Guide to Gracehill Golf Course
If you’re the kind of a golfer who doesn’t back down from a challenge, then you’ll have an exciting time at Gracehill Golf Course.
Elevated tee boxes, bunkers with ladders, alleys of trees, bulrushes, and water barriers make the Gracehill Golf Course, one of the more challenging parkland courses in Ireland.
The 18-hole course, situated only a few meters from the famous Dark Hedges <> is part of the Dark Hedges Estate, a 210-acre property outside the village of Stranocum, near Ballymoney. The estate boasts an equally impressive history with the first ownership tracing back to the early reigns of King James 1 of England.
Getting to Gracehill.
Gracehill golf course is only 15 miles or about 25 minutes from Portrush. It’s about 50 miles from Belfast and approximately 150 miles from Dublin.
The best way to find it is to follow the direction of the Dark hedges via the myriad of signposts in the surrounding towns help to direct visitors to the course.
History – A humble beginning with a royal touch
In the early 1600s, King James VI of Scotland & 1st of England awarded the property and the surrounding lands to a family member, James Stuart, then an ambassador to Turin, Italy, through a royal charter. Initially, the property included areas in Cavan, Monaghan, and County Antrim. The ambassador didn’t get to develop the property as he was shipwrecked on his way to take up ownership from Italy.
However, the property remained in his family, but the acreage of the land shrunk considerably under the ownership of Brigadier-General William Stuart due to financial troubles.
One of the general’s grandsons, James Stuart, built the famous farmhouse, Gracehill House, in 1775, giving the property a sense of grandeur by serving as a centrepiece. The now grade B listed property stands proud and magnificent to date
The Making of Gracehill
The farmland changed ownership many times over the years before landing in the hands of the Gaines family in 1971. The Gaines gave up on farming in 1991, opting to turn the farmland into an 18-hole golf course. They set about converting the old estate buildings into a modern clubhouse without diminishing its charm and past heritage. The modern clubhouse features a world-class bar and restaurant in addition to providing revellers with a warm, relaxed atmosphere as they take in the scenic view of the Golf course.
They engaged Frank Ainsworth, a renowned American golf course designer, to create the American style golf course. The designer is the brains behind other impressive golf courses such as Adminnan and Roe Park. He set to work on the layout of the holes, creating the 6,525-yard par 72 Gracehill course that has been taunted as the most challenging course in all of Ireland.
The entire course is laid out in a gently rolling terrain peppered with mature tree stands and surrounded by beautiful watercourses, proudly declaring its American influence. Although the course has minimal bunkers and the greens are large and level, many of the holes are close to water hazards. Ainsworth incorporated the streams and ponds at the farmland to create tricky water hazards, as he created a challenging contemporary golf course.
The 18-hole golf course opened its doors to golf enthusiasts four years later in 1995, and the creative mix of natural and tight holes has made it a big hit among golfers. The idyllic countryside setting and the charm of its old heritage appeals to people looking to escape the city life. The course is surrounded by five lakes and two rivers, making its water hazards tricky and matchless.
A one of a kind parkland course
Since it’s set smack in the middle of mature woodland, Gracehill is a parkland golf course that challenges and thrills any golf player to set foot on it. The strategic location of some of the greens near water hazards makes a lasting impression of golfers who tee of on the course. The position of some holes forces golfers to play through the mature woodland or over heathland, giving the course its signature teeing variety.
Gracehill Golf Course – The Holes
Each of the Gracehill’s 18 holes is uniquely named and present the golfers with a unique level of difficulties.
The 2nd hole, Calhame, is 356-yard par 4.
The 3rd hole, The Knowe, is 378-yard par 4.
The 4th hole, Frank’s, is 492-yard par 5.
The 5th hole, Iderown, is a 440-yard par 4
The 6th hole, Serenity is a 365-yard par 4.
The 7th hole, McCool’s Quarry, 182-yard par 4.
The 8th hole, Keyhole, is 386-yard par 4.
The 9th hole, Willows, is 486-yard par 5.
The 10th hole, Dougherty Burns, is 455-yard par 4
The 11th hole, Fuschia Island is 163-yard par 3.
The 12th hole, Sycamore, is 467-yard par 5.
The 13th hole, Knockmore, is 410-yard par 4.
The 14th hole, Wing ‘N’ A Prayer is a 200-yard par 3
The 15th hole, Amen, is 500-yard par 5.
The 16th hole, Oasis is 145 yards par 3.
The 17th hole, Silver Birch, is 359 yards par 4.
The 18th hole, Yew Turn is 405 yards par 4.
The pay and play green fees range from ten to 30 pounds and vary depending on the day of the week.
From Monday to Thursday, non-members pay a £30 admission fee, while those accompanied by a member part with £20. Students and juveniles under the age of 16 part with £15 and £10, respectively to gain admission.
The admission fees are higher from Friday through Sunday and during the bank holidays. Non-members part with £40 unless accompanied by a member whereby the charge comes down to £25. On the other hand, students pay £25, but kids under the age of 16 get to spend £10.
Gracehill Golf Club,
141 Ballinlea Road, Stranocum, Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, BT53 8PX