News:

This discussion group is best enjoyed using Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari.


Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce? New
« on: June 25, 2009, 04:42:07 AM »
Our last day in Ulster was reserved for Portstewart - the front 9 of which could be latched onto Carne without one noticing any difference in design principles.  It is without doubt one of the wildest rides one can have playing golf.  One of the principals of the club, Des Griffin, was charged with designing seven new holes in huge dunes and he chose to leave what he could to mother nature. This part of the course is so different from the practiced hand of Colt at Portrush that it is almost like a kick in the head.  With all the modern design formulas and pat design methods we tend to forget that at one time golf used to be more like the front nine of Portstewart.  That isn't to say a more experienced archie couldn't have created a dramatic set of holes while still making them more playable than the current version, but it is refreshing to cast an eye over wild ground knowing the designer was probably flying by the seat of his pants and with a very small budget. 

Despite its faults, I think Portstewart is a success and a decent degree of credit must go to the back nine as well.  The land is certainly less rambunctious, but there are several fine holes which would compliment the best of courses.  Finally, while generally not terribly creative with some notable exceptions, the greens were in excellent condition and far better than the two courses at Portrush.  They were firm and running at a proper speed of 9-10 (these days, I find links usually running at 7ish) which made putting and chipping a challenge.  The greens didn't look all that great, but they ran as well as at Nairn and Kiawah - the best conditioned sets of greens I have seen in a long time. 

The opener is truly memorable.  The Strand is to the right and the fairway to left.  One must keep left for a view of the green on the approach.  The hole is let down slightly by the extreme flatness of the green, but this is still a great intro to Portstewart.




If possible, the 2nd kicks it up a gear or two with a crazy looking hole that doesn't seem to have much room to swing away.  Flat bellies can reach the plateau short of the right green-side bunker, but the rest of us have to decide to layup or try to run one up to or past the narrow left side of the fairway.


At this point on the trip I was bored with drop shot par 3s.  I usually find them to be the least interesting type of one-shotter.  At least Portstewart's 3rd has the interesting take of not wanting to be long as the chip/putt back is tricky.


4 is a very difficult three-shotter which snakes its way through the dunes. 


One can see the huge false front making this approach very dicey.  The player has to carry the centre of the green or bail a bit left, from where its a tough two putt.


We now turn back and face the brutal 5th.  This has to be one of the hardest par 4s I have ever encountered.  All seems well from the tee.


A long drive can still leave about 210 to the hole.  This is a huge green of some 55 yards in length and the flag was ALL the way back in true sucker position.  From here one can see the problems posed for the guy who can't reach in two. 


We turn once again to play a great little par 3.  Nothing but a distance control shot will do as the green falls away on three sides.  I really like how the green is peninsula-like as it is attached to the dune.  I suspect the dune was topped on the left side to create the green.  The green is very tricky for those who cheat a bit right hoping for some saving grace from the dune as green slopes toward the front. 


The 7th is a reachable par 5 if one wants to take on the risk off the tee and for the approach.  The aggressive play is to shape the tee shot right or fly the left edge of the right dune.


From this layup position the dangers of going for this green in two become evident.


The 8th is an odd hole because of its blindness and 90 degree dogleg left.  One can easily take on the corner, but I am not sure much advantage is gained as bunkers and harsh rough out right await the less than perfect strike.  This green is one of the notable exceptions and has a lot of undulations making putting difficult.


The viewer is probably wondering how playable this course is in a 25mph wind.  I reckon it would be very harsh indeed.  The course is fairly long from the forward tees, some 6600 yards, the greens are quick, the driving and approaching is exacting, yet the SSS is 71 from a 72 par.  I think Portstewart is every bit as difficult as Portrush, but Portrush has a 73 SSS from a similar tee length...I don't understand this discrepency. 

The 9th is another demanding drive requiring a bit of shape to the right or layup.


From wedge range it is possible to see the typical green at Portstewart.  Rather than undulations, the greens tend to be tilted making putting/chipping from the high sides difficult. 


The back 9 starts with an interesting hole which leads to less interesting land down by the River Bann, though this a good hole.  Its hard to figure where to place a drive for the humpty bumpty approach to a front to back running green.


The grand golf continues on the 11th.  The land pushes shots toward the bunkers and blind approach positions.


From the far left of the fairway the state of the rough can be seen.  It is thick and nasty!


I like the drive, but the approach makes the hole.  The green is very similar to #5.


Despite the somewhat unforgiving nature of some shots, my biggest criticism of the course are the par 3s.  Not much imagination went into the design of a few of them.


The par 5 13th starts out well, but finishes rather tamely on over-bunkered flat land.  #14 takes us back to proper links and a tumbling par 5 which is great fun.




Yet another drop shotter - heavy sigh.


The 16th is a cracker!  It plays longer than its 389 yards and will likely have a blind second.  Even from well in front of the driving zone the green is hard to see.  Perhaps its that brand new clubhouse which distracts us!  It is ginormous and not a little ott.  Even so, it is far better than what existed previously.  We are greeted with another blind drive for 17.  Once cresting the hill the volcano green is on display.


On a lightly bunkered course I believe the 18th is the only hole with bunkers protecting both sides of the fairway - that has to be a good thing!  As with a great many holes, our visuals are messed with.  It is problematic to get a handle on how far a tee shot will go because of the uphill/downhill nature of the terrain.  Other than the wind, this may be Portstewart's greatest asset.  The approach is very demanding due to the green running away from the fairway and the sheer length into the wind. 

That then is Portstewart.  Blessed with some of the best dunes in golf and a possessor of the problems that can come with such wild land. Even with the three or four holes which are less than what they could be, I have to say I have a lot of time for the course.  The unpredictable nature of the game is well in evidence at Portstewart, much like it is at Carne.  I do believe the course would be a bit unforgiving in the wind and especially tough for high cappers, but I thought that about much of Portrush.  For some reason Portrush gets a pass as a "championship" course while Portstewart is often deemed too difficult for holiday golf.  To me, its all just golf and we should give credit where credit is due.  2009

I think my age is starting to tell on these links trips.  More and more I find myself seeking out forward tees and cozy bars.  It may be surprising, but my favourite of the three courses on this trip is the least heralded, Portrush Valley Links.  It isn't a world class course (whatever that may mean), particularly unique or necessarily one of the courses one would seek out on a trip to the area, so I wouldn't give it a star.  It is, however, plenty good enough for the likes of me and sums up what I like best about golf; affordable green fees, good golf terrain with some hard and easy shots, but most of all, interesting shots.  Holes like the 5th of VL are why I enjoy the game and find myself seeking out the second and third tier courses of GB&I.  This is where my future lies in the game.   

Ciao 
« Last Edit: June 10, 2020, 11:36:06 PM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022:

Scott Warren

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2009, 05:00:12 AM »
Once again, Sean, my already strong desire to play a course has kicked up another gear after seeing this - and the Portrush threads. Thanks. Did you guys play Castlerock as well?

Cristian

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2009, 07:09:47 AM »
Sean,

Once again a great pictorial; I played Portstewart about 8 years ago. Do you know anything about the history of the course? When I was there a few holes seemed new, ie 2-6? but others seemed quite old ie 16-18?. Maybe it is just my imagination, but I wonder if you had the same feeling.

We were told at the time that Darren Clarke, although not quite a flatbelly, once drove the greenside bunker on two...
« Last Edit: June 25, 2009, 07:11:37 AM by Cristian Willaert »

Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +0/-1
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2009, 07:14:53 AM »
Sean:

When I saw the title of your thread, my first two thoughts were:

1)  Not!  and
2)  Actually Sean would probably enjoy Portrush (Valley) the most of those three courses up there.

Glad to see you got to the same conclusion about the second point, anyway.  As to the first, I think it would be easy to get Dunluce ahead of Portstewart in your thoughts if they gave either one of us a fairway mower and a day to reset their priorities.

Rory Connaughton

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2009, 08:05:03 AM »
Sean great photos.  Played Portstewart twice at the beginning of June.  Our group really enjoyed the course.  Obviously a tale of two nines.  Almost like playing nine on Glashedy and nine on the Old at Ballyliffin.  We were joined by a group of member/caddies, including a past captain, who could not have been more hospitable and proud of their club.  Justifiably so.  The stretch of 4-7 is as good as any links golf I have played. 

David_Tepper

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2009, 08:33:27 AM »
Cristian W. -

Yes, holes 2-6 are quite new relative to the rest of the course. I know those holes were in play when I was there in 1994. I believe those holes were built a few years before then.

DT 

jonathan_becker

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2009, 09:05:05 AM »
Well done Sean....I just wanted to say that I enjoy all of your photo tours. Keep em coming.

archie_struthers

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2009, 10:21:31 AM »
 8) ;D ;)


Sean , great sutff .....Portstewart was on the itinerary of our Northern Ireland trip a few years ago...it was fabulous !  However , I do think it falls short of both Portrush and Royal County Down  in a closer than expected comparison.  The par threes at the aforementioned courses are superior to those at Portstewart , though the 6th ( the short par three) was quite special .

 We played it in September and all the conditions were superior, but the weather was awful.  The day we played  Portstewart it alternated from cool and breezy at the start, with a torrential downpour in the middle holes , then hot and humid at the finish....all in all the weather was frightful for most of our trip, and I'm not real particular ( about weather LOL)

The finishing holes are quite good at PStewart  , but there is a lull on the holes running along the canal, good holes , but nothing like the start .....the second hole was one of the neatest "quirky" holes I've ever played  .  The start is quite good,  and after four holes you could be four over or two under without hitting it much different , quite the challenge for precise yardage and icourse management.  

Portstewart is a real treat , and a must play when in the north of Ireland.....!!!


p.s   our caddies an interesting group of members , locals  were just great
« Last Edit: June 25, 2009, 11:02:16 AM by archie_struthers »

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce? New
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2009, 10:36:51 AM »
Thanks all.

Christian

I don't know much about Portstewart though Willie Park Jr was meant to have been involved. 

Tom D

You are wrong and right.  I do think that as the courses stand today there isn't enough difference (mainly the quality of the short holes to place Portrush and Portstewart in separate classes.  P'rush blows P'stewart away with its par 3s, P'stewart's greens are in superior condition - to the point where it is VERY noticeable.  However, if the mower was taken to Portrush and they improved the quality of their greens there is a strong possibility it could go to another level.  Portstewart doesn't have that luxury because its ferocity mainly comes from lay of the land design rather than rough.

People seem to say the back 9 is somehow lacking at Portstewart.  There are quite a few good holes there and a welcome respite from the crazy/difficult holes on the front. 

Ciao
« Last Edit: July 15, 2017, 05:08:15 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022:

Tom Huckaby

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2009, 10:39:06 AM »
Sean - another great review - thanks for doing all of these.

But you missed one question.. did you play Castlerock?

That's a personal fave of mine as my cousin is a member (and one time club champ).. which I have mentioned several times in here.. in fact ad nauseam.  Love the place.  In fact man you shoulda warned me, I would have set you up with him at any of these courses and he would have been happy to host you at Castelrock.. he is a truly great great man and any match with him is a pleasure indeed.  Oh well, next time.

 ;D

Rory Connaughton

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2009, 10:52:38 AM »
Sean:

  Interesting comments on green conditioning.  When we played RPR and PS at the beginning of June, all of the greens were slow but the greens at RPR were a bit quicker. The greens on the front at PS were also significantly quicker than on the back.
I usually end these trips with a round in or around Dublin and the greens at Portmarnock were much much quicker and more true than anywhere else we played on the trip.

Dale Jackson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2009, 12:50:01 PM »
Thanks Sean, for bringing back some great memories.  I played Portstewart 8 years ago and absolutely loved it.  Great links golf, not the best "classic" course but great fun.

As for wind, the first day we were to play it, the course was actually closed because of high winds - I am guessing in excess of 50 mph.  The next day it was down to a "manageable" 35 mph, the idea of shooting any kind of score was laughable but very interesting to see what could be done with the golf ball.
I've seen an architecture, something new, that has been in my mind for years and I am glad to see a man with A.V. Macan's ability to bring it out. - Gene Sarazen

Matt_Ward

Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2009, 01:04:08 AM »
Sean A:

Be curious to know from your time at Portstewart -- how wide are the fairways and is there enough playable rough grass to permit approach play. My memory from my lone visit there a few years back was that the course had more playability than Dunluce which at the time I played it was quite a bit narrower and had hay-like rough just a few yards off any number of the holes.

Ian Dalzell

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2009, 12:42:50 PM »
Guys
I grew up on Portstewart, being a member there most of my life until 2-years ago, when it finally dawned on me that I am in the States for good (15-years and counting).  The new holes (2-8) were indeed designed by Des Giffin, ad 5-handicapper at the time and school teacher.  A great guy really, and the club saved mucho $$ by using Des versus a name archie.  They are some of the best holes on the course, as many here have eluded to, and it really is another special place in the world of golf.

Matt - the fairways are considerably wide the RPGC and also the rough is not quite as think and gnarly as Portrush.  RPGC also has an irrigation system whereas P'Stewart does not, so the fairways to me run out much more at P'Stewart.

Quite possibly one of the best opening tee shot VIEWS in all of golf, and I always felt 1-over thru 5 was a great start.  Wonderful members, many of whom caddie for visiting Americans (including myself at one time which explains why I am now in the golf business in the US - thanks Jay).  If you are ever there, say hi to Michael Moss the GM for me, Alan Hunter the long time Pro and Del our bar manager.

Ian Dalzell

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2009, 03:46:10 AM »
Sean A:

Be curious to know from your time at Portstewart -- how wide are the fairways and is there enough playable rough grass to permit approach play. My memory from my lone visit there a few years back was that the course had more playability than Dunluce which at the time I played it was quite a bit narrower and had hay-like rough just a few yards off any number of the holes.

Matt

Portrush still has harsh rough not far off fairways.  Contrary to popular belief, this is its greatest weakness.  Offer another 10 yards of fairway and get the greens rolling properly and Portrush is as good as they come.  For the most part I think Portsewart's fairways are smidgen wider and the rough is a tad less harsh in places.  Porstewart becomes problematic because of the rugged terrain.  Sometimes there is very space to hit shots - sometimes tighter than anything at Portrush - on some holes misses can be far less forgiving.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022:

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #15 on: October 08, 2013, 03:42:54 PM »
Tacking this query/request for advice on to what seems like the most appropriate thread - a very nice photo tour thread by the way - I could find.

Question/request for advice - is there a more difficult and more brutal, both to play and to walk, stretch of links golf in GB&I than holes 1 to 9 on Portstewarts Strand course?

All the best

Jeff Johnston

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #16 on: October 09, 2013, 10:22:13 AM »
Thomas, as Exhibit A I would put up the Sandy Hills course at Rosapenna - I believe the designer (Mr Ruddy) and owners set out with the intention of creating a big, hairy links, and by God they succeeded. Links golf on steroids - lots of elevation changes, shots across dune valleys etc. It is 7 or 8 years since I was there and I think they have intentionally thinned out a lot of the really hairy rough since - need to get back and see it again. Plus it is in one of the loveliest spots on earth, with a magnificent pub just round the road too (Harbour Bar).

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #17 on: October 13, 2013, 04:16:06 PM »
So we have Rosapenna's Sandy Hills as a suggestion for a more difficult and more brutal stretch of links golf in GB&I, both to play and to walk, than the first-9 at Portstewarts Strand course.

Are there any others that compare or exceed 1-9 of the Strand at Portstewart?

I've heard/read herein how the Cashen course at Ballyliffin is pretty difficult/brutal to play/walk. How does the Cashen compare to the first-9 at Portstewart (Strand)?

All the best

Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +0/-1
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #18 on: October 13, 2013, 04:22:02 PM »
I've heard/read herein how the Cashen course at Ballyliffin is pretty difficult/brutal to play/walk. How does the Cashen compare to the first-9 at Portstewart (Strand)?

The Cashen is very difficult to walk, although they eased it up a bit when they took out the original 12th hole, which was up on the dune tops.  However it is much shorter from the back tees than Portstewart or Sandy Hills, so not as difficult to play except on a pound-for-pound basis.

David_Tepper

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #19 on: October 13, 2013, 06:01:55 PM »
"Question/request for advice - is there a more difficult and more brutal, both to play and to walk, stretch of links golf in GB&I than holes 1 to 9 on Portstewarts Strand course?"

Thomas D. -

As noted in my prior post, it has been some time (now 19+ years) since I played Portstewart, but I don't remember the front-9 there being especially "brutal" to play or walk.

DT

Dónal Ó Ceallaigh

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #20 on: October 13, 2013, 06:51:43 PM »
I don't agree that Sandy Hills is a difficult walk. There are no really tough climbs, just a few blind drives uphill. I also think the difficulty factor of Sandy Hills is overplayed. I played the course a couple of years ago and was a little bemused with all the talk of brutality. I had read a lot on this site about how tough it was, but that certainly wasn't my experience, and I'm not a great player.

Jeff Johnston

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #21 on: October 14, 2013, 04:46:39 AM »
Fair play Donal - I just recall feeling more beaten-up there post-round (and at times during) than anywhere else (although 36 at Ballyliffin the day before might have played a part in that). As I say though, this is going back 7 or 8 years - I need to get back and see it again.

Where would you put up as tough plays / walks in GB&I?

Jeff Johnston

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #22 on: October 14, 2013, 05:01:52 AM »
PS - David Tepper, I'm with you on the playability / walkability of Portstewart's front 9. The gradients aren't out of the ordinary and the golf is testing but fair - albeit that the 5th is as tough a par 4 as you'll play IMO (particularly given their penchant for cutting the hole on the furthest, tiniest shelf of that looong green).

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #23 on: October 14, 2013, 06:27:35 AM »
As to the walkability of the front-9 at Portstewart, I was there recently and although going up severe slopes is pretty fatiguing it was difficult to even keep control of an electric power trolley on several of the downslopes from the tees - 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th come to mind plus other spots like at the dog-leg at the corner of the 8th fairway.

I ought to mention that I played Portstewart from the white blocks. Maybe from the yellows it's quite a bit softer. As to the 5th hole that Jeff mentions, it certainly is one tough hole and that green really is a long one - I've quite a nice photo of the green taken from the left side but can't upload it via Imageshack, too big I-S says, guess that means to many bites. Any ideas how to post it?

So are there any other contenders other than the shorter Cashen and maybe SH/Rosapenna for a more difficult walk/play stretch of links holes in the UK&I than the front-9 at Portstewart? The front-9 at Perranporth is a tough walk but not as tough to play. A few others, Carnoustie comes immediately to mind, are damn tough to play and then a bit more tough on top, but a much easier walk.

A challenge can be a terrific experience so I'd like to know where else to target for a future really tough links visit.

All the best.



Mark Pearce

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PORTSTEWART:The Equal of Dunluce?
« Reply #24 on: August 26, 2016, 10:47:07 AM »
Tacking this query/request for advice on to what seems like the most appropriate thread - a very nice photo tour thread by the way - I could find.

Question/request for advice - is there a more difficult and more brutal, both to play and to walk, stretch of links golf in GB&I than holes 1 to 9 on Portstewarts Strand course?

All the best
If you're looking for a 9 hole stretch, I suggest 4-12 at Askernish.
In July 2022 I will be riding 3 stages of the Tour de France,  in the Alps, to raise money for the William Wates Memorial Trust which is dedicated to providing opportunities for under privileged young adults.  To support the Trust, please visit https://fundraising.wwmt.org/fundraisers/MarkPearce/rid

Tags:
Tags:

An Error Has Occurred!

Call to undefined function theme_linktree()
Back