Destination Golf Ireland 2019 * - Page 9

The 1st Tee at Ardglass GC. Day 1: ARDGLASS – County Down Day 2: PORTSTEWART – County Antrim From Dublin airport we drive two hours north to the first course of our trip - Ardglass Golf Club. This spectacular old-style links and clifftop gem hugs a rugged headland on the County Down coastline, offering sea views from every hole. Ardglass really is a course to savour with some outstanding holes. The course begins with a bang where a line of cannons point the way to the green of the par-4 1st followed by the daunting par-3 2nd, both requiring a carry across the coastline or cliff tops of the Irish Sea. Holes 11 and 12 (the Amen corner of Ardglass) are particularly exciting, set across from Coney Island made famous by Van Morrison, and on clear days you can see past the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man. It’s a claim that’s often made – Portstewart’s Strand course has arguably the best opening hole in Irish golf. Played from an elevated tee with topography that bucks and plunges like a raging river, I need to focus on my ball and avoid being distracted by the stunning coastal views on this classic 427 yards par-4 called Tubber Patrick. It’s a memorable start to a wonderful links dominated by a huge dunescape peppered with plenty of testing holes One of these is the 6th, aptly named Five Penny Piece, and with a green not much larger than a snooker table and only 135 yards from the whites, it can be anything from a rescue club to a gap wedge depending on the wind. It’s been a tough nine holes with more snowmen (8’s) on the card than in British gardens at Christmas time, so we head straight to the windswept bar near the 10th tee to enjoy a smooth Bushmills whiskey before tackling the back nine. Protected by water on the right and wind bushes on the left, at the 488 yards par-5 11th it’s essential to hit three straight shots to reach the green in regulation. As the course guide says ‘Play this hole with the same ball and be happy!’ The par-3 12th is arguably the course’s signature hole drawing comparisons with the famous 17th hole at Pebble Beach. The view from the elevated tee, with a backdrop of the Irish Sea and the majesty of the brooding Mourne Mountains is worth the green fee alone. Ardglass is home to one of the oldest and most distinct clubhouses in Ireland - a castle that dates back to the 12th century. We hole out on the final green and then enjoy some cold beers on the rooftop turret bar. As the late afternoon sun casts long shadows across this memorable course we raise our glasses to the days ahead. In the afternoon, as a diversion from golf we visit the famous Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Made up of thousands of hexagonal pillars that climb out of the Atlantic Ocean, this stunning natural formation was created by Finn MacCool, an Irish giant that lived along the Antrim Coast. The logical and less romantic version is that about 60 million years ago there was intense volcanic activity along the coast, after which the lava cooled very quickly. The uneven cooling rate resulted in the basalt contracting into the characteristic hexagonal and octagonal pillar shapes you see today. Overnight: Slieve Donard Resort & Spa (Newcastle) 7