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Castletown Golf Links

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

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.

Castletown

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.

Castletown

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.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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