Portstewart Golf Club was founded way back in 1894, but the origins of golf being played here date back even further to 1889. The Strand course is a bit of a hybrid, a mix of the old and the new. Major development took place in the late 1980s when the layout was updated and seven new holes were constructed in the virgin sand dune range called “Thistly Hollow”. The new Strand course, designed by Des Giffin, opened for play in 1992.
And what an exhilarating golf course this is, set amidst imposing, gigantic sand dunes with panoramic views across the Atlantic mouth of Lough Foyle to the Inishowen peninsula beyond.
The Strand is an incredibly challenging and thoroughly enjoyable golf course, with one of the best opening nine holes in golf.The 1st hole is an absolute stunner, one of golf’s most intimidating, a downhill 425-yard par four. There is a plethora of great holes here at Portstewart Golf Club; especially memorable are two of the new par threes, the 3rd and the 6th. The 3rd is a challenging single shotter, measuring 207 yards, whilst the 6th, measuring a mere 140 yards with a plateau green, is also a tough cookie and will stay in the mind for a long time.
James W Finegan on the course: “How good is the Strand course at Portstewart? For my money, just one rung below County Down and Portrush and under no circumstances to be missed.” From Where Golf is Great – the finest courses of Scotland and Ireland. One of the best and most comprehensive golf course books we’ve ever read.
Credit must go to the designer because the new holes blend seamlessly with the old holes. Sometimes, when new land is taken in, there is a punctuation between the old and the new. Not so at the Strand.
A golfing trip to Northern Ireland would not be complete without a round on the Strand course. The members here are very warm and welcoming and if you add this course to a round at both Royal Portrush and Royal County Down, you will have played three of the world’s finest links courses.
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We played Portstewart in Spring after Portrush, and two holes in the duney front nine were out of commission, so naturally it would suffer by comparison. However, it was clearly a top quality course with some notable par 4's. Lovely day, friendly members and some great holes. Memory is suffering at this remove due to time and tour ale by this point, but a really enjoyable game of golf and would love to return when fully open.
Played the Strand 10 days ago on a beautiful Sunday morning after a Saturday afternoon round at Portrush. Obviously Portrush is universally loved and scheduled to hold an open soon, but I wonder whether the the ratings would be much closer if the Strand had a "Royal". I absolutely loved Portstewart, and yes, the first 12 or so holes in the dunes are very dramatic (plans to add two more I am told), but the balance of the holes are strong as well. I would say the only place it suffers compared to Portrush was the transition to the greens which at Portrush is very natural. Both greens had recently been thatched so cannot adequately compare, but was told Portstewart generally has more true greens. My view, actually preferred Portstewart. Members were great too.
I can’t believe it’s just over nine years since I last played here. The biggest change in that time is undoubtedly the construction of an enormous new clubhouse, which is one of the swankiest golfing premises I’ve ever set foot in – there can be no doubt that Portstewart now has facilities befitting one of the Top 100 courses in Great Britain & Ireland. Everybody mentions the excellence of the front nine and rightly so as it’s a sensational collection of golf holes. The par threes at 3 and 6 are especially good holes, along with the strongest hole on the card, the 449-yard 5th, where the fairway narrows considerably as it approaches a demanding two-tiered green. The 4th tee box in the dunes behind the 3rd green has also just been upgraded (large swathes of invasive buckthorn bushes have been removed, painstakingly replaced with hand sown marram grass) so it's good to see the club continue to develop the landscape around this fantastic stretch of holes. The inward half, played around the periphery of the dune system, is bound to suffer in comparison to what’s gone before because the fairways unfortunately occupy less spectacular terrain. Nonetheless, there’s plenty to keep you engaged as you head for home. In particular, the 11th is a terrific par four, with an elevated green that’s fronted by a severe dip in front of the putting surface and this terrific hole is then followed by the short par three 12th, which plunges sharply downhill to a green that’s protected by a nest of pot bunkers on the right hand side. The round concludes with three demanding par fours (index 6, 2 and 8) that are routed across the tumbling high ground next to the clubhouse so the golfing challenge at Portstewart is sustained right to the very end. It’s easy to see why the Strand layout remains one of the mainstay venues in the elite North & West Coast Links of Ireland portfolio and it's not to be missed from any golfing itinerary when visiting N. Ireland. Jim McCann.
Roughly translated... Portstewart has spectacular holes, very large dunes make the place unique. You should play this course if you travel to Northern Ireland. Excellent golf course.
The first 9 holes in Portstewart have nothing to envy to other famous courses such as Royal County Down and Royal Portrush. Among these giant dunes the sense of isolation I experienced was unparalleled except perhaps in Enniscrone. Any of these holes is fantastic and original, but can stand the 2nd, a photogenic par 4 carved into a giant dune, the par-5 4th, the 5th, a par 4 really complicated, or the 6th, a superb par 3. Pity the back nine not follow the same trend, because, otherwise, Portstewart could match its neighbors above mentioned.
The Strand first nine are some of the nicest holes I have been lucky to play in my whole life and my luck was such I could play them twice! I was on a business trip with 24 Argentine golfers which started on a Sunday, but as I arrived Friday the chance to play The Strand course on Saturday was big and I went. But it was one of those very rainy days and after 9 holes my Irish partners decided to quit, while if needed to continue this Argentinean Boy Scout was ready!! But as I was going to play it on Monday, I just went to the bar for a hot soup and a burger …
I came back on Monday when the parking was in a sort of revolution as they were filming “Game of Thrones” on the nearby beach. It was full of trucks and the crew was all around the place. Now the day was sunny and breezy, a perfect day to play. We have to start at the Club House, which is modern but elevated above all the place and gives you a full sight of almost all the place and the beach. People in the Club were very warm and the caddies for the group were all members of the Club. They do it for fun and really enjoy sharing the knowledge of the course with visitors.
The front 9 are the nicest piece of land we had in the entire trip, going around inmense dunes with views of the beach, Ocean and in some point on a clear day you can see Ballyliffin on the other side of the Bay. Although the course is playable, any big mistake will be big numbers, no chance of getting safe after a bad shot. Hole #1 is a downhill dog leg to the right par 4 where finding fairway is 90% of the job done. Then #2 from an elevated tee downhill and then and upright second shot and #3 is a long and tough par 3. Holes #4 and #5 are great, tough and nice, before arriving to extremely nice and short par 3 6th where a miss will be a disaster, it is hard to get back to this elevated green. Then reachable par 5 7th gives you a nice birdie chance but do not miss the second shot on any side, although from the right there is some kind of recovery. Then 8th and 9th are two great 4s, where placing the tee shot is the real clue to have a birdie chance.
After a nice beer at the Half Way House, get ready for some different holes, more links style with less level changes and parallel to the River. Par 5 14th is a great one, before the last three 4s finishing where score is not easy. It is a good test, a fun place and a very nice setting, I have to say that it is not at the level of Royal County Down and Royal Portrush but it is a must, you have to come and enjoy it. It hosted The Amateur in 2014 and the R&A will not make the event on a bad course! A big star to Club Authorities, I was treated as a Member both days and everyone there makes you feel at Home. If you are off to Northern Ireland, do not forget to play here.
I played Portstewart last week. Course is a good test. Greens were lovely. Some of the holes were a bit strange, but over all an enjoyable day. I would reccommend coming and playing Portstewart if in the area, as you will no doubt have a good day, but be warned - it can be wet in November, so maybe better to wait until summer.
After we arrived in Portrush to play the links on the coast of Northern Ireland, Portstewart was the course that all the locals raved about. After playing Castlerock, both courses at Royal Portrush our group ventured to the town of Portstewart to tackle the Strand course and we were not disappointed in any way, shape, or form. This course is a tremendous test of golf. The front nine plays through an awesome set of dunes. The setting is magnificent, but the holes are truly excellent strategic tests in their own right. Our groups thought that the uphill 461 yard 5th was probably the most difficult hole we played on our trip to the Dublin area and Northern Ireland. We had started on the blue tees, and were asked to move up to the whites on #8, and in truth it was a merciful move for our group of 4 low single digit handicap golfers. This is one tough course! The back nine is not as scenic or exciting as the front, but is still an excellent test of classic links golf. The last three par 4's are all excellent holes and our group finished tired, beaten but enthralled by this excellent course. I would compare this course favorably with the excellent links at Hillside, in Southport, perhaps giving the edge to Portstewart. Great, great course. Richard Smith, Knoxville, Tennessee
We too played this course after Portrush and Castlerock. We expected little, and were therefore amazed by this wonderful golf course. Our caddie, Will, was a treat and led us around this wonderful track. The first nine are amongst the best in the world. The second nine allows you some breathing space and some birdie opportunities. The Par 3's were excellent. Fantastic clubhouse with great views. Take your camera along for wonderful photo shots. Go play this course, you won't regret it.Ebrahim Vahed, South Africa
My playing partner had given this course a big build up having previously played it. He said that the front nine is as good a nine holes of links golf as you can get and I can't say he was wrong, if the back nine was the same it would be a world beater. The view standing on the first tee was stunning with the beach to the right and the dunes out in front of you and I couldn't wait to get started. It's not a long course and probably feels a bit shorter because most of the tee shots are from the top of dunes driving down to the fairways. The greens were quick and true even in March, they must be lightening in the summer. As always in Ireland you are made to feel welcome by everyone you encounter. This course is an absolute must play for anyone who loves links golf.
This course is a real treat to play. It’s a struggle to find anything negative about this course as the condition of the course when I played in glorious sunshine in March was fantastic. The front nine is feast for the eyes with the 1st and 2nd holes setting an incredibly high benchmark with perhaps just the 3rd hole being a bit too ‘in your face’ for my taste. It’s been commented before that the back nine struggles to compete with glorious front but it’s no ugly sister and although not as visually stunning is still real links golf and a great test. The Clubhouse is one of the best I’ve seen and the lunches are excellent as is the welcome you get from all the staff. Situated around an hours drive from Belfast Int Airport, this course should be included on any itinerary of the area.