The magnificent, rugged scenery of Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coastal Route is home to a surprising number of golf clubs. The manicured links at Ramore Head, Portrush are famous for attracting huge crowds during the 1951 and 2019 British Open Golf Championships.
However, venture westwards along the main coastal road for almost three miles, and you’ll find the unique splendour of the Portstewart Golf Club that Rory McIlroy calls a ‘hidden gem’.
Superb Collection of Courses
Portstewart boasts three imaginative and challenging eighteen-hole courses that continually delight golf enthusiasts from beginners to seasoned professionals.
Majestic, sweeping fairways and strategic bunkers set amidst a dramatic dune-filled landscape are guaranteed to test the all-round skills of every golfer.
Visitors and members alike can choose to play on the gentler greens of the Old Course, the intermediate Riverside, or the championship layout of the incredible Strand.
A Test of Time
Golfers first discovered the charm of the natural links in 1889 which led to the founding of the Portstewart Golf Club in 1895. The original design featured just nine holes set in a part of the current Old Course.
By 1920, a club building had been installed at the Strand Head site. The course was expanded to eighteen holes in 1934 with a new layout designed by Willie Park Jr.
In 1986, the foundations were laid for today’s rare three-course facilities. Thistly Hollow, an adjacent area of land crammed with semi-mountainous dunes, was purchased to provide additional holes.
The imaginative talents of Des Giffin, a local schoolmaster and club member, resulted in the unique challenges presented by the rugged, natural links of the Strand. By 2001, the major refurbishment had led to the creation of the Riverside Course.
Portstewart’s pedigree as a worthy host of prestigious tournaments has steadily increased. It was the venue for various qualification rounds for the 1951 Open Championship held at nearby Portrush.
Irish Championships have been contested at Portstewart’s courses in the 1960s and 1990s by both amateur and professional golfers. In recent years the club has presided over the British Seniors (2004), a variety of amateur championships during 2014, Girls and Ladies Competitions in 2015 and the Boys Amateur Golf Tournament of 2018.
However, the highest honour for Portstewart was its invitation to stage the Dubai Duty-Free Irish Open of 2017. No less than 92,000 spectators saw the rising Spanish golfing star, Jon Rahm, succeed as the victor with a record-breaking under par score of twenty-four over the four-day contest.
Portstewart Golf Club offers a vast range of facilities to make every visit one of comfortable enjoyment. Accessories, newspapers and refreshments can be purchased at the on-site shop.
Try perfecting your chip shots and putting skills in the designated practice areas. You can hire various pull-along and electric trolleys for carrying equipment, or you can enjoy the company of one of the club’s caddies who’ll have expert knowledge of the courses.
Large golf buggies are only issued to golfers with appropriate medical certification. After an exhilarating day of playing great golf, there are even fully-equipped shower rooms available where you can freshen up before heading for the nineteenth hole.
Here you’ll find a selection of bars including the Hut at the Turn and the Spike. There’s also a Members’ bar and the Strand lounge, bar and restaurant.
What are the Costs?
The fees involved in playing a round of golf at Portstewart vary depending on which course you choose and the time of year.
The Old Course green fees are between £10 and £15. Tickets for a week are £60 or £160 for an entire month.
The Riverside Course fees are £25 during the week, rising to £29 on the weekends.
The Strand Course fees are £60 during the winter months. In April and October expect to pay £135. Fees rise to £175 from May to September. You can also play thirty-six holes for £230.
Excellent transport links are leading to Portstewart from the surrounding area. The city of Londonderry (Derry) is just twenty-five miles drive to the west with the City of Derry Airport at Eglinton on the eastern outskirts of Londonderry is conveniently placed.
If not pressed for time and looking to take in some of the excellent scenery, we highly recommend taking the train from Derry to Coleraine, it is worth it and often included in best train trips of the world.
Belfast is just over an hours drive from Portstewart, heading up the M2 or by following the spectacular Causeway Coastal Route. There are two Airports (International and City) in Belfast that connect to destinations in the UK, Europe and North America.
You can also catch a train or bus from Belfast to Coleraine, getting a taxi or bus to the courses.
A Beautiful Setting
The unique, natural landscape of Portstewart’s golf courses is as dramatic as the nearby attractions of the Giant’s Causeway and Lough Foyle.
From the greens and fairways set amongst the rocky crags and dunes, golfers are treated to truly spectacular views. The rugged coastline, the Atlantic Ocean, the meandering River Bann and the surrounding
Donegal Hills provide unforgettable scenery. Local wildlife to look out for includes swans, sea birds, porpoises and seals. The region has been officially designated as an area of scientific interest and is one of the few places in the British Isles where the endangered bee orchid plant still thrives.
The spectacular terrain of the Strand’s distinctive peaks and hollows offer an exciting, unique challenge to even the most experienced players.
The inspirational landscape encourages bold play where accuracy is needed to reach the greens. It’s worth spending time practising on your precision around the greens and fairways for the sheer pleasure of tackling this fantastic championship course.
The links measure 7,118 yards/72 par.
1st Hole: Tubber Patrick: 427 yards/4 par.
Located at an ancient Stone Age spring called St. Patrick’s Well.
2nd Hole: Devil’s Hill: 366 yards/4 par.
An early tricky challenge.
3rd Hole: The Settlement: 218 yards/3 par.
There’s archaeological evidence that this site was occupied around 9,000 years ago.
4th Hole: Thistly: 583 yards/5 par.
It’s brimming with difficult rocks and craters.
5th Hole: The Rifle Range: 461 yards/4 par.
Named after the practice area positioned here in the Second World War.
6th Hole: Five Penny Piece: 143 yards/3 par.
It demands your most precise shot to land on the tiny circular green.
7th Hole: Strawberry Hill: 516 yards/4 par.
There’s an awkward turn in the fairway that’s lined with masses of wild strawberries.
8th Hole: Portnahapple: 445 yards/3 par.
Fishermen guided their horses through this area on their journey to Donegal.
9th Hole: Larkhill: 378 yards/4 par.
A challenging spot that’s popular with nesting larks.
10th Hole: Fisherman’s Walk: 407 yards/4 par.
You need sharp play on this site commemorating the path fishermen travelled on their way to the River Bann.
11th Hole: Fernside: 407 yards/4 par.
It’s lined with lush ferns where many a ball remains hidden.
12th Hole: Barmouth: 167 yards/3 par.
Spectacular views of Donegal, Mussenden Temple and the River Bann.
13th Hole: Cashlandoo: 555 yards/5 par.
At nearby Black Castle, there’s an ancient Celtic burial mound.
14th Hole: The Hill: 527 yards/5 par.
Presents challenging terrain.
15th Hole: Articlave: 198 yards/3 par.
Named in honour of the nearby village that’s been occupied since the Roman era.
16th Hole: The Plateau: 418 yards/4 par.
It will test your golfing skills to the limit.
17th Hole: Agherton: 436 yards/4 par.
Named after the local Old Agherton Church.
18th Hole: Strand Head: 471 yards/4 par.
A free-flowing fairway with splendid views of the Atlantic.
The Riverside Course
The newest of Portstewart’s golf courses has beautiful views across the River Bann. Its landscape is similar to the Old Course with rolling fairways and greens.
The course is littered with rocks, large sand bunkers and thickets with the river never too far away. The links measure a moderate 5,725 yards/68 par.
1st Hole: 422 yards/4 par
2nd Hole: 180 yards/3 par
3rd Hole: 372 yards/4 par
4th Hole: 178 yards/3 par
5th Hole: 323 yards/4 par
6th Hole: 509 yards/5 par
7th Hole: 447 yards/4 par
8th Hole: 347 yards/4 par
9th Hole: 277 yards/4 par
10th Hole: 412 yards/4 par
11th Hole: 348 yards/4 par
12th Hole: 330 yards/4 par
13th Hole: 171 yards/3 par
14th Hole: 366 yards/4 par
15th Hole: 142 yards/3 par
16th Hole: 332 yards/4 par
17th Hole: 165 yards/3 par
18th Hole: 352 yards/4 par
The Old Course
1st Hole: The Burn: 186 yards/3 par
2nd Hole: The Black Rock: 366 yards/3 par
3rd Hole: Port Cool: 123 yards/3 par
4th Hole: Purgatory: 196 yards/3 par. A tricky site that’s almost in the sea.
5th Hole: The Stone Dyke: 136 yards/3 par
6th Hole: The Knowe: 274 yards/4 par
7th Hole: Seapark: 342 yards/4 par
8th Hole: The Corner: 146 yards/3 par. There’s an awkward turn to navigate.
9th Hole: Milburn. 460 yards/4 par
10th Hole: Quarter-Mile: 420 yards/4 par. A rolling fairway.
11th Hole: The Meadow: 336 yards/4 par
12th Hole: The Valley: 273 yards/4 par
13th Hole: Whinney Ridge: 276 yards/4 par
14th Hole: The Hill: 256 yards/4 par
15th Hole: Innish Owen: 428 yards/4 par
16th Hole: Primrose Dell: 216 yards/3 par
17th Hole: Heather: 216 yards/3 par
18th Hole: Home: 124 yards/3 par