Dungannon Golf Club is one of the oldest clubs in Ireland. Along with Aughnacloy and Killymoon from County Tyrone, the club was one of the nine founding members of the Golf Union of Ireland in 1891, just one year after its own formation. Interestingly, all nine of the inaugural GUI committee originated from the province of Ulster.
Like many golf clubs, Dungannon started out with a 9-hole course which was eventually expanded to an 18-hole layout in the mid-1960s. A new clubhouse was constructed at the start of the millennium and four holes remodeled (3rd, 8th, 9th and 17th) around the same time, after additional land became available to the north east of the property.
The old front nine holes are laid out on a fairly level landscape, with the newer holes on the inward half routed across more undulating terrain. Six greens on the back nine (10 to 13, 15 and 16) were redesigned to USGA specification by architect Patrick Merrigan in 2009 and they’ve greatly increased the challenge on this stretch of holes.The layout measures 6,151 yards from the back markers and it’s somewhat unusually configured with five par threes and five par fives on the scorecard. The 159-yard 9th is undoubtedly the signature hole. Named “Darren Clarke,” after Dungannon’s most famous golfing son, this short par three features a lovely crescent-shaped green which sits behind a protecting pond.
Don’t expect to play championship golf at Dungannon. The Standard scratch score is two strokes less than the par of 72 off the medal tees (FIVE less than par off the regular tees) so that’s a clue as to what the course is all about – it’s a fun track that really shouldn’t be taken too seriously in terms of its architectural merits.
Laid out on a seriously rolling landscape, the fairways dogleg left or right off many of the tees, with holes leading to small, seriously contoured greens. I liked the way the 3rd hole made good use of a ditch in front of the green to threaten approach shots to the putting surface but this strategy became more than a little repetitive when it was also used at holes 8 and 17.
At least half a dozen of the greens on the course are two-tiered and this design trait also became a touch tedious after encountering it a few times on the front nine.
The signature hole at the 9th is a very good par three, played from a tee position way above the level of the green but it’s only one of four short holes of a similar calibre. The fifth par three on the card (at the 89-yard uphill 16th) isn’t so good; in fact it’s a daft short hole that’s played immediately after two par fours of similar ilk, where a combination of crazy blind tee shots and /or approach shots have to be played.
In fairness, I’ve remarked on many of the things that irked me during the round but I enjoyed myself nonetheless as Dungannon’s a homespun, old-fashioned layout that has stood the test of time very well, producing none other than Darren Clarke as a Major tournament winner.
And for a midweek greenfee of twenty quid, it’s a bargain that’s really not to be sniffed at.