Ardglass Golf Club Review

Stunning vistas and an eclectic mix of holes stand out on this clifftop classic.

Clifftop golf courses don’t come much better than this charming layout, which hugs the east coast of Northern Ireland. Formed in 1896, with just seven holes, you can feel the history as soon as you arrive. In fact, it’s the club’s fascinating past that attracts many a travelling golfer to come and play here – from far and wide. 

Ardglass Golf Club is home to the world's oldest clubhouse, which dates back to 1405. It’s essential that you allow yourself time both before and after your round to sit inside the famous building. Should you find yourself having to choose between warming up and sitting inside, choose the latter – more specifically, head to the lounger bar that overlooks the first and 18th holes, and order yourself the seafood chowder.

As for the links, what I enjoyed most, aside from the stunning views out across the Irish Sea, was the terrific variety and elevation changes. The opening five holes make their way along the coast, with the course’s signature hole coming early, a delightful par-three called “Howd’s Hole”, where you are required to play across a rocky inlet. 

The clifftop holes have the potential to drain your ball supply but fear not, for after the initial rollercoaster ride around the rugged coastline, a number of more open holes await where you can, if you need to, regroup. There’s more of a calm feel around this part of the course; all the while, however, there’s a sense that your adrenaline levels could peak again at any moment.

It’s on the tenth where the rollercoaster kicks back into gear, with a terrific three-hole loop. You start the back nine on a par three called “The Island”, which plays over 200 yards from the tips, but isn’t quite as terrifying as it sounds. The par-five 11th, however, does have the capacity to make you tremble, especially those with a slice, for there’s no light rough to your right, only rocks and water.

Successfully negotiate “St John’s” and there’s still the small matter of dealing with the short 12th. By now, I’m actually enjoying the challenge of steering my ball over and away from the rocks – after all, it’s what clifftop golf is all about. The last of the short holes is another beauty, fraught with danger and one where you’ll probably want to take a few more photographs. 

It’s not just the rocks that can cause you to panic mid swing, but also the pot bunkers. These traps are of the nasty kind, so be sure to make good use of your course planner and/or GPS device; or do as they did for the first one hundred years here and just use your head. 

Just as I’m patting myself on the back for a well-made birdie on the par-five 15th, Ardglass bites back in the closing stages. Perhaps it’s the idea of heading back to the same spot in the bar with a pint of Guinness, a reward for keeping a clean card for large parts of the second nine, that causes me to lose concentration, something you just can’t afford to do here. 

Do not be fooled by the yardage on 17 and 18, both holes of which can be considered short. Out of bounds comes into play on the former while the latter, which plays downhill towards the clubhouse, might measure under 350 yards but the green is well protected. Do you go for glory regardless, or take the sensible option? I’ll be honest, I’ve never been one for taking an iron off the tee, especially not on my travels.

Talking of travels, I’ve been fortunate to play a number of Northern Ireland’s most famed courses, and whilst Ardglass doesn’t have the same pedigree as a Royal County Down, for example, it has its own unique feel that certainly puts it on my list of favourites. I’ll be back.

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