Review for Stranraer

Reviewer Score:


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.

Date: February 23, 2020

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