This club is famous for… staging the forerunner to the Derby

Courses and Travel

It’s flat racing’s most famous contest – and it’s been staged at the same venue for nearly 240 years. But it’s origins lie not at Epsom, but at Castletown in the Isle of Man

Tattenham Corner, Swinley Bottom – names that are synonymous with Epsom and flat racing’s most famous contest: The Derby.

But did you know the race, first run on the Surrey Downs in 1780, actually has much older origins?

It’s a story that starts in the Isle of Man but today it is golf balls – rather than horses – that race towards their destination.

If you’ve never played Castletown Golf Links then get a ferry over to Manx as quickly as you can.

The club was founded in 1892 with the course laid out by Old Tom Morris in the early years of the 20th century.

It’s a true links, restored by Mackenzie Ross after the Second World War, and which hugs two spectacular looking bays around Fort Island.

Castletown has its own Road Hole – the 5th – and the asphalt marks the out-of-bounds line between the fairway and the sandy cove.

If that isn’t worth a trip in itself, the 17th has a clifftop setting and a 200-yard carry over the raging waves.


But what about the horse racing you ask?

In 1627 James Stanley, who was the 7th Earl of Derby, gained the Lordship of Mann.

He started horse racing on the peninsula and donated a cup for what became known as the ‘Manx Derby’.

The exact site of the racetrack was on the 7th hole and you could do with a horse these days to help you negotiate it.

It’s a lengthy 572 yards off the back tees and although it’s a fairly straightforward driving hole, there are plenty of bunkers down the right hand side to hamper your second.

Then a two-tiered green needs negotiating if you are to reach the finish line in one piece.


It was the 12th Earl of Derby who would instigate the race as we now know it – after seeing the success of the first Oaks in 1779.

But if you want to follow in the footsteps of ancient hooves, it’s Castletown Golf Links you must visit.

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