Playing Golf on Northern Ireland's Causeway Coast
Northern Ireland is a fantastic place to visit. The golf is first class, there’s wonderful scenery, a remarkable history and it’s blessed with a legendary warm hearted welcome.
Several routes can be selected to enjoy this remarkable stretch of coastline depending on your needs.
I went over with a golfing buddy to savour a good tour from Derry/Londonderry in the west plotting a route to the awesome Giant’s Causeway along the coast in the east.
The star attraction on this tour would be Royal Portrush, venue for the Open Championship in 2019 and again in 2025, but instead we played its near neighbours, the fine links courses at Castlerock and Portstewart. For comparison, we started our tour at the hotel-based parkland course, Roe Park.
Based just outside the historic market town of Limavady this is a four-star hotel with associated spa and sports facilities including a driving range, and an on-site 18-hole course which is Highly Recommended by the Golfshake Community.
While it appeared an easy-going resort course from the view over the fairways below the first tee, it was no push over at all. The semi-rough was difficult to hit any distance from, and the early holes played long. A highlight hole of the round came as soon as the 3rd, a 203 yard par three over water and apparently invariably into a breeze. A par here would feel like a birdie, to be sure!
The course followed the low ground besides the river before turning back uphill at the 5th which we found to be the pick of the par fours on the front nine.
The routing then took us further up the hill behind the hotel beginning with the short but cunning par three 6th featuring a MacKenzie-style green unseen from the tee below.
The views are terrific from here, over Lough Foyle and the Inishowen Peninsula.
The back nine was arguably the stronger, with some more long and challenging par threes and the best hole on the course, the 15th. Some say it’s a risk and reward hole at a mere 260 yards from an elevated tee, but really a driver is a perilous and perhaps foolhardy choice. Miss right and you are in the drink - a deep pond lurks in a valley hidden from the tee. Put your ego away and select a mid-iron instead.
The 17th, another terrific par three at 202 yards, sets up a lovely final final hole where some of the finest clubhouse food awaited.
The rugged coastline of Northern Ireland is breathtaking and so are the group of links courses that take centre stage of any golf trip.
Portstewart has 54 holes that weave among the rugged dunes with the pick of the courses being The Strand.
It is one of the jewels of links golf, and as a result commands a hefty green fee from visitors who flock in their droves regardless.
It is a busy venue, yet extremely well managed, with marshals checking on pace of play to avoid any annoying bottle necks.
During our visit in August the greens were on the slow side; the caddies said it was to avoid burn off, but we suspected it was part of the plan to keep players moving at a decent pace.
That said, this was a fantastic course and definitely one for the bucket list.
The view from the elevated 1st tee over the huge sand dunes below and beyond is well documented. But if you haven’t got time to take it all in, hopefully you will have done by the 2nd, because this one takes the biscuit.
If you are not playing from the white tees, it is worth doing so here, for the view alone. What a great hole. A short par four requiring a well-placed tee shot down the right followed by a deft mid to short iron to a small, elevated rolling green guarded by a cavernous, riveted bunker to the right. This is the stuff great links are made of.
The scene is now set for some wondrous golf on holes whose names tell fascinating stories of the legends of this ancient landscape.
There are too many highlights to mention them all. The holes that stand out after the fabulous opening pair are the 8th, a sharp dogleg left requiring a fairway wood off the tee and a very accurate approach that needs to navigate a number of bunkers guarding the green.
The 11th has a string of fairway bunkers down the left and an elevated green that can make you look very silly if you pitch short and find your ball rolling back to your feet.
The par threes are particularly strong, notably the 6th where you really need to hit the green to avoid the prospect of a double bogey as it is perched high above its surroundings.
After witnessing the majesty of Portstewart golfers can be forgiven for thinking that Castlerock will be playing second fiddle. Yet it’s arguably its equal and is another must-play links course on the Causeway Coast.
The clubhouse lacks the hustle and bustle of its near neighbour but don’t be fooled, the Mussenden course is a cracker.
Rugged and wild, it will get all lovers of links golf salivating. From the start you are out in the wilderness with stunning views all around.
A short walk from the 16th green to the brow of the hill towards the 17th tee takes you to a classic viewpoint overlooking much of the course, the rolling coastline and the River Bann estuary. No wonder the club has installed its nameplate on a rock just here. Few will resist a pause for a photocall.
There is much more to admire than the views. Some cracking holes, such as the par three 4th, which plays from a slightly elevated tee to the green some 184 yards away and gets you in the mood. A straight hit is required - there is OB to the right by the railway track, a burn running down the left, and a number of greenside bunkers for good measure.
The 6th is a beauty with great views of the Bann again and that subtle burn runs in front of the green.
The second par three on the opening half is the 9th which is one of several contenders for the signature hole. It’s long at 193 yards from the white tees, and surrounded by trouble, including a bog and an old quarry.
Our favourites on the back nine were the downhill par five 17th and the 18th which needs total accuracy from the tee and on the approach to the elevated green.
A lovely, natural course in great condition throughout, one we would happily play every week.
Away From The Golf Course
Northern Ireland is blessed with tourist attractions celebrating the wonders of nature at sites such as the Giant’s Causeway (where pre-booking is a must) to the fantasy filming locations of the Game of Thrones and fascinating history both ancient and more recent at the walled city of Derry/Londonderry and the capital Belfast which is home of the Titanic Belfast visitor experience.
For detailed information of what Northern Ireland has to offer travelling golfers, please visit http://www.ireland.com/golf.
A wide range of accommodation is available, including the fabulous Blackrock House, an award winning luxury B&B in Portrush.
Check out our travel partner Golfbreaks for golfing packages
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