Northern Ireland has the 2019 Open venue battling for top spot with the course regarded by some as the best in the world. Chris Bertram counts down the top 10
Our rundown of the best golf courses in Northern Ireland continues, starting with an outstanding links…
Best golf courses in Northern Ireland: 5. Castlerock (Mussenden)
Across the River Bann from Portstewart is this super links, which began as a nine–holer in 1901 but was extended by Ben Sayers seven years later and revised in 1925 by Colt.
When you emerge from holes among towering dunes you are greeted with views of Donegal and, on a clear day, Scotland and the Isle of Islay.
The Mussenden (Castlerock also has the nine–hole Bann) is defined by long par 3s – witness the 4th, ‘Leg o‘Mutton‘, which is a 200-yard hole with a railway line to the right, a burn (and OB) to the left and a raised green – and reachable par 5s.
Best golf courses in Northern Ireland: 4. Portstewart (Strand)
As thrilling an opening tee shot as you could wish to find provides the start of a brilliant front nine among relentless dunes.
The back nine – on much flatter land with the River Ban hemming it in as the Atlantic does to the front nine – doesn’t quite maintain the pace, otherwise it would be a fixture in GB&I Top 100 rankings.
Founded in 1894, it was redesigned by Willie Park Junior in the 1920s but it was local schoolteacher Des Giffin who had the biggest hand in the Strand when he was gifted prime extra land the club acquired in 1981.
From the first elevated tee shot on the dog–leg opener this is thrill–a–minute stuff.
Best golf courses in Northern Ireland: 3. Lough Erne
Ireland is rightly famed for its links but this parkland is so good that it warrants an elevated position in our countdown.
It is my favourite design by Sir Nick Faldo, offering some fun holes as well as the six-time major champion’s trademark demanding ones.
Only Adare Manor can battle with Lough Erne for the title of Ireland‘s top parkland.
The lakeside setting adds to the appeal and it‘s worth pointing out it has a luxury hotel that makes it a brilliant golf resort.
Best golf courses in Northern Ireland: 2. Royal Portrush (Dunluce)
The host of the 2019 Open has always pushed for the No.1 spot and many have maintained this Colt masterpiece had the edge.
Even more may be of that opinion now that Ebert has replaced the flatter, less explosive closing duo by inserting two new holes among dunes into the front nine.
Formed in 1888 as a nine–hole course, it was extended a year later and hosted the Irish Open just after the turn of the century.
But it was not until Colt revamped the Dunluce that its reputation soared to the point it hosted The Open in 1951.
This is a thoroughbred links with no weaknesses, a brilliant all–rounder with a myriad memorable holes of uncommon variety. Pretty much as good a No.2 as a country can have.
So who’s in at No. 1 of our best golf courses in Northern Ireland? Find out on the next page…