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
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