Kirkistown Castle Golf Club in Cloughey, County Down, is the most easterly 18-hole course in Ireland and members celebrated the centenary of their golf club in 2002. G.L.Bailie of Belfast designed the original 9-hole layout and the first green keeper, Frank Polley, held the position for almost 50 years.
The course was extended to eighteen holes in 1929 and then six years later saw the implementation of James Braid’s modifications when tees and greens were altered and bunkers were reshaped and repositioned.
Visitors sometimes wonder about a couple of large depressions on the opening holes – during World War II, sand and gravel was excavated from the front of the 1st tee and behind the 3rd green for the construction of Kirkistown and Ballyhalbert airfields and that is how these two artificial landforms came about.
Cloughey is a little village near Portavogie on the east side of the Ards peninsula and the drive down from Newtownards is one of the most scenic in Northern Ireland as the road follows Strangford Lough then crosses towards the Irish sea. Alternatively, if approaching from the south, the ferry can be taken from Strangford on the mainland to Portaferry on the peninsula, crossing the treacherous Narrow Water where Strangford Lough pours into the Irish Sea.
The Kirkistown Castle course measures 6,167 yards in overall length and is arranged in two loops of nine with a par of 69 for the 18 holes. Between the opening and closing par fives, there are five par three and eleven par four holes. Many of these par fours are very strong holes, with no fewer than seven of them measuring over 400 yards.
The signature hole is the 438-yard par four 10th, named “Long Reach” where a pulpit green sits more than thirty feet above fairway level and is very hard to hold with a long approach shot. Par here is a real achievement and to score a bogey is not too bad either.