificent as Slieve Donard towering above it. To see from one’s window its crest just emerging from a great sea of early mist is to taste one of the intenser joys of shaving on the morning of a workless day. Many people know Newcastle and it is perhaps superfluous to say that it is a course of big and glorious carries, nestling greens, entertainingly blind shots, local knowledge, and beautiful turf…the kind of golf that people play in their most ecstatic dreams.”

Bernard Darwin (1930)

Additional information


Hewitt, Alan



Irish Interest



Year of Publication