PORTSTEWART, Northern Ireland – The Strand course at the Portstewart Golf Club has finally earned a seat at the big boy table when it comes to links golf in Northern Ireland.
This summer, the Strand Course gets the spotlight it deserves. Hosting its first European Tour event, the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, will put the Strand’s dynamic dunes of the Causeway Coast on full display for golf fans watching around the world. New dates (July 6-9) directly leading into the Scottish Open and The Open Championship should help strengthen a field already featuring host Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, native major champions Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell, and Irishmen Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington.
A few new back tees and minor course tweaks to a few bunkers and greens, along with an Irish summer’s unpredictable weather and winds, will defend par on the 7,118-yard links. Although the club and course date to 1894, Portstewart didn’t really blossom until seven new holes were carved from some magnificent dunes in 1992. These holes – the second through the eighth – roam among some of the best links land in the world. The view of these monstrous sand dunes and beach from the elevated first tee ranks among the finest first impressions in golf.
Playing the final nine on flatter ground near the River Bann, the country’s longest river, can feel like a bit of a letdown. Architecturally speaking, however, these final holes still present a stern test. The clubhouse, larger than most links courses, is a comfortable place for a pint and a moment to cherish one of the Emerald Isle’s most under-appreciated links. (Read Jason Scott Deegan's review of Portstewart's Strand Course)