Castlerock is a fabulous links course set among rolling sand dunes. Its scenic qualities embrace the river Bann flowing out to the Atlantic, and also eye-catching views of Donegal and on a clear day towards Scotland and the Isle of Islay. An ideal retreat in which to play golf. In 2015, Castlerock was awarded Hidden Gem of Northern Ireland.
Founded in April 1901, the original course comprised of 9 holes and was laid out on the western part of the present course. Additional land was leased in 1908 and Ben Sayers, the professional from North Berwick in Scotland, was commissioned to design an 18-hole layout. Though better known as a club maker, Sayers produced a superb layout and insisted that the links of Castlerock would equal those at Troon, North Berwick and Sandwich.
The Mussenden Course is a tough links course that is every bit as good as its neighbours being Portstewart and Royal Portrush. Your handicap will be decided by the wind because when it blows, you will be a hero for scoring par. Keeping the ball in play is a must, as with all links courses, but short-game accuracy and mindfulness around the greens is paramount to getting below par.
The 4th, a 200-yard par three, is the club's best-known hole, called “Leg O’ Mutton”. The tee-shot is played to a raised green, with the railway line running the full length of the hole on the right and a meandering burn running diagonally from right to left. The 15th is a great par five, called “Homewards”. A blind tee shot needs to be struck slightly right of centre, providing a great chance to score well. The 18th is a lovely finishing hole – a tough dogleg to the right and the highest, double-tiered, green on the course.
Overall the Mussenden course is a fantastic links-layout that flies under the radar. It has every component of a fantastic golf course and the fact that it hosts many amateur and regular tournaments is a testament to its mirth as a quality golf course. Views over the Atlantic are not to be missed too.
Castlerock has a relatively small clubhouse but it’s very welcoming. After a round you can enjoy a pint of Guinness followed by a meal from a diverse menu. Paddy is the head chef and his team in the kitchen can cater for bar meals, and most dietary requirements. Food ranges from vegetarian options, to fish, burgers, sandwiches, starts and salads, general mains, breakfast, sides and Sunday classics. They also have a pro shop with Thomas Johnston being the head professional; it stocks most equipment and coaching is available from the PGA member.
This area comprises an extensive general practice tee combined with a specifically designed and constructed short game area. A little used area of the existing practice ground underwent considerable ground-shaping and contouring to create gentle slopes and mounds to compliment the magnificent sand dunes in the background. A two-tier green with two bunkers was constructed to a very high specification, including a full watering system. The fairway and surrounds were turfed, and local native grasses used to blend the development into the surrounding area.
To help alleviate the high wear that will inevitably be caused by extensive usage, artificial grass tees have been provided at strategic areas - allowing high repetition practice from a variety of locations, ranging in distance from twenty to eighty yards. Around the green are a number of chipping mats, again blended into the surrounding turf. All the associated work, from design to construction, was carried out from resources within the golf club without the use of external contractors.