The Island

The Island

The Island Golf Club

The Island Golf Club | NCG Top 100s: GB&I Golf Courses

The Island is rarely mentioned in the same breath as the great Irish links. We can only put that down to its homely, unpretentious air. By our estimation the only course south of the border that it falls short of is its Amateur Championship co-host, Portmarnock. Anywhere else is open to debate.
Far too much is made of clubhouse grandeur and history when ranking golf courses. That is not to say these things aren't important, only that neither is a factor when it comes to appreciation of the course itself. 

We were lucky enough to return to The Island, just to north of Dublin, the week before it co-hosted the Amateur Championship with nearby Portmarnock. It had been a while since our previous visit and we were unlucky that on this particular June day, it literally never stopped raining. However, at no point did the course become unplayable and we don't recall seeing a single puddle apart from on various paths.
The course is fairly unique in that it is surrounded by sea on three sides. This is your classic rugged links which runs between the highest sand dunes along the east coast. It is only 15 minutes from Dublin Airport and 30 minutes from Dublin city centre, so is the perfect location for a golfing getaway, and it is located in the remote and tranquil estuary of Donabate and Malahide.
Yet it still remains relatively under the radar. The Island cannot point to a steady trickle of notable tour players dropping in for a high-profile game. Before the Open Championship at Royal Portrush, the likes of Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Jimmy Walker were all honing their games at courses on both sides of the border, such as Royal County Down, Portstewart and Portmarnock - but none that we know of called in at The Island. The Island barely hints anything other than uncommon class.
Perceptions, then, are hard to change but the course is good enough to do just that. This is an old-fashioned, minimalist, unforced layout, the holes draped across the dunescape, lightly bunkered and endlessly varied. It has some remarkable holes and many fundamentally sound ones.

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A Brief History of The Island Golf Club

The Island is listed as being founded in 1890. Previously there were just seven golf clubs in existence; four in Leinster and three in Ulster, then The Island and four others came along and, of those 12, only seven now exist.
The 10 founder members, known as the Syndicate, only allowed others to join as annual ticket holders, that term then changed to ‘associate member’. Most of the founder members were already members of The Dublin (Royal Dublin) and, while looking for a more suitable site than Phoenix Park, they rowed across the channel which separates the village of Malahide from the spur of land to the north known locally as the Island. 
It's unsure who designed the original 18 holes but the course ran imaginatively between the numerous sand dunes and it has been altered several times since and the move to a new clubhouse saw a complete re-orientation of the course. This was the work of Fred Hawtree and Ireland's own Eddie Hackett, a prolific creator of Irish courses in the second half of the 20th century, also left his mark here. Most recently, Fred's son, Martin has made some modifications and the latest changes were made by Mackenzie & Ebert in 2019.
And yet it is still a links that, relatively speaking, rarely comes up in conversation despite having hosted the Irish Ladies’ Close, the Irish Close, the Irish PGA, the European Youths, the Irish Amateur Open, The Open Amateur Championship (shared with Portmarnock) as well as hosting Open qualifying for several years.
The location probably doesn't help - the closest place of note is the affluent suburb of Malahide and it was from here that golfers were originally transported by boat to what is now the far end of the course, the 14th tee to be precise.
With improving roads came that new clubhouse and layout but it's still a good 20 minutes, and often longer, even from Malahide, let alone the centre of Dublin. The same if possibly also true of the name - we wonder if the The Island on the island of Ireland just somehow fails to register with some unknowing golfers. It certainly isn't easy to Google. Then there is the clubhouse, which may not be in the same league as a Portmarnock or Royal Portrush, but is entirely adequate for most golfers' purposes.

The Island Golf Club Review | NCG Top 100s: GB&I Golf Courses

The Front Nine

It only rarely misses a beat, with the section towards the end of the front nine, furthest away from the sea, perhaps nominally the least impressive. 

You might look at the card and think that an opening half with eight successive par 4s then a par 3 was lacking in variety but that simply doesn't reflect the reality, starting with a quite stunning opening hole to an initially wide fairway lined by dunes.
There are shades of the opener at Doonbeg (or Trump Ireland Golf Links as it is now known) here. The 3rd is magnificent, the green rising gently from the fairway at a slight angle. 

The 4th turns left to a stylish raised green, with the backdrop of the clubhouse, while the 5th, from its blind tee, plays a similar trick to the 6th at County Down. Namely, it terrifies from the tee yet is actually a lay-up to a generous fairway and from there even a short iron.
Then comes an even cuter par-4, often within reach, but a dogleg that jags viciously left some 60 or 70 yards short of the green. It takes a very good tee shot to give you the view you would like for your approach.

The Back Nine

On the back nine, an early highlight is the bunker-less 11th, which could be on the front of a manifesto for minimalist design as it peels gently right and the fairway eventually melts into the green.
The 13th, The Island's answer to the famous short 16th 'Calamity' at Portrush, leads into what may be the most distinctive hole on the property - a short, straight par 4 played down little more than a half-pipe with a spine of dunes on either side. We can think of no equivalent hole elsewhere.
The 17th is simply a championship par 4, the kind of hole that separates the wheat from the chaff, while the 18th tee is raised and stationed in the dunes. The Island barely hints anything other than uncommon class. 

Where is The Island Golf Club located?

The Island is situated on the Donabate Peninsula, located just outside Malahide in eastern Ireland. Due to its unique coastal setting, The Island is surrounded by the sea on three sides, providing incredible views. 

The golf course is just 20 miles from Dublin, and just a 15 minutes drive from Dublin Airport, which has international flights departing and arriving daily. 

How much is a green fee at The Island?

Throughout the summer months of 2024, a green fee for The Island will cost €270 if you're playing from Monday to Thursday. To play on Friday or at the weekend, it will cost €295.

What practice facilities are at The Island?

The club offers state-of-the-art practice facilities – putting green, chipping green with practice bunkers and a short and long-game practice area. Warm-up baskets of balls are complimentary to members and visitors.

Can you hire a caddy at The Island?

Yes, again it is essential to book ahead to request a caddie. A senior caddie single bag will cost €60, a double bag €100 and a forecaddy is €30 per person.

Clubs, buggies and trolleys are also available to hire, but it is best to pre-book them to make sure they are available for your trip.

What other golf clubs are near The Island?

A few that might be of interest in the local are include Donabate, Malahide, Balbriggan, Beaverstown, Hollywood Lakes and Portmarnock – the latter is 10km north of The Island.

Visit The Island's website here.
Go back to the NCG Top 100s Homepage.