As early as 1892, officers of the Scottish Black Watch Regiment considered Doonbeg an ideal setting for links golf. In the early 1990s, the Doonbeg Community Development Company began promoting the concept of a golf course at Doonbeg. With urging from that group, Shannon Development obtained purchase options for 377 acres of links-land from four local farming families. Doonbeg Golf Club Ltd., an Irish entity created by the partners of Kiawah Development Partners, acquired the options from Shannon Development and closed the sale in December 1999. Construction of the golf course commenced in December 1999.
Doonbeg Golf Club opened on July 9, 2002, when Greg Norman defeated Irish Ryder Cup star Padraig Harrington by 2 to 1 in an exhibition match, but much interest and activity predated the event.