Rory McIlroy's Holywood Golf Club: review

Holywood is modest, friendly and entertaining - like its prized asset

Charlie Lemay's picture
Fri, 17 Apr 2015
Rory McIlroy's Holywood Golf Club: review

Can you remember the state of your game when you were 11? I remember going to the range at that age, and merely hitting the ball would afford a pat on the back from my dad.

It was a different story for Rory McIlroy – he was shooting level-par 69 around his home-track Holywood near Belfast.

The Northern Irishman joined Holywood Golf Club in the hills of County Down at the age of eight, becoming the club’s youngest full member.

A year later he won the Under-10 World Championship at Doral in Florida. And by 13 he boasted a scratch handicap.

We know all about his rise to world number one and those four major triumphs, but how much do you know about the club that nurtured McIlroy? After all, it moulded a prodigy – it must be something special, right?

Situated just seven miles from the hustle and bustle of Belfast, Holywood Golf Club has a secluded feel. You would be forgiven for driving past it without a sideways glance, not knowing you were passing such an historic place. Outside there is no acknowledgement of its key asset, and sauntering to the first tee there is still no mention.

It is not until you get a scorecard in your hand that you become aware of its status. Printed on the front are the words: “Home Club of Rory McIlroy”. 

Rory McIlroy: swing sequence

If you’re not as good as Rory, and are one of those players who arrives flustered on the first tee leaving a trail of tee pegs and balls in your wake, Holywood is a course you will enjoy.

You can skip the warm-ups as the opening nine is wide open, with generous fairways, allowing players to open their shoulders without too much risk. It's kind to golfers who would class themselves as "slow starters".   

It’s a relatively flat opening stretch, although the par-three fourth and sixth have steep descents, while the par-three ninth goes the opposite way.  It’s a gentle pre-amble to the back-nine, or a useful nine-hole test if you’re looking for a temperate outing. 

The 10th and the 14th  offer spectacular views of Belfast Lough and players can marvel at the docklands that built Titanic. It's an achievement to stay afloat through this stretch as they are a tricky set of holes, particularly the par-four 12th which necessitates a drive down the left-hand side, with an approach to an elevated green.

It’s undoubtedly tougher coming in, and it requires a level head and mature course management to card a decent score. There are five holes that pose a serious water threat, and the bunkers are well placed to punish a wayward  approach.

Throughout, golfers will be faced with small greens that require a marksman-like iron game. The course is kept in good condition, and the greens run at an enjoyable pace.

Course review: Royal County Down

Back in the clubhouse is where the quiet pride in Holywood's famous son is felt the most.

A Rory McIlroy Day raised enough funds for a refurb, and the plush surroundings house a small but impressive museum - shrine, even - to the world's best golfer.

There are replicas of the Claret Jug, Wanamaker and US Open trophy, signed memorabilia, an MBE and a host of other trinkets. This alone makes the trip worthwhile.


Posing two contrasting nines, Holywood Golf Club is an enjoyable outing and the welcoming atmosphere is refreshing. It requires solid iron play to score well, and the small greens necessitate a steadfast short game.

The back nine has bags of character and boasts spectacular views across Belfast Lough. Factor in time at the end of your round to take in the McIlroy museum. 

McIlroy said he has “no doubt the course helped me to become the golfer I am today”, and for that Holywood Golf Club should be toasted.

Need to know 

Length: 6,087 yards
Par: 69
Green fee: £15 to £35

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