Castlerock Golf Club Review

With 27 holes to play, Castlerock serves up a thrilling test of golf in a wonderful setting.

Castlerock Golf Club Review
Castlerock Golf Club Review

I’m not sure what it is about golf clubs that have more than 18 holes, but like a lot of golfers, I have a particular fondness for them. It’s probably as simple as the fact that it gives you the excuse to play golf for pretty much the whole day, but I also enjoy the contrast of playing two different courses that occupy the same piece of land.

Set on the dramatic north coast of Northern Ireland, Castlerock Golf Club in Coleraine is home to the 18-hole Mussenden course and the nine-hole Bann course. One of my favourite characteristics of links golf has to be the dunes. At Castlerock, they’re of a towering nature, which makes for no shortage of thrilling holes, many of which are made even better by the stunning surroundings. It truly is a wonderful place to play the game.

The Mussenden, named after the historic, and somewhat eerie, temple that overlooks the links, is where I start my day. They still call this classic links a “hidden gem” here, but that tag probably no longer applies. I say this as a compliment, because very few golfers that I speak to before heading over the Irish Sea haven’t heard of it – and I soon discover why. 

Fewer people know that the course was designed by famous Scottish club maker, Ben Sayers, who extended the original 1901 layout to 18 holes in 1908. A lot of people will tell you that it was the legendary architect Harry Colt that crafted this wonderful layout, although the great man didn’t leave his mark on the course until some years later, in 1925.

It’s Sayers who I’m thinking of, and the odd club of his I remember playing with as a junior, as I make my way up the first, a dogleg right that is true links and a gentle introduction to the course. With a tidy par on the card, I then turn towards the railway, another of my favourite features on a links, although I can’t explain why.

What I can say with some certainty is that the eighth would rank as my favourite hole. I understand why some people don’t like blind shots. On this brute of a par-four, you have two to contend with, as the hole wends its way through a deep valley and towering dunes. Personally, I think it’s an absolute belter. 

As for a favourite stretch, the Mussenden is blessed with a wonderful final three holes. The par-three 16th is called “The Summit” for a reason. This might be the shortest hole on the course, but its putting surface is perched up high, and affords amazing views of Donegal. 

The penultimate hole plays towards the sea and town with a striking backdrop, and the 18th is a dogleg right, which climbs steeply towards the green. I putted out feeling as though every aspect of my game had been tested. 

It should be said that the Bann course, named after the river that flows past several of its holes, although short, is certainly no pushover, its main defence being its small greens, and the fact you are required to play a number of blind shots. You wouldn’t feel like you’d got the full Castlerock experience if you didn’t take it on, so it’s well worth making time to play both. 

My feeling is that if you manage to play to your handicap on the Mussenden, you’re entitled to feel pretty happy with yourself. That this historic venue has hosted a number of big professional and amateur events, is no surprise at all – it’s a very strong layout indeed.

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