Ed’s earlier review mentioned an itch that he simply had to scratch. I’ve been living with the Castletown itch for more than fifteen years and I finally got rid of the annoying irritation last Monday.
My appetite was immediately whetted as I drove beyond the hamlet of Derbyhaven along Fort Island Road towards the clubhouse with the bay to the left and the 5th hole – appropriately named “Road” to the right. The anticipation was genuinely palpable. Incidentally, the 5th may well be the hardest par four I’ve ever played, where anything hit too far right will end up on the road or the beach, both of which are out of bounds. Too far left is not ideal either.
The location is idyllic – surrounded by the Irish Sea and its bays on three sides – where the only blot on the otherwise delightful landscape is the near derelict hotel lying directly behind the clubhouse. The course is routed across the Langness Peninsula (known locally as Fort Island) and along its isthmus where there’s a real sense of wild seclusion.
It was a sunny day with a fresh breeze blowing across the course making life very tricky indeed. The gentle opener (the shortest par four on the card) is in no way indicative of what lies ahead – especially in a crosswind. I won’t get into hole descriptions in any detail, but suffice to say I really liked the front nine and was stunned by the enormity of the magnificent Hog’s Back fairway at the 9th.
I enjoyed the short par for 10th and then felt there was a lull in proceedings with a few holes played over flatter ground before arriving at #15 “Langness” where an OOB wall runs down the right side of the hole and three pots lie in wait in the middle of the fairway.
The run for home along the craggy coastline is stellar where the tee shot on #17 “Gully” is as dramatic as any tee shot you’re ever likely to encounter on a links course. The home itself is being remodelled. We played #18 from the old tee next to the coast to a fairway that’s routed towards the clubhouse away from the coast and we also hit from the new tee perched on a dune top.
From the new tee there’s a new fairway hugging the coast. A decent drive will leave a longer approach on this refashioned hole to a reconfigured green that sits behind a rocky inlet. There’s an outrageous pot bunker just before the sea inlet which may catch a few errant shots. If you end up in this bunker you’ll face the most daunting bunker shot imaginable… a full 25-yard carry across the deep rocky inlet to the green on the other side. Some will lament the loss of the old 18th, but I found the new routing thrilling.
By all accounts, Castletown was in the doldrums before the new owners acquired the property a couple of years ago. The newfound lease of life is tangible, from the enthusiastic greens team, the professional, the catering staff and the management.
I loved pretty much everything about Castletown, although purists will sniff at the plastic revetted bunkers – but I’m assured these are being replaced over the coming years.
Hats off to Castletown. What’s not to like? I’m looking forward to returning once all the course improvements have been completed.
Date: September 29, 2019