A view back down the 4th fairway
Tyrone courses tend to be built on hills for some reason, and Aughnacloy is no differentt.
This course really will pull the legs out of you if you are not careful. Particularly the eighth hole, which has a real lung buster of a climb to the penultimate hill top green.
The result of so many hills, apart from cartilege damage, is that you get some fantastic views of the surrounding farmland. Lush green grass, rolling hills, it is a bucolic wonderland.
A view of the fifth green
The challenge of the course is moderate. There aren’t an awful lot of hazards to contend with. Okay, the first tee shot demands an accurate shot, but barring that, if you are anyway accurate with your irons you should make some nice scores.
The challenge will be how you can deal with playing up and down hills.
As with many of the other courses reviewed on this site, Aughnacloy is a pay and play course where you can tee it up on a Saturday if you are a non member, and I highly recommend that you do for a charming nine holes.
Favourite hole: Second hold, a smooth dog leg hole with a limited drive as there is a brook running across the fairway. A second shot to an elevated narrow green is a tester.
A view back down the sixth fairway
View of the Second green
Burnfield house is a relatively new course in Belfast, and without the history of other more established clubs, it has a very casual feel about it.
It is built around a farmhouse, and so you get the feeling that you are intruding into someone’s garden.
Admittedly it is rough round the edges. For a start, the course really can’t take a lot of water. And unless you are seeking a muddy trek, then it is best to try this course after a few days of dry weather.
But despite that, it can be an entertaining little nine holes. One reason is that it affords beautiful views across Newtownabbey. It is a very open course, and there are plenty of opportunities to get the long stick out.
In fact a few of the holes demand long tee shots.
But the defining characteristic of this course is that it is on a hill. You are either playing up or down hill for the most part, and even the greens tend to demand an ability to putt on a slope.
For me, this course is one that is cheap to play and never shut, but be wary of the boggy ground.
Cost: 15 at the weekend
Favourite hole: eighth hole, because the second shot is down hill to a green on a ledge, with a great view over greater Belfast.
View of the second green
View of the 18th green at Kirkistown Castle
Kirkistown, where Rory McIlroys’ coach Michael Bannon learnt how to play the game. A course which epitomises links golf.
Well, unfortunately I was unimpressed on my first visit. The reason being was that it all just seemed a little boring.
For a start I was hoping to see a bit more of the sea, what with this course being a links course and all. But the course has taken a step back from the shores of the Ards peninsula to allow for a main road and some houses.
View of the 16th green
You will get to see the crashing waves when you reach the high points of the course, two small hills that poke up at either end of the course.
I can’t be entirely critical of Kirkistown. The challenge of the course is excellent. The greens are difficult to get to, the hazards are predominantly bunkers and you have to be able to play in the wind in order to score well.
Not only that, but the course is open to non members late afternoon on Saturdays, an attribute which always helps to endear a course to my heart.
View from the 7th tee
View of the fairways at Scrabo
I lost a lot of golf balls at Scrabo. I can’t really blame the course for that unfortunate fact. At the time my drives were as erratic as the Northern Irish weather, and the heather at Scrabo was a welcoming home for those wayward shots.
But greedy heather is not a criticism of this course. The heather is a superb charactersitic of Scrabo golf course. The course cuts its way through the green and purple foliage, and makes for a tremendous test for golf.
And for a weekend hacker like myself, the course gets extra credit because it is open on Saturday’s for non-members.
Under the shadow of Scrabo tower
Scrabo tower dominates the skyline in the area, but this high point that looks across strangford and beyond, is at such a height that makes the coures a cold place when windy. When I played it it was a very chilly affair, so you can imagine what it is like for much of the year.
At the same time, because of the elevated nature of the course, and the quality of the turf, it means that the course is playable a lot more of the year than other park land courses.
Location: On the outskirts of Newtownards, next to Scrabo country park.
A view across Scrabo
Portstewart Old Course 18th hole
While the rich play the Strand, the middle class lose their balls on the Riverside, down at the other end of town, hanging out with the cheap pitch and putts is the old course.
The third, and often overlooked of the Portstewart trio is the old course. The seaside holes, of which there are five, are the most interesting of the 18. As they demand some accurate shooting, and they also give you a taste of the randomness of links golf.
Portstewart Old Course Hole three
The inland holes are fine, and provide an opportunity to hit the long ball. But be warned, the inland holes don’t take much water.
For the golfer looking for value, the Old Course should be high up on the list. Because for less than 15 quid you can get 18 holes of fun on a Saturday, and even cheaper during the week.
Location: On the coast road leading out of Portstewart heading for Portrush.
Cost: I paid 12 on a Saturday in winter
WB’s favourite hole: The par three third, which is a 170 yard carry across a rocky bay.
Brook running across 1st and 18th holes
The par three protected by a moat
The reason why I took such a shine to Ardminnan was because it is a course that almost doesn’t want to be found.
There are no big signs tempting you to its twists and turns, no website bragging about it’s water hazards and fine views across strangford, and even the locals will try and tell you that this course is not as good as its more famous neighbour Kirkistown.
But for me, Ardminnan is a humble track, with many qualities that make it worth while to be sought out.
There’s a few opportunities to pull out the long stick, but they also have a challenging par three, that demands a 180 yard tee shot to a green that is protected by a moat.
The course welcomes visitors on Saturday’s and they’ll charge you 20 on a Saturday, and 15 the rest of the week.
Location: At the southern east point of the Ards peninsula on the site of Ardminnan Caravan park.
Cost: I paid 20 in April.
WB’s favourite hole: The par three fifth, which is a 190 yard shot to an island green.
A view across the fairways at Ardminnan