Hermitage Golf Club. Set in a part of the Liffey Valley idyllically titled the Strawberry Beds, this rolling parkland course has been a feature of West Dublin golf since 1905. The gentle terrain of the front 9 stands in start contrast to the stern, water-featured test that awaits you on the way home. The signature hole is the picturesque 10th, which looks down on the river as it winds through a spectacular treescape. The course has seen some big personalities walk its fairways over the years, including Bing Crosby, Seve Ballesteros, and Colin Montgomerie. A sense of history pervades the place. Lucan, Co. Dublin, 01/626–8491; www.hermitagegolf.ie. Weekdays €50, weekends €55.
Island Golf Club. Talk about exclusive—until 1960, the only way to reach this club was by boat. It was about as remote as you could get and still be only 24 km (15 miles) from Dublin. But things have changed. The Island has opened its doors to reveal a fine links course with holes that force you to navigate between spectacular sand dunes toward small, challenging greens. Corballis, Donabate, Co. Dublin, 353/18436 205; www.theislandgolfclub.com. €125. Visitors: daily.
Portmarnock Golf Club. The hoo-ha and court battles over Portmarnock's refusal to admit women as full members often overshadows the club's position as the most famous of Ireland's "Big Four" (Ballybunion, Royal County Down, and Royal Portrush are the others). This links course, on a sandy peninsula north of Dublin, has hosted numerous major championships and Tom Watson often used it as a preparation for the Open. Known for its flat fairways and greens and its 100-plus bunkers, it provides a fair test for any golfer who can keep it out of the heavy rough. Greens fees include lunch. Portmarnock, Co. Dublin, 01/846–2968; www.portmarnockgolfclub.ie. €175. Visitors: daily.
The Royal Dublin Golf Club. Links courses are usually in remote, even desolate areas, but this captivating one is only 6 km (4 miles) from the center of Dublin—on Bull Island, a bird sanctuary. Royal Dublin is Ireland's third-oldest club. This links course has always been challenging but Martin Hawtree's ongoing redesign is making things even trickier. Watch out for the 5th, the 13th, and the infamous 18th—a par-4 dogleg with plenty of opportunities to shoot out-of-bounds. Dollymount, Co. Dublin, 01/833–6346; www.theroyaldublingolfclub.com. April–Oct., €120; Mar., €100, €125; Jan.–Feb., €90; Nov.–Dec., €65. Visitors: Mon., Tues., Thurs., Fri..