Portstewart Golf Club - Strand Course

Northern Ireland, Portrush
6.6 (5)
Course Opened: 1992

Situated along Northern Ireland’s magnificent Causeway Coast and only a few miles from Royal Portrush, the Portstewart Strand Course was created in 1992, though it features eleven holes designed by Willie Park Jr back when the club was first formed in 1894. Park’s superb opening hole, which follows the beach and plunges down and around a small ridge, remains in play but during the 1980’s the club acquired 60 acres of virgin duneland beyond its green and enlisted a local school teacher, Des Giffen, to build seven holes for its new course.

The Giffen holes, 2nd through 8th, occupy some of the heaviest sand formations in Northern Ireland and mostly run through deep dune corridors or across broad valleys. Longer holes that head up into dunes, such as the 5th and 7th are memorable for their heaving landscapes and tight targets, while the deadly short par three 6th is noted for a terrifying green site than even professional golfers struggle to hit in a strong wind. The long par three 3rd hole and the strong par four 8th, which hugs a large sandhill as it boomerangs around to the left, are the other Giffen hole highlights. The wild 9th is also thrilling and reintroduces golfers to Park’s original holes. 

Unfortunately the rest of the Strand Course is routed away from the heavy dunes and feels totally different, as the ground is much flatter and less interesting. Aside from a shelf green site at the mid-length par four 11th, the back nine is best remembered for a series of tough par fours that make up the closing stretch. Each is narrow and bordered by either penal bunkers or thick, ball-swallowing rough. In some ways the difficulty of these holes hurts Portstewart, as much as odd holes in the bigger dunes like the 2nd which force you to play into a specific section of fairway. Were fairways more open, and the green sites blessed with more short game options the overall experience would have been terrific.

As it stands, while Giffen did an admirable job in the sandhills at Portstewart the variance in terrain hurts the Strand Course. As does the hundred-year gap in design philosophy; the Park holes somehow more adventurous despite the less dramatic land. This disparity should not put you off a visit, however, as the terrain here is ideal for golf and the course is a fine back-up option for visiting golfers who have exhausted their playing privileges at Royal Portrush.


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