North West Belvoir Park The design pedigree of Belvoir Park speaks for itself. Harry Colt created this timeless parkland in the late 1920s. Even back then, Colt was revered and over the following decades the club embraced his work and changed little. Tucked away in 21st century Belfast suburbia it means you can step back in time and experience a classic. Your starting point should be the clubhouse balcony. It sits high above the back nine and shows off the colourful setting below and the distant Belfast Hills. This is a sedate, flowing course and one that enjoys tremendous rhythm thanks to Colt’s layout… but the pace is enhanced by the magnificent and dense trees which enshroud the course. Expect lightning fast, perfect and heavily bunkered greens. North West Links subtlety and ingenuity might be the only words you need to sum up this gem on the Inishowen peninsula. Nearby Ballyliffin may receive all the plaudits but North West has something different and special in its make-up… and that dates back to a bygone age of golf course design, as 2016 saw the club celebrating 125 years. The terrain here is low and bumpy… idiosyncratic and unpredictable… and perfect for what links golf is all about. Use your brain and you can play well here, but given the occasional invisible hollow and semi- blind approach, not to mention the speed and natural undulations to greens, you need to play sharp golf from start to finish. Lastly, North West may look flat from the road but you’ll quickly discover that every hole is brimming with character. 138 Royal County Down (Annesley) The Annesley rarely receives the credit it deserves. Perhaps that is due to its modest par of 66… but this sensational 66 will make a fool of you if you think it is easy. It uses much of the same terrain as its championship sibling (they intertwine), just with shorter holes. Indeed, some green settings are even tighter and, while the bunkering is less prevalent, the gorse gets far more friendly. The longest par four is 349 yards so this is about laser-like accuracy… and the good grace to accept that such tight fairways punish even the best shots. Here you will learn much about what makes these hallowed fairways and greens so special… and with three new holes, Annesley fully deserves its Gold status. Rossmore In 2016, Rossmore celebrated 100 years. Located outside Monaghan town this has always been the club’s home and it is a fine, hilly and entertaining affair. There are many such excellent country parklands around Ireland, but Rossmore definitely has the thrill factor: tossing fairways flow over the drumlins and some charming ponds and streams make frequent appearances. It may be a short course (par 71, 5,670 metres) but there are many doglegs to test your length and accuracy. That said, this is one of the sweetest driving courses around, with tee shots hitting towards perfect Irish countryside time and again. Check out the map beside the par three 16th tee, then enjoy a delicious tee shot. The 17th is even better.