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Malone (Drumbridge & Ballydrain)

Belfast, Northern Ireland
Belfast, Northern Ireland
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Malone Golf Club is one of Ireland’s best parkland golf courses and it is virtually unknown. The club was founded way back in 1895, but the course has moved location no fewer than four times since its inauguration. Dunmurry became home to Malone Golf Club in 1962, and it’s situated 5 miles south of Belfast, in the lower Lagan Valley at Ballydrain.

The first architect who drew up plans for the course was John Morrison from Harry Colt’s design company but ill health forced him to withdraw from the project. Commander John Harris from C.K Cotton & Associates then stepped in to lay out the first eighteen holes. Two years later, Mrs Peggy Valentine, the Lady Captain, opened a third nine, which was originally called the Inner course, as it was laid out within the front nine of the main 18-hole layout.

In 1965, moves were already afoot to redesign the course and Fred Hawtree drew up a plan which largely reflects the Ballydrain nine that’s in play today. This included a spectacular new par three 15th which would make good use of the lake. Due to financial constraints, it took another five years before the alterations were carried out, along with the introduction of a new 4th hole at the expense of the old 11th.

In the 1980s, a decision was made to move some of the holes of the main course away from the low-lying area of the Lagan River. This resulted in holes 7, 8 and 9 being moved to higher ground, allowing Frank Ainsworth and David McLean to use their old location in the redevelopment of the Edenderry nine.

The front nine is called Drumbridge and the back nine is called Ballydrain – named after the local area. Measuring almost 6,600 yards, Malone is a solid test of golf. Accuracy from the tee is demanded, because many mature trees wait to stymie the wayward tee-shot. Malone has seen some serious professional action: In 1966, Tony Jacklin recorded his first professional victory and in 1993, Gary Player claimed his umpteenth title when he won the Irish Senior Masters. Additionally, the course has hosted a number of prestigious amateur championships. Given that Malone has played host to all these events, we are very surprised that the course isn’t more widely recognised, because this is a parkland beauty.

James W Finegan on the course: “It’s a spacious beauty (on 270 acres), with an abundance of mature oaks, sycamores and pines, rolling terrain, the river Lagan bordering it on the east, and 27-acre Ballydrain Lake the centrepiece of the second nine. Black Mountain and the chequered fields of the Antrim Plateau provide a stirring vista from the 10th, one of the half dozen par 4s measuring well over 400 yards.” From Where Golf is Great – the finest courses of Scotland and Ireland. One of the best and most comprehensive golf course books we’ve ever read.

Malone offers a good deal of interest and variety – there are many memorable holes. None more so than Malone’s signature hole – the charming short par three 15th. We are only talking about a short pitch, but the tee-shot must be played across a gorgeous lake. It’s amazing what such an expanse of water can do for the nerves! The same lake comes into play on the 18th, where the drive must carry the corner of the lake – anything hit to the right, all the way along this hole will be consumed by the water – it’s a cracking end to a lovely parkland golf course.

If you are in Belfast and you’ve got your clubs handy, make sure you play Malone. You won’t be disappointed – the course is maintained immaculately and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better parkland course in Northern Ireland. Architect David Jones has consulted at Malone in recent years and this has resulted in the construction of a number of new greenside bunkers and the rebuilding of greens at holes 1, 3, 6, 7, 8 and 18. David was also responsible for the initial design of the sleeper edging at the par three 15th hole.

Architect Ken Kearney was engaged in 2019 to undertake an extensive bunker project, which was carried out over a couple of years and resulted in improved playability of the course. In addition to the bunker work, five new green complexes were fashioned (on holes 9, 11, 14, 16 and 18) and seven new teeing areas were created. New drainage was also installed, a significant tree management programme was instigated, and new practice facilities were brought into play.

Malone Golf Club is one of Ireland’s best parkland golf courses and it is virtually unknown. The club was founded way back in 1895, but the course has moved location no fewer than four times since its inauguration. Dunmurry became home to Malone Golf Club in 1962, and it’s situated 5 miles south of Belfast, in the lower Lagan Valley at Ballydrain.

The first architect who drew up plans for the course was John Morrison from Harry Colt’s design company but ill health forced him to withdraw from the project. Commander John Harris from C.K Cotton & Associates then stepped in to lay out the first eighteen holes. Two years later, Mrs Peggy Valentine, the Lady Captain, opened a third nine, which was originally called the Inner course, as it was laid out within the front nine of the main 18-hole layout.

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Course Architect

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John Harris

Harris was educated at Pangbourne Nautical College, where he gained civil engineering and surveying qualifications before joining the family golf construction company which was run by his father and uncle.

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