Portstewart Golf Club

Londonderry

  • Par 72
  • 6895 Yds

PORTSTEWART has taken many forms over its near 125 years of existence. In fact, the championship Strand layout that is nowadays the subject of such widespread admiration has only existed since 1990.

It has helped Portstewart, finally, to move out of the shadow of its famous neighbour, Portrush.

The two seaside towns almost run into each other – though curiously are in different counties – making Northern Ireland’s coast ripe for a golfing holiday.

How the Strand developed into what we see today is an interesting story.  It came about after the club acquired a piece of prime duneland called Thistly Hollow and from it created seven new holes.

In what was at the time and remains a surprising move to many, rather than enlist the services of a well-known architect, a member and local schoolteacher, Des Giffin was given the job of bringing the land to life.

What he created is extraordinary, indeed the front nine is some enthusiasts’ idea of the best stretch they’ve ever played.

Purely on account of the dramatic nature of the land – think dunes on the scale of a small mountain range – Portstewart is undeniably a course of two halves.

Inevitably, the back nine suffers in comparison. The holes here are not by any means poor; but nor can they come close to matching the excitement levels on offer earlier.

Purely on account of the dramatic nature of the land – think dunes on the scale of a small mountain range – Portstewart is undeniably a course of two halves.

If not for routing issues, you suspect the club might already have reversed the nines.

Such a move would come at the cost of a quite exceptional opening hole that is played from a high tee to a flat fairway at sea level.

In one sense, it is a confidence booster to start like this, but in another, especially when it’s windy, your ball can be in the air for such a long time it is hard to control where it finishes.

There is great pleasure, and possibly a slight sense of relief, in standing back to admire the flight of a straight hit here.

Where the 1st goes down, the 2nd travels up Devil’s Hill – the name of the hole.

By no means a long hole, it is a positional tee shot to the bottom of the hole and then a short iron to the narrow shelf of green that must be both accurate and the right length. Short is the real crime – the ball can end up back at your feet in the summer.

Then comes a spectacular downhill par 3, almost 220 yards, though it can play rather less.

It is followed by a slaloming par 5 where it is so difficult to identify the right line off the tee, where you must cut off the corner but not too much so.

This is another raised green, so again there is the potential for a ball to trickle away and leave an awkward recovery.

Like all the best par 5s, there is the potential for longer hitters to get home in two, especially with a bold tee shot, while more cautious souls can plot their way to a five.

The 5th is stroke one, and no wonder at 461 yards. Your drive must be long and straight before the fairway sneaks round dunes and eventually rises to a large green.

The contrast between it and the next is delightful – a delicate par 3 to a green perched in the air and that simply must be found if a blind second shot is to be avoided.

Then comes the tightest of par 5s, its fairway reduced to corridor proportions at one stage and a chasm awaits short and right.

Like the 4th, you can find the green in two. But should you miscalculate then big numbers inevitably await.

The final thrilling hole is the 8th, this time turning hard left and downhill at driving distance to a green nestled in the base of a huge dune.

Some of these eight holes are extreme; each is an experience that lives long in the memory.

There are also some fine holes on the back nine, the 11th being perhaps the pick, but nothing on the same scale as on the way out.

In terms of difficulty, there is the chance to score nicely until the finishing stretch; three par fours each well over 400 yards and two of them uphill.

By this time you’ll be ready to retire to the newly- refurbished clubhouse and enjoy a drink with views across the links.

Address

117 Strand Road
Portstewart
Londonderry
BT45 8DG

Telephone

028 70 832 015
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