The 400-year-old Castle Upton Estate at Templepatrick, near Belfast’s International Airport, had 220 acres of its grounds transformed in the late 1990s into an hotel and leisure complex, complete with a championship quality golf course.
Designed by David Jones and David Feherty, the par 71 layout can be set up from between 5,565 and 7,077 yards in length. Holes are routed in two loops of nine through lovely parkland, bounded on one side by Six Mile Water as it flows to Lough Neagh.
The Templepatrick terrain is fairly level and fairways are generous, bounded mainly by light rough. Bunker complexes are sensible and blend in nicely to the landscape. There are many tall stands of trees – some set in long lines – to admire on the property as the round progresses.
Difficulty in scoring can be attributed to two factors, the first of which is water – ponds at holes 3, 8, 9, 16 and 18 can prove to be very costly. The other element to beware is the quality of the putting surfaces – undulating greens constructed to USGA specification that demand concentration right up until the last putt drops.
A feature hole is the 12th, a 461-yard par four with a slight right dogleg where two mighty blows are required to have any chance of recording a par score. Trees screen the hole from the river all the way down the right side and there are sand traps to be negotiated left of the landing area and right of the putting surface – all in all, a formidable hole that rightly claims its status as number 1 on the stroke index.
The club have held the Ulster PGA Championships in 2000 and 2001 and additionally hosted the Northern Ireland Ladies Open in the summer of 2007.
I played the Hilton Templepatrick course in April 2003 when the wife and I were staying at the hotel on one of their stay-and-play weekend offers – she got the beauty/spa/pampering treatment in their leisure complex while I went out on the course to play golf.
The greens were disappointing as they had just been top dressed and the excess sand on the putting surfaces made a lottery of things but they were constructed to USGA standard with some lovely undulations so I’m sure they are a joy to play on most times you play here.
It is a pretty track with subtle elevation changes and lots of water hazards to be avoided during a round. If you have half a day to spare after or before a trip to N.Ireland to play golf – it's only ten minutes from the International airport at Belfast – then it is worth playing.
One endearing memory I have is of the starter, I forget his name, but he doubled up as a course ranger and was whizzing around the tees in a buggy handing out free whiskey miniatures – talk about getting killed by kindness – which, on my very first visit to the Emerald Isle on a golfing trip, set the high standard of hospitality that has been maintained ever since!