The Emerald Isle has no shortage of natural, and beautiful, terrain to enjoy a round of golf. Minty Clinch visits some of the rewarding courses within easy reach of Dublin.

Carton House Golf Club

Where is it? 22.5km west of Dublin.

What’s it like? The historic mansion of Carton House was once the ancestral home of the Dukes of Leinster. Its first course, The O’Meara, opened in 2002, followed a year later by The Montgomerie; one is parkland, the other inland links. With 1,100 acres to play with, both have the luxury of space and they complement each other very well. Low handicappers will prefer the linksy Montgomerie, where risk-taking can reap rewards, though only by steering clear of 129 pot bunkers and expansive tracts of wispy rough. The O’Meara takes in the Rye River on its final holes, but is otherwise straightforward.

Address: Maynooth, County Kildare.

Contact: tel 353 1 505 2000,

Price: E110 Mon-Thurs (E170 all day), E125 Fri-Sun (E200 all day), E75 Mon-Fri before 0930, E65 all week, after 1730.

Can I rent clubs? Yes (E40)

Club hours: 0730-1900

Minimum handicap: 36 recommended (certificate not required).

Facilities: The Montgomerie, par 72, 6676m and The O’Meara, par 72, 6406m, driving range, practice area and clinics. A 140-bedroom hotel will open in late 2005.

After golf: large restaurant (meals 0900-2200) and bar, with terrace.

The Portmarnock Links

Where is it? 13km north of Dublin.

What’s it like? Portmarnock Golf Club (see below) is a hard act to follow, but Bernhard Langer’s course loses little in comparisons with its illustrious neighbour. The secret is the natural terrain, which provides technical challenge without the need for excessive artifice. After a relatively straightforward start, Langer’s course builds steadily as it incorporates dunes and long sea grass into the back nine. When further defences are required, they come in the form of cunningly placed bunkers.

Address: Portmarnock, County Dublin.

Contact: tel 353 1 846 1800,

Price: E120 non-residents, E85 residents, all day E160.

Can I rent clubs? Yes (E20-50).

Club hours: 0700-2000

Minimum handicap: 24 (men), 36 (ladies) recommended (certificate not required).

Facilities: An 18-hole course, par 71, 6216m, driving nets and practice area. The Portmarnock Links Hotel provides comfortable, four-star accommodation right by the course.

After golf: Clubhouse with bar and restaurant (meals 0730-2130).

Portmarnock Golf Club

Where is it? 13km north of Dublin.

What’s it like? Dublin’s greatest links celebrates its 110th birthday this year with a new clubhouse and course modifications that some of its all-male members consider sacrilegious. But it’s one of Ireland’s “must play” courses, characterised by contoured greens guarded by formidable rough and intelligently placed bunkers. A brisk breeze blows in off the sea on the calmest day, and play becomes close to impossible in the teeth of an autumn gale. But some challenges just have to be met, no matter how humiliating the results.

Address: Portmarnock, Co Dublin.

Contact: tel 353 1 846 2968,

Price: E165 weekdays, E190 weekends and bank holidays (members only Wed and Sat and 1100-1430 on other days).

Can I rent clubs? Yes (E50-100)

Club hours: 0730-sunset.

Minimum handicap: 24 (men), 36 (ladies).

Facilities: An 18-hole course, par 72, 6500m, 9-hole course, par 37, 3165m, driving range and practice area.

After golf: New clubhouse offers a restaurant (0900-2100) and bar.

The K Club

Where is it? 32km west of Dublin.

What’s it like? Owned by Smurfit’s, the K Club is Ireland’s most commercial golf enterprise, home to the European Open and also the venue for the 2006 Ryder Cup. With the River Liffey running through the estate, architect Arnold Palmer had no shortage of water to play with. Few balls survive the closing holes on the Palmer without disappearing into a lake, while the Smurfit’s undulating fairways and treacherous rough are further complicated by expansive water hazards.

Address: Straffan, County Kildare.

Contact: tel 353 1 601 7200, [email protected],

Price: E115-265 for non-residents, depending on season.

Can I rent clubs? Yes (E50)

Club hours: 0700-sunset

Minimum handicap: 28 (men), 36 (ladies), certificate required.

Facilities: Two 18-hole courses: Palmer, par 72, 6564m, and Smurfit, par 72, 6675m, driving range and practice area. Straffan House has been converted into the prestigious Kildare Hotel and Country Club.

After golf: A choice of bars and restaurants in two clubhouses: snacks (0700-2130) in the original one; meals in the sumptuous new Smurfit clubhouse, in the Monza Restaurant. The Oriental Restaurant opens in early 2005.