George Oldham revisits Stranraer where, he explains, they've struck the perfect combination of tough but not overwhelming
Reason for a Stranraer Golf Club review
Recently, I was indulging myself in some research on James Braid – as you do – and was reminded that Stranraer was the last course the great man designed in a career which spanned more than 50 years. As I had booked a post-Covid short break in Portpatrick, only a few miles away, I decided that a revisit to a course which I had greatly enjoyed many years ago was in order. Lawri Shanks, the club secretary, gave me a warm welcome, and, in a light drizzle I started a keenly anticipated round.
What to expect?
Just the most attractive parkland course, set high on the escarpment above the western side of Loch Ryan, with the added bonus of sea views from the majority of holes. Further adding to the attractions of flora and fauna are varied stands of trees lining the fairways and sightings of the many types of birds for which the Galloway peninsular is famous. However, beyond the pleasures of the attractive ambiance of the course is the golfing challenge set by its master architect.
I have no hesitation in recommending Stranraer for its stunning location, its playability, its modern clubhouse with views over the course to the loch, and, not least, for the outstanding greenkeeping.
This is not a course on which you will lose balls – unlike too many of the Scottish links courses with an over-profusion of gorse and heather. This is manicured parkland golf at its most attractive. Not that it lacks challenge – the short rough on each side of the fairways is properly short enough to ensure that you can find your ball without difficulty, but heavy enough to make shot-making difficult and make you wish that you had stuck to the fairway, the bunkers are well placed and protect small, true greens which demand accurate approach shots, and although most par 4s are under 400 yards, there are four between 420 and 470 which demand length as well as accuracy.
The first of these is the 3rd, a truly outstanding hole. Named ‘The Burn’, after the hazard which runs its full length, it is a monster which demands a drive of supreme accuracy and of at least 240 yards in length to clear its first watery manifestation. Lay up and you have a carry of some 200 yards over three separate stretches of the winding burn to reach the green. For most mortals, it is a true par 5.
The second most intimidating is the spectacular 5th – pictured above – which, from its elevated tee, can be seen the narrow shore-line fairway far below, and the vista of Loch Ryan beyond.
There are too many memorable holes on this lovely course to describe them all, but mention must be made of the prettiest – the 10th. A truly lovely valley hole, surrounded by woodland, and distinguished by a challenging dogleg created by a stand of Scots pine, of which I made the mistake of trying to clear. Re-bounding twice off the trees into the rough, I then under-clubbed to the elevated green and finally ran up an eight. I bear no grudges.
My best bit
There are just three par 3 on the course. All are challenging. I parred them all.
What to look out for
Golf aside; the surroundings, the multitude of birdlife, and the ships on Loch Ryan docking at Cairnryan on the far shore. If you plan a leisurely round, it might be worth taking binoculars.
When I go back
Having finished my round in heavy rain, I shall hope for better weather, and also to play the 10th more sensibly. Otherwise it would be hard to improve on the experience.
Finally, where is Stranraer Golf Club?
To reach the town of Stranraer, if you are driving from England, turn left at Gretna and follow the A75 west all the way, if from Glasgow, head south all the way down the A77. Then take the A718 north along the shore of Loch Ryan, and in a couple of miles you will see the course on your right.
Have you played Stranraer Golf Club? We’d love to hear what you thought. Let us know in the comments below, or you can tweet us.