Ardglass Golf Club
Designers: David Jones
If golf courses are judged by first impressions alone, then the Ardglass Golf Club in County Down is nothing short of elite. After all, how often is one welcomed by a 14th century castle turned clubhouse? Once the home of the Fitzgeralds, Earls of Kildare, the castle is now recognized as the oldest golf clubhouse in the world – a distinction that even the R&A has never bothered to dispute.
The clubhouse is a source of pride for the staff and membership, both of which are friendly and eager to share the history of their little club. If these walls could talk, oh the stories they would tell – and some claim the walls actually do talk. From the 13th century shield bearing the City of London crest, to numerous other artifacts found throughout the clubhouse, the history at Ardglass is so rich that one might forget it was golf that brought us here.
The incredible first impression at Ardglass carries over onto the course, where arguably the best opening pair of holes on the Emerald Isle awaits. Set at the foot of the castle with a view of the Irish Sea that is nothing short of spellbinding, the tee shot on the first hole is dramatic to say the least. The hole then climbs to a green that offers the best panorama on the course, with the possible exception of the very next tee box. The daunting par-3 2nd is a truly spectacular hole set on the edge of the cliffs, where a deep and watery grave known as “Howd’s Hole” awaits most shots that flirt with the left side.
Though a little less compelling than the opening pair, most of the next 9 holes run along the edge of the cliffs with equally splendid views. The stretch from 9 to 11 is a relatively recent addition to the course, and is considered by many to be the best group of holes at Ardglass. After such a lengthy stretch of phenomenal views, it’s only natural that the course should take a break toward the end, before capping off with yet another breathtaking view from the final tee.
No experience at Ardglass would be complete without stepping inside the castle one last time. A visit to the upstairs lounge is a fitting way to end this remarkable day, that’s made even more exceptional by the discovery of the outside patio nearby.
Although it plays in a different league than its more famous neighbors, Royal County Down and Royal Portrush, Ardglass can certainly hold its own against many of the elite courses throughout Ireland. The club has mastered the art of the first impression, but there’s little doubt that the memories from this entire day will be lasting.