pics to follow
Based on my experiences when I came up and played a few courses in September last year, signposting for golf courses in Northern Ireland is far superior to down south. Sadly I am finding that this is not the case, so my thanks to the folks behind the bar, in the pro shops and the punters who I accost in car parks. Without their directions I would never have found Balmoral or Belvoir Park (or countless others).
Belvoir Park has been mentioned to me on so many occasions I have lost count, so when I arrived at the club and walked out onto their balcony, high above the course, I was thrilled to see that it deserved its praise. The food was good, the atmosphere was good and the course was in superb condition (Open Week had just started).
The thing about my book is that it is subjective – utterly subjective – so when I arrived at the pretty downhill par three 4th, I was taken aback by the bunkers that cluttered the front of the green. They completely detract from the beauty of the hole (the par three 8th is the same) and yet these bunkers are regarded as brilliant by many, as they date back to Colt, the original designer.
I was stopped by the course ranger as I played 15. All friendly, mind, but he asked if I was the journalist who was supposed to be playing with the pro the following morning. Unfortunately, Ann, the General Manager had arranged this for me, but she hadn’t mentioned it during our phone calls and I was a day ahead of schedule. Having only played with one other pro on my travels (Philip at Ardglass) I was disappointed to have missed the opportunity.
Then it was on to Castlereagh Hills, a municipal course, where I encountered Edel (who had arranged for me to play) and Elaine who was taking green fees. It was all very friendly until I was asked to pay the £15 green fee. Shock, horror. A green fee – what’s that? Fortunately, Aileen, a lady who was also part of the conversation was able to help. Clearly she carried some weight and got me out on the course for free. Edel wrote a little note on a post-it and I handed it to William, the course ranger on the 1st hole. Not exactly official, but it worked.
The clubhouse at Castlereagh is an impressive, new facility, used not just for golf but for plenty of other council function. And there’s a restaurant too. Compare this with the old clubhouse that stands up by the 18th tee box. To say it was small is to insult small, but have a look at the pic and you’ll see what I mean. The glass structure in the distance is the new clubhouse.
Then it was off to Shandon Park – and thanks for the directions, again.
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