Personal Finance

The missing link

Ranganath Thota | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on October 09, 2016

Third in the 10-part golf destination series, Royal County Down of Ireland is now the talk of the town

It’s perhaps a best-kept secret. Plenty of golfers are surprised to learn that a course that they have not heard of until now has been the No 1 links course in the world for many years! The reason is probably because the Royal County Down golf course has never hosted the British Open tournament (those open to all golfers); why it has not is a mystery.

The course was in the news when it staged the Irish Open in 2015; this attracted a lot of attention as well as awareness about the golf course. It possibly explains how this course jumped from No 5 to the No 1 position in the world.

So here is more about Royal County Down golf course from Ireland.



History

It runs along the coastline near the small town of Newcastle. Exposed to the Irish Sea, it is set against the magnificent backdrop of the mountains of Mourne. A Scottish teacher named George LB initially designed this links style course in 1889 as a nine-hole layout.

The Championship course links run along the shores of Dundrum Bay. Links are the oldest style of golf course, typically found adjacent to a sea and sandy terrain. The layout twists back and forth to provide a different view from almost every hole. This is easily the most scenic links course in the world and one of the toughest layouts to tame.

The bunkers (shallow pits filled with sand) here are deep and ringed with a dense collar of grass that make them look more terrifying than they actually are. No wonder they are called the bearded bunkers. The course is brutal and difficult, so do not expect a scorecard you would be proud to boast of.

Where’s the Caddy?

The course is not open to visitors for play on wednesday, thursday afternoon, saturday and sunday mornings. Buggies are not available, while clubs, trolleys, rental shoes are standard hires. This is a good course to hire a caddy as there are plenty of blind tee shots (a shot that doesn’t allow the golfer to see where the ball would land, such as hitting onto an elevated green from below).

Alternative course

The Golf club has another 18 hole-course called the Annesley Links. This course shares the same setting as the championship course with views of the sea, dunes and mountains. However, the green fees are relatively lower at $60 for a round. It’s a much shorter layout at just 4,617 yards and plays to a par of 66. Par is the predetermined number of strokes that a golfer with zero handicap requires to complete all the holes.

Holidaying there: Fly into Dublin and stay here. This allows you to travel around Ireland and play its top golf courses as well as visit some of its fantastic tourist sights. The top golf courses around Dublin are Portmarnock (one of top five links course in Ireland), The Island golf course (a top 10 links course), County Louth (a top 10 links course) and The K Club (Irish Open 2015 venue).

How to get there: Located in the town of Newcastle, it is one hour south of Belfast by road. If you fly into Dublin, the course is a two hour drive north of Dublin.

Ideally, plan a 5N/6D holiday with five rounds of golf. Hire a car and stay in one of the many wonderful hotels in Dublin. Dublin is the capital as well as the largest city in Ireland. From the Dublin castle to its Georgian quartersand the famous Temple bar — you have it all in Dublin.

More about the area: Newcastle is a small town in County Down, Northern Ireland and is a popular seaside resort. The town lies on the Irish coast with a population of about 7,500 people and is home to the highest mountain in Ireland — Slieve Donard — that is part of the Mourne mountain range. The town is also known for its Mourne granite which has been used in cities like London and New York; the base of the 9/11 monument in New York is made of this granite. The town is the activity resort for Northern Island with its beaches, mountains, forests and walking trails. The Mourne Mountains were the inspiration for C S Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.

When to visit: May to October is the best time to visit the place, with the peak season being July and August.

What to do other than golf: Visit the Cooley distillery that produces Irish malt and grain whisky; it is located south of the golf course in County Louth, Ireland. Visit the top tourist sights — Donard Forest; The Dundrum castle (a beautiful Norman castle with views of the sea and Mourne Mountains); Tollymore forest park and the 6,000-year-old fragile sand dune system at the Murlough National reserve.

The writer is a passionate golfer and founder of Golfgaga.com

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