NCGA Golf

Fall 2018

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this side of the border. Golfers have been coming in droves ever since tensions sub- sided. Located on the Causeway Coast, Portstewart may be the world's most underrated course. Its Strand Course boasts the finest opening hole and front nine in Ireland, maybe anywhere. Dating to 1894 and redesigned in the 1920s by Willie Park Jr., Portstewart truly came into its own in 1990, when the club secretary, a local schoolteacher and avid golfer, and the groundskeeper teamed up and re-designed seven new holes. What a job they did. The panoramic views on a day of glorious sunshine were breathtaking, particularly those of the Donegal Hills, the Atlantic and the River Bann at every turn. Words don't do the opening hole— from its elevated tee—justice. This lazy dog- leg right plays into a parcel of dune land known as "Thirsty Hollow." The immense sand dunes hide all manners of pitfalls and possibilities. At the second, Devil's Hill, you're asked to thread a drive between two towering dunes to a fairway with a moun- tain left and a valley to the right and aim your approach at a small, well-protected and elevated green. Continuing along the Causeway Coastal Route will take you past the ruins of Dunluce Castle. The more famous of the two courses at Royal Portrush is named after the ancestral home of the lords of Antrim, a striking 14th-century castle whose ruins are perched on the stark, rocky headland to the east of the course. The wind off the North Channel is usually intense and constant, but not on this day. Instead of the ski cap of my previous trip around these links, I lathered in suntan lotion and wore shirtsleeves and, by golly, shorts to enjoy the unusually balmy condi- tions. Peter Keighery, our amiable leader from Carr Golf, took one look at the blue skies, a warming sun, and the absence of the course's trademark blustering wind and declared, "In all my years, the calmest day I've ever seen at Portrush." It almost made me miss my ski cap and water proofs – almost. Founded in 1888, Portrush has two championship courses – the renowned Dunluce Course, re-designed by Harry Colt in 1947, and the beloved Valley Course, which is nearly as challenging and scenic, but lives in the shadow of its more famous sibling. The Dunluce 18 at Portrush is the only links in Ireland to have hosted the British Open when it was won by Max Faulkner in 1951. In 2019, for the first time in 68 years, the Open returns to Portrush. To be awarded this honor, the club had to agree to a significant architectural change, allowing course designer Martin Ebert to steal two holes on the Valley Course— a drivable par 4 and seemingly unreachable par 3—and build a new seventh (par 5) and eighth holes (par 4) at Dunluce to replace the 17th and 18th holes, which will be used for the tented exhibition space. These new additions look like they've been there forever. Portrush's most celebrated holes are the fifth and the 16th at Dunluce. The fifth, White Rock, is one of the most exhilarating two shots in golf. The green overlooks the "white rocks," sheer cliffs of stone that run along the Antrim coast. Don't go long or your ball will disappear into the Atlantic. Portrush places its emphasis on the irons, with fairways narrowing to small greens. And all of the holes but the first and last curve left or right, forcing a player to maneuver the ball on most shots. There are few bunkers, but hundreds of natural hills, mounds and hollows that give the golfer the feeling of being alone on some unin- habited planet. 50 FALL 2018 | NCGA.ORG "I cannot imagine playing at Royal County Down and not finding the time for a game at Ardglass Golf Club (pictured)."— James Finegan, From Where Golf is Great

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