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Castlerock Golf Club,
Designer: Ben Sayers, Harry Colt
Championship Length: 6,713 yards
SSS (Course Rating): 72
Situated within minutes of Portstewart and Royal Portrush, Castlerock Golf Club is a classic links course set amid towering dunes and is a more than worthy neighbour to both these great Irish links. Founded in April 1901, the original course comprised nine holes and was laid out on the western part of the present course. Additional land was leased in 1908 and Ben Sayers, the professional from North Berwick in Scotland, was commissioned to design an eighteen hole layout. Though better known as a club maker, Sayers produced a superb layout and insisted that the links of Castlerock would equal those at Troon, North Berwick and Sandwich.
The formal opening of the new eighteen holes took place in July 1909 and the club prospered until activities declined with the outbreak of the First World War, during which time it was decided to allow sheep graze on the course, in order to economise. Though not officially recorded, it is known that Harry Colt, while spending much time in Ireland with his work at Royal Portrush, was consulted regarding the redesign of the Castlerock links around 1930. Today, Castlerock is rated as one of Ireland's finest links courses and its status in the game is reflected by the fact that it hosted the Smurfit Irish PGA Championship in 2001.
Comprising a mixture of inland and links holes, a round at Castlerock will test every department of a your game and the opening hole suitably reflects the exhilarating experience of playing here. Measuring only 348 yards, with the prevailing wind trying to encourage your ball into the out of bounds on the right and a plateau green waiting to receive your approach, a par four here is a good return. The 200 yard par three 4th hole, called "Leg o' Mutton", is probably the signature hole at Castlerock and requires a tee shot struck over a river, with a railway track lurking to the right. Other excellent holes on the front nine include the par four 6th and the tough par three 9th, with its green surrounded by dunes.
The homeward stretch offers many interesting holes and starts with an excellent par four, where due to some severe slopes, the fairway and green are both elusive targets. The par five 15th requires a tee shot, struck over a large mound to a fairway invisible from the tee, while the short par three 16th presents a green, encircled by bunkers and protected by some wicked slopes. Great courses offer great closing holes and the short par four 18th at Castlerock is no different. Even with a good drive on this slight dogleg, due to the contours of the fairway, you are often left with a relatively blind approach to a plateau green.