CASTLEROCK, Northern Ireland – The Castlerock Golf Club holds one of Northern Ireland’s best-kept golf secrets. The original course, Mussenden Links, dating to 1901 on the scenic Causeway Coast, is pretty good – easily one of the top five links in the country. The truth is the club’s most thrilling golf holes are found on a short (but sweet) relief nine, the Bann course.
The Bann is a whimsical walking adventure through beautiful dunes. While the Mussenden Links mostly steers toward flatter ground and the occasional ridges that create a few blind shots, the Bann charges full bore into the highest sand hills near seaside inlet of the River Bann, the country’s longest river. Since the par 34 lacks length at 2,446 yards long, the Bann keeps players engaged with sweeping doglegs and blind, uphill tee shots. The three par 3s provide a variety of downhill looks and club selections, from a 92-yard baby wedge at no. 3 to a 141-yard five or six iron into a stiff breeze to the semi-blind ninth green tucked beyond a dune. Miss right on the par-5 fifth hole and you might end up on the beach along the river.
Back on the main course, you certainly won’t get bored. The par 3s on the front side are stout – the 200-yard fourth pinched between a burn and the railway line and the 214-yard ‘Quarry’ hole near a rocky outcropping at no. 9. The demanding finishing run will determine who wins the day. Just make sure you have enough daylight, and energy, left for an emergency nine on the Bann.