Don’t miss the opportunity to play Ardglass Golf Club if you are near County Down in Northern Ireland. A real gem with breathtaking scenery, a historic clubhouse and a spectacular golf course you’ll never forget.
Last summer, last Irish summer, I only had a few days in Dublin to catch up with old friends, sink a few pints of Guinness AND play golf. In a country full of some of the best golfers in the world, choosing a golf course or two has always been a challenge.
I asked for advice from some Irish golf enthusiasts and, among many other suggestions, one golf course I knew nothing about was mentioned several times.
“Go play Ardglass,” they said. “You’ll never forget it.”
So I did. And they were right.
Ardglass is located in Northern Ireland, approximately two and a half hours’ drive from Dublin and an hour south of Belfast in County Down. Yes, it’s County Down. Most golfers head towards County Down to try their hand at the highly rated County Down golf course. But if you’re in the area, you shouldn’t miss it Ardglass Golf Club. First, it’s publicly accessible to all international travelers, so you’re more likely to end up here for high tea. And my god, it’s truly spectacular.
The club at Ardglass is older than golf, the fish soup they served there was delicious and the staff and club members were as welcoming as anywhere else I’ve visited before.
The former castle now houses a professional shop, changing rooms and an upstairs lounge, and serves as an impressive backdrop for an unforgettable opening tee shot you really shouldn’t miss.
“The Irish Sea is on the left, all of Ireland is on the right,” Dave told us at the professional shop.
Surrounded by cannons, you’ll have to carry a rocky gorge to set up a short approach to a small green estate among mounds that looks like it’s playing hide and seek. And winning.
The par-3 second hole is just as striking as the first – it requires another well-placed shot from the tee into a rocky gorge before the third hole slides down over rockier cliffs in northern Ireland.
And don’t think for a moment that it’s just breathtaking landscapes with an average golf course on top. The par-4 fourth hole, for example, is a gem and a masterclass in golf architecture.
Keeping Dave’s advice in mind, I stayed away from the Irish Sea only to realize that the left side of Fairway 4 was the perfect line to the green. Everything that is right is more obscured by a large mound. He defends every short approach and kicks everything long which makes it extremely difficult to get the ball close to the flag.
Classic golf courses with spectacular views of the Irish Sea. In his book A Course Called Ireland, John Coyne described the first four holes at Ardglass as “ridiculous golf”. There is no other adjective to describe it.
The next four holes allow you to regain your breath on a slightly flatter terrain behind stone walls and a white house. On one hole you play next to it, on the next you tee over it.
I challenge you not to play the course with a smile on your face.
Australia has some great golf “discoveries”; those places where an unexpected, amazing view of the golf hole opens up before you. Think 5th at New South Wales GC or 4th at Barnbougle Lost Farm.
The walk to the 9th tee in Ardglass is this.
Hidden by bushes behind the 8th green, the 9th tee overlooks a small bay and the village known as Coney Island. Yes, the original Coney Island Van Morrison sings aboutnot the one in New York. (He also mentions Ardglass in the song, you know.)
The 9th, 10th and 11th holes are fun to play and will stay in my golf memories for a long time.
10. is an unforgettable, sweeping par-5 around a rocky shore that, for anyone still scoring, can turn a decent card into a bad one. Fear or worse will soon be forgotten as you move on to your next cliff top tee. Par-3 11th is on the edge of the water below. I hesitate to describe it further, words will not do it justice.
The air turned colder and a light rain began to fall as we headed back to the club. A huge smile on my face masked the feeling of melancholy – it was a special afternoon spent on a unique golf course and hole after hole was coming to an end.
Arriving at the 18th tee, you can see the fishing town of Ardglass, the clubhouse and the cannons. It’s a spectacular sight to come home to.
Before leaving for the Irish shores, I was told to play Ardglass; “You’ll never forget it.
Now I say the same to you. The next time you’re in these parts, listen to Van Morrison talk about a day near Coney Island, play Ardglass and drink Guinness at a club older than golf.
Wouldn’t it be great if golf was like this all the time?