The original course used by the members of Stranraer Golf Club was located in the east end of the town and was opened in 1906, the year after the club was formed. It was a 9-hole course, laid out over three fields by the 1883 Open Champion Willie Fernie who played a match against Dan Kelly, the local professional, to mark the occasion.
The course and clubhouse were requisitioned by the War Department in 1940 as a Transit Camp – nearby Cairnryan became an important construction site for Mulberry Harbours in the D-Day landings – and the members were without a course until well after World War II when James Braid was called out of retirement to design a new course at Creachmore just outside the town. Stranraer was Braid's last design prior to his death in 1950. Two years later, the new Stranraer opened for play.
Situated on an escarpment beside Loch Ryan, Stranraer is laid out on former farmland with many stands of mature trees. It is a fine parkland layout with several holes also played along the loch shore. With a total length of 6,308 yards, there are no fewer than fourteen par fours on the course with only one par five, the appropriately named “Lang Whang” 15th hole.
The signature hole is the 397-yard par four 5th named “Corunna” played from an elevated tee looking over Loch Ryan towards Ailsa Craig out in the Irish Sea. The tee shot down to the lochside must find a tight fairway between a heavily gorsed bank on the left and out of bounds along the shoreline to the right (where two bunkers are postioned to catch pushed drives). It's a thrilling hole to play and, in fact, it has been voted by readers of a Scottish golf magazine as one of the toughest eighteen holes to play in the country.
Stranraer is not a great course but it is certainly a very good one with no two holes the same and boasts lots of varied and interesting shots.
I called in as stop-off on the way to Ayrshire's fabled links and it was an ideal start to a golf trip. Another option would be to play here prior (or at the end) of a visit to Northern Ireland as the ferry port is very close by.
The course is not a links but on my visit in July 2021 it basically played like one for the most part. The fairways and green surrounds were burnt off and the ball was running a mile. The ground game was required and some of the terrain is certainly very linksy.
At other times we are faced with more tree-lined holes that are parkland in nature but the fairways were still fast running.
The 18 holes cover some varied terrain and this adds to the challenge and experience. Many of the fairways have some significant slopes to them and we are rarely traversing flat ground, indeed it is quite hilly at times. The walk is not too bad though since the course only covers 6,308 yards (par 70) at its maximum although the green-to-tee walk from the 9th to the 10th is a little irksome.
The signature hole at Stranraer is undoubtedly the 5th where we tee off from high and drive to a fairway way below running alongside Loch Ryan. It's an invigorating tee-shot.
The best hole on the course, however, may actually be the one that follows it. The 6th is a brilliant par-three, played slightly uphill, to a wonderfully sloping green complex with lots of interesting recovery shots should one miss it.
Other strong holes on the layout are the 10th, 14th, 15th on a back-nine which is at least the equal of the impressive font-nine.
The condition of the greens was also very good on my visit in July 2021 at this pleasant seaside course.
I didn't fall in love with Stranraer like I did with nearby Portpatrick but both would make an excellent double header.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
On a short tour of Dumfries & Galloway my brother and I played at Stranraer in warm sunshine and little wind. Like nearby Portpatrick Dunskey, Stranraer’s fairways and green surrounds had suffered from a long period without rain, followed by a bit of a deluge. However, when we played underfoot conditions were firm and dry.
Stranraer is a clifftop/links/parkland course which reminded me of Pennard. The course starts with a gentle opening hole followed by two holes which essentially share the same fairway. The 5th is a stunning par 4 with an elevated drive out to a panoramic view. The hole is more than a simple beauty spot, with a steep hillside of impenetrable scrub and gorse to the left and the sea loch to the right. The fairway is reasonably narrow and set at an angle to the teeing area to further disconcert the driver. Off the back tees it is a very scary drive and not a lot less intimidating off the yellows. Great hole. It is followed by a very good, heavily bunkered, par 3. The course takes on a parkland feel at the 10th which is a pretty par 4. For me the 11th falls into the “slightly silly” category. It is an uphill par 4 with the second shot played up an extremely steep hill to the green perched on top. Out of bounds over the back and to the right of green means there is no real bale out area if you miss the green. The course then redeems itself with a good par 3 at the 12th followed by a string of strong holes between 14 and 17. The course has a relatively benign finishing hole which is always a slight shame.
We enjoyed our visit to Stranraer and would definitely return. The weather prior to our arrival meant we didn’t see the course at its best from tee to green, however the greens were in great condition.
What a pleasant surprise, I was wowed by this wee James Braid classic. With stunning views, immaculate condition, excellent weather I could have been in heaven with the course yo myself around in a little over 2 hours. Great location and plenty if other courses in the area to make a lovely mini trip I would definately recommend
Stranraer is the star in a lovely, often neglected corner of Britain. Southerness is a serious but dour Championship challenge, Powfoot a hybrid members course, and Portpatrick very superior holiday golf. Throw in Kirkcudbright, the under rated Brighouse Bay (Wigtown yet to play) and the town courses and you've a superb mini break location before heading across to Northern Ireland or up to Turnberry and the Kilbrides.
On a sunny and windy Tuesday morning I arrived at Stranraer GC knowing little about the course other than that it was highly rated in the region and the 5th hole in particular was going to be special. I left agreeing with the latter but not so sure about the former. It is a seaside parkland track, or rather, harbour-side, given its location on Loch Ryan overlooking Cairnryan Port a few miles from the open sea. It is not a links golf course. It is a 6,300 yard par 70 James Braid design with no less than fourteen par fours, three par threes and just one par five. The course is not an easy walk and I found several of the par fours to be brutal uphill slogs (4, 7, 11, 13 and 17), with 4, 13 and 17 all played in the same direction alongside one another and the brutal 11th the least enjoyable hole of the lot.
The 2nd and 3rd holes both offered interesting tee shots with a dangerous burn flowing between them, but the course comes alive on the 5th - the signature hole due to the superb views of the bay from the perched tee area, but lest you acknowledge it is also very difficult tee shot. It’s narrow enough with the shoreline all along the right of the fairway and deep gunk to the left, but the danger on both sides is exacerbated by the extra hang-time on shots due to elevation and potential for cross winds. If I played this hole every week I would definitely hit iron off the tee and hit it on as low a ball-flight as possible. Once you make it to the serene low-lying shoreline setting of the fairway, the approach is one of the more enjoyable shots you will play on this course. The 5th green and 6th tee area is the nicest little corner of the course, the ferries en route to Northern Ireland visible at the terminal across the bay. The 6th is another great hole, a par three of 160 yards played from the shore back inland into a bushy enclosure, the green elevated and guarded by quite elaborate bunkering front and right.
The rest of the back nine was not so memoranble and after an awkward long walk around the clubhouse area, the 10th hole is about as parkland as you can get – actually quite a good hole, a narrow dogleg-right weaving through tall trees around the corner. It was on the 11th hole where I began to sense I was not going to love this course overall – just 380 yards on the card but a horrible uphill tee shot and even more horrible uphill approach to a super-elevated green, anything short coming back down the hill even in soft conditions. No fun at all! I did quite like the par three 12th, a solid 185 yards, flat, with a burn and two bunkers to gobble up anything short and offline.
The 13th was almost as nasty as the 11th and by now my ‘not an easy walk’ summation had been fully formed. It must be said, in fairness, that 14 and 15 are two excellent holes in succession, played towards the southeast corner of the layout and alongside the Loch to the left in a lovely setting. The 14th is a 515 yard par five, reachable in two of course, and without much danger around. The 165 yard par three 15th green is treacherously perched on an elevated mound with vegetation troubles to the left, bunkers short and a steep drop-off to the right, demanding an accurate shot and allowing little bailout. The stretch from 15-17 is really difficult slog, before a considerably more benign finishing hole.
The opener is relatively gentle. The adjacent fairways of the par four second and third holes are split diagonally by a lateral water hazard which focuses the mind from the tee and again on the approach to each green. The most troublesome thing about the fourth is that it leads you unavoidably to the fifth, “Corunna”, possibly the most visually stunning, enticing and yet simultaneously nerve-shredding tee-shot in Scottish golf. Admittedly, this description only applies to the tee-shot from the highly elevated medal tee from where the golfer’s eyes are drawn instinctively to the steep escarpment of gorse that runs along the left or possibly the big water hazard (referred to by locals and cartographers as Loch Ryan) on the right but never the deceptively big, green, flat bit in the middle. I know very good golfers who have dropped more shots here in one day than they did the rest of the season. Par 4 is possible – but 14 is statistically more probable! The committee might not thank me for saying this but I suggest you ask for special permission to play this hole from the medal tee. Having played around 90 Scottish courses (including many of the “biggies”) this is my current nomination for the best hole in Scotland.
The sixth is a tough par 3 encircled by bunkers and gorse. The 458yrds ninth is (surprise, surprise) quite tough. The tenth is a lovely wee par four requiring strategy from the tee and a gentle touch to a small, raised green. Putting from the back of the slippery 11th green is as close as most Gallovidians get to Augusta –take four (very gentle) putts and avoid the embarrassment of putting back down the fairway! At the 185yrds 12th the lateral water ditch re-appears, somewhat cunningly, about two small paces short of the green. However, this par 3 is a cinch compared to the 15th which is 185yrds uphill to a long-narrow green with steep fall-offs on both sides. Take the left slope and its time for a new ball. The next two are harder still – 470yrds and 462yrds respectively. Anyone who claims to have parred holes 15 to 17 at Stranraer is possibly lying, hallucinating or, least likely of all, really quite good at golf. By the 5th it starts to dawn on you that Mr Braid may not have been of an entirely cuddly disposition. On the vertiginous ice-rink of the 11th green you consider the possibility that he may even have had a vindictive streak. By the time you are putting for your third consecutive “double” on 17 you have pretty much gone off the guy.
However, when the dust has settled, sitting in the comfortable clubhouse looking over the stunning course the word most likely to spring to mind is RESPECT. This course deserves loads of the stuff and is quite possibly the most under-rated course in Scotland. It is a fitting final addition to Mr B’s glorious collection. Personally, if I had to play to my handicap to save my life I would choose The Old Course, Turnberry or possibly even Muirfield before I chose Stranraer. RESPECT. Derek, Edinburgh, June 08