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Five holes that make Ardglass Golf Club one of Northern Ireland's top golfing attractions

In a spectacular year for golf in Northern Ireland, we take a look at one of the country's top courses

The green at Ardglass' spectacular par three 12th hole.
The green at Ardglass' spectacular par three 12th hole.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Think of golf in Ireland and immediately scenes of lush fairways carved into the rugged coastal terrain springs to mind.

The trio of Portstewart, Castlerock and, of course, the 2019 Open Championship course at Royal Portrush make the north coast a top attraction for golfing tourists.

Plenty more of those are sure to arrive off the back of the year's major championship coming back across the Irish Sea for the first time since 1951.

Arguably the jewel in the Northern Irish golfing crown Royal County Down, of course, attracts them all to the south east of the country and while they're there, Ardglass GC is another top destination

Here, we've taken a look at five of the top holes that await:

1. Hole 1, Lamb's Lough, Par 4, 335 yards

Arguably up there with the most picturesque opening holes in golf, the Irish Sea cuts viciously into the fairway as rocks and cliffs gracefully guide the way into the Irish Sea. Any drive tweaked the slightest hair left and it's gobbled up, next stop the Isle of Man. Fortunately, you've got the rest of Ulster to aim at down the right. Swing  a successfully blocked tee-shot out of the way and you're off on another wild Irish links adventure. The raised green is nestled amid even higher jagged rock - accuracy required.

2. Hole 2, Howd's Hole, Par 3, 167 yards

The spectacular start continues across another cavernous cove with, speaking from experience, the cutting breeze usually straight into your face. Even the relatively modest 167 yards can take anything up to a wood depending on the wind speed. Strike it true to hold your line and find the safety of the short grass.

3. Hole 7, The Cottage, Par 3, 219 yards

Not the most thrilling of holes that will ever be played, it's the quaint charm that pulls it up with the most well-known holes on the course. Long, straight, no hazards - it's largely featureless, but that only acts to accentuate the traditional Irish stone cottage that sits just a few yards off the edge of the putting surface. If you happen to push your tee shot right, you've got the mother of all flops shots from a tight lie and over the whitewashed walls. Good luck.

In the middle of summer, the fairway acts like a runway - get any sort of low shot going straight and it's certain to get up. However, the skill is to make sure it stops before the thick rough that lies beyond the green.

The hole is absolutely unique and packed with inimitable charm.

But don't go right.

4. Hole 11, St John's, Par 5, 488 yards

In my opinion, up there with the greatest holes Ireland has to offer and a constant nuisance to golfers of any ability.

With a ravine slicing the fairway in two half-way to the green, the driver can normally be kept in the bag in favour of the (supposedly) more accurate rescue club. Push your first or second shot right and it belongs to the ocean as it careers over the boundary stone wall, pull it left and it disappears into the local flora that covers the steep descent, which overlooks a narrow fairway.

Safely negotiate your way to within 100 yards and a sizeable green is your reward. Birdie time. But it rarely works out that way.

Spectacular.

5. Hole 12, Cathlin, Par 3, 198 yards

It's the last of the notorious coast-side card-wreckers as you tee off high on the cliffs, your first shot plunging down to the water-level green. Accuracy, as always, is paramount and the coastal wind is rarely helpful. Negotiate this, and you do your chances of a pleasing score the world of good.

Did you know...?

Ardglass GC's claim to fame is that it is home to the oldest building used as a golf club house in the world. The present building started its existence as a fortified warehouse that operated as a safe haven for 15th century importers and exporters. The initial construction of the castle started no later than 1405 and by the 18th century it was converted into a family home, with a new extension being completed around 1788.

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Ardglass GC's historic clubhouse.

Northern Ireland beaten in 2018 Writer Cup

Home advantage at Ardglass and fellow County Down gem Warrenpoint GC were no help to the Northern Ireland team as they suffered defeat in last year's Writer Cup.

The Republic of Ireland visitors cruised to success after, notably, two outstanding performances from award-winning Independent writer Vincent Hogan to defeat the Belfast Telegraph's Gareth Hanna at both venues.

Warrenpoint GC is a parkland course that consistently produces the cream of Ulster's golfing crop. Regular winners of the Ulster section of the Senior Cup and Barton Shield, for Ireland's top amateurs, the course is home to the likes of Raymond Burns, Paddy Gribben and Ronan Rafferty of the past as well as current Ireland international Colm Campbell in the present.

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Ardglass' 11th green, looking ahead to the par three 12th.

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