Portstewart (Strand) - Londonderry - Northern Ireland

Portstewart Golf Club,
Strand Road,
Portstewart,
County Londonderry,
BT55 7PG,
Northern Ireland


  • +44 (0) 28 70832015


New 1st tee on Strand course - photo by Bernard Findlay Dec 2009Portstewart Golf Club was founded way back in 1894, but the origins of golf being played here date back even further to 1889. The Strand course is a bit of a hybrid, a mix of the old and the new. Major development took place in the late 1980s when the original Willie Park Junior layout was updated and seven new holes were constructed in the virgin sand dune range called “Thistly Hollow”. The new Strand course, designed by Des Giffin, opened for play in 1992.

And what an exhilarating golf course this is, set amidst imposing, gigantic sand dunes with panoramic views across the Atlantic mouth of Lough Foyle to the Inishowen peninsula beyond.

The Strand is an incredibly challenging and thoroughly enjoyable golf course, with one of the best opening nine holes in golf. The 1st hole is an absolute stunner, one of golf’s most intimidating, a sweeping downhill 425-yard par four that doglegs right towards the sea. There is a plethora of great holes here at Portstewart Golf Club; especially memorable are two of the new par threes, the 3rd and the 6th. The 3rd is a challenging single shotter, measuring 207 yards, whilst the 6th, measuring a mere 140 yards with a plateau green, is also a tough cookie and will stay in the mind for a long time.

James W Finegan on the course: “How good is the Strand course at Portstewart? For my money, just one rung below County Down and Portrush and under no circumstances to be missed.” From Where Golf is Great – the finest courses of Scotland and Ireland.

Credit must go to the designer because the new holes blend seamlessly with the old holes. Sometimes, when new land is taken in, there is a punctuation between the old and the new. Not so at the Strand.

A golfing trip to Northern Ireland would not be complete without a round on the Strand course. The members here are very warm and welcoming and if you add this course to a round at both Royal Portrush and Royal County Down, you will have played three of the world’s finest links courses, all of which have played host to the Irish Open.

Portstewart was honoured to host the Irish Open for the first time in 2017, when Spaniard John Rahm finished six shots ahead of the field with a 4-round total of 264, which was 24 under par for the tournament.

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Reviews for Portstewart (Strand)

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Description: The Strand course at Portstewart Golf Club is exhilarating. Set amidst imposing, gigantic sand dunes with panoramic views across the Atlantic mouth of Lough Foyle to the Inishowen peninsula beyond. Rating: 8.2 out of 10 Reviews: 47
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Chris D

The first thing you will see on arrival at this course is the dramatic opening hole. It is truly stunning, played from an elevated tee that takes you down amongst the dunes that shape and outline the dog legged par 4. The entire front 9 can only be described as an absolute adventure.

Before I talk about that though I should mention how friendly and welcoming everyone was, from the Pro in the shop through to the guys in the bar afterwards (the clubhouse bar by the way has floor to ceiling panoramic views of that amazing first hole). The Pro proudly told us the club has one of the highest memberships in the British isles, at around 1600, and it is easy to see why. What a place to play your regular golf.

It is tough to pick out a favourite on the front 9, they are all stunning. I would say my personal favourite was the view from the elevated 2nd tee (I am not sure which was more inspiring this or the view from the 1st) and the risk/ reward short dog leg 8th, which begins your exit from in amongst the dunes and into the back 9.

I think the back 9 gets unnecessary bad press. If you dropped this 9 anywhere else in the UK people would still be singing it's praises as a fantastic links course. There are beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding coast, there are really challenging golf holes - like the 17th. A long par 4 with a semi blind tee shot, played into wind on the day, with an elevated green protected with severe drops on all sides that you will need to find with a long iron. A fantastic hole. It just doesn't quite have the drama of the front 9, which was like playing somewhere in outer space.

I'm torn on the grading of this one. At an absolute minimum the course is the best in the region and without doubt worth flying in to play. I am very tempted to place it at the 5.5 level, but I don't think I can quite classify it as a World top 100 course. But it is comfortably top100 UK and Ireland in my book.

April 06, 2022
8 / 10
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Neil White

With dunes the size of skyscrapers framing fairways and greens in natural valleys, Portstewart is rightly acclaimed to have some of the most dramatic holes in golf.

Indeed, the first nine are as picturesque, quirky, undulating and demanding as anywhere.

We were lucky to partner two long-standing members who were passionate about their beloved club and matched the rich entertainment of the course with wit and wisdom.

They played with a smile and gave us some key tips (usually on how best to avoid smashing the ball into the dunes).

Their first advice was to take a photo from the opening tee with the Atlantic rolling into the Strand beach on the right, grassed dunes ahead and a dog-leg par four with what seemed to be a slither of fairway.

It is a magnificent opening hole by any standards and after a pleasing drive, I found the green in regulation only to three-putt.

This became a regular pattern as I was bamboozled by the pace of greens still recovering from the hollow-tining of spring maintenance.

No matter. There was plenty to enjoy at Portstewart on a beautiful spring day when the sun shone and a gentle breeze prompted barely a flutter of flags.

The fun continued with the second hole which, on reflection, was my favourite. It demands a tee shot around the biggest dune I have ever seen and an approach up to a two-tier green which becomes progressively narrower.

If an opening shot goes left, its follow-up would require a Sherpa Tensing-style ascent. As we were without mountaineering gear, we hit wildly to the right.

The third is the first of four fiendish par threes – 200+ yards downhill with a grassy hill on the left and sand traps in front of the green.

The fifth is a remarkable hole and is called Rifle Range because it is on the site of a Second World War target practice ground.

The par-four requires an accurate tee shot to avoid rough and bunkers but even after steering mine onto the fairway, I was advised to lay up with my approach rather than attempt to guide the ball between two giant dunes.

Reaching to putting surface is certainly not a job completed because it is 56 yards long. Needless to say, I four-putted!

This is followed by the short sixth which scuppered many a promising round in professional competitions such as the Irish Open.

It is called Five Penny Piece because it is a tight circular green perched above alarming roll-offs. I was very pleased to find the target, only to three-putt again.

The 8th is another stunning hole demanding a decent carry off the tee to skirt a dune to the left before a dramatic turn up a green protected by bunkers on either side.

We had been told that after such a magnificent outward nine, the homeward stretch would have a sense of after the Lord Mayor’s show.

One of the resolutions, we were told, could be for Portstewart to switch their nines to build anticipation rather than let the golfer down.

It is easy to understand these comments but I believe they are harsh. There are still plenty of challenges between holes 10 and 18 and there are wonderful views over the River Bann and beyond.

The left-to-right 10th, for example, demands great accuracy from a blind tee shot to hold the fairway. I thought I had cut its corner perfectly only for the dramatic fairway undulations to feed my ball into one of its lurking bunkers.

Barmouth, a gorgeous par-three 12th is one of the most picturesque holes on the course with a stunning vista from its elevated tee.

The Hill, the par-five 14th gives an opportunity it of reaching in two if the golfer avoids the dune to the right and is not fazed by the dramatic fairway undulations which keep the green hidden until late on.

The 15th is a heck of a par-three with bunkers providing a semi-circle of protection at the front and on both sides, luring balls which are slightly off target.

The 16th takes the golfer back to the clubhouse and then they go out and back again, giving the impression that the final couple of holes are a bit of an afterthought and don’t match the drama of what has preceded them.

Nevertheless, Portstewart provides a very fine challenge and we had a superb day out, followed by tales of derring-do in a truly impressive modern clubhouse.

I would love to return when the greens are at their sharpest.

March 30, 2022
7 / 10
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Phil Ree

A lot’s already been written about Portstewart’s front nine and all of it’s correct. So I’ll instead focus on hole 9 onwards, which although different they’re certainly not bad and they still offer some highlights.

These holes play to the top of dunes, along the sides of them, besides the River Bann then ending with some hilltop holes, all of them links. These areas reminded me more of Gullane than Ireland, particularly the second course there, and you can likewise expect fierce links winds.

The 11th, pictured below, is a semi-blind sliding dogleg with a deep valley in front of the green. Behind and below it is the Bann estuary, with the short, scenic 12th completing your journey towards the sea. The land does flatten after this, the next three holes are all solid rather than prolific so this is where Portstewart loses a few ranking points.

The par 3 15th plays from a dune across a valley though, 16 and 18 are also ‘fine’ then I really like the long par 4 17th which rises then drops to a raised green with the countryside sprawling behind it.

So overall I believe the Strand’s ranking is accurate, and you’d be hard pressed to find more dramatic tee shots than those of holes 1 and 2. The Riverside course is a nice, semi-parkland warm up too.

March 25, 2022
8 / 10
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Oliver Cram

Irish open host course.

The front 9 is truly breathtaking. The opening tee shot is one of sheer perfection. The holes among the sand dunes are second to none, and I would play these every week if I could.

The back 9 is less breathtaking than the front 9, which is perhaps why this course isn't rated higher, but still a good test, although it does feel like you are playing a different course from the 13th onwards.

I was taken on by a member, and I have to say the members are incredibly friendly and the clubhouse is beautiful.

I was told the plan is to change the layout and add more holes in the Sand dunes.

The course was in good condition for the time of year, I would be interested to play on a warm summer's day.

March 08, 2022
9 / 10
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Phil Reid

I have been lucky enough to play many top ranked courses and Portstewart Strand is up there with some of the very best. The front nine is absolutely stunning (rivalling Royal Aberdeen) and the back nine continues the challenge ensuring you are tested many different ways by this classic links. I can also safely say it is one of the friendliest and most welcoming clubs I have visited. Everyone you pass says hello with a smile on their face. Would I like to play here again? You bet ….. and hopefully I wouldn’t let the course beat me so convincingly next time!!

In summary, if you ever get the chance you must play this course. It’s wonderful.

September 03, 2021
8 / 10
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Mike Brooks

Having played the vast majority of the famed links courses in Scotland and England I have had a fair experience of dunes. However, none has rivalled the towering dunes on the front 9 at Portstewart. The tee shot at the second in particular stands out as visually spectacular albeit the hole only requires a long iron or rescue from the tee. The back 9 is less impressive but is still an enjoyable and good test of golf.

January 10, 2021
7 / 10
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Doug Roberts

The front 9 is as good as it gets. The back nine is nice but nothing like the front. A joy to play. Very welcoming. Great shape.

January 09, 2021
7 / 10
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Richard Coburn

The front 9 is as good as it gets. The views are better than its neighbour Portrush and the staff are very friendly. This Irish Open venue is thrilling, a must play.

December 27, 2020
9 / 10
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Danny

After playing my two rounds at Portstewart Strand on two seperate sunny evenings during the 2019 Open Championship week I can honestly say this is one of the most stunning golf courses I have played, both from a golfing and aesthetic perspective.

The front nine is breathtaking. A unique golfing challenge hidden within the rolling dunes of the Londonderry coastline, the front nine at Portstewart is like golfing Narnia. Each hole meanders through the landscape hidden from view with every dogleg and tee box creating a new spectacle for players to behold. It is truly hard to describe the beauty of this course under the sunset of a still summers evening and if the weather permits I would highly recommend a twilight round. Both greens and fairways are manicured just enough to maintain a real feel of quality without losing any of the links authenticity and great credit must be given to the staff who maintain it.

The back nine navigates away from the dunes and increasingly opens up as you return towards the clubhouse. Although less spectacular to the eye the test of golf and quality of maintenance remains. I truly believe Portstewart is the jewel of this golfing coastline and with its addition to the Irish Open rota has firmly proved its capability in hosting Tour events.

What is more, Portstewart clubhouse provides a typical Irish welcome with members happy to welcome visitors to their hidden gem. A MUST visit if visiting Northern Ireland. A minutes drive from Royal Portrush but by no means deserving of being overshadowed, this is the most enjoyable front nine I have ever played.

September 30, 2020
9 / 10
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andrew dinsdale

I played the strand course in October on another trip to northern ireland and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was a proper irish day with winds between 20 and 30mph and although difficult didn’t ruin our experience.

Hole 1 is spectacular, still the best opening hole i’ve played in my lifetime. The starter, the view, the wind off the sea and the difficulty of that opening hit it makes this one of the most challenging and memorable opening shots in world golf. This hole should be held in higher regard as it’s as good as any at nearby Royal Portrush.

The second certainly doesn’t let up with a tee shot from high up requiring a 180-200 yard shot through pyramid like dunes onto a landing area below, this hole feels more man made than the first but also can’t be compared to any other hole i’ve played or seen. Its a complete one off, and extremely memorable.

The front 9 continues with very strong holes with 7 and 8 big highlights. The greens were the some of the best i’ve ever played, they had a little softness which i didn’t expect for a links course, and so you could hit full high shots in and on that day didn’t require too many pitch and runs or classic links shots.

The back 9 is a lot weaker, becoming more open as it goes along. The large dunes and heavy gorse becomes less frequent, and i felt the last two holes were a little limp. From some of the courses i’ve played often after some of a run of weaker holes you get a couple of excellent holes, especially to finish, but this never materialised and so leaves you a little disappointed.

To summise the condition of the course was perfect and we had really good fun. It was very challenging and on a very windy day beat me and my partner up a bit. It was well priced and if i was visiting Royal Portrush i’d definitely play the pair as the strands front 9 for me is as good as it’s the nearby Dunluce course.

Overall an excellent golf course.

April 21, 2020
8 / 10
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