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 course on the last day of our trip. Having played 4 rounds in strong winds on the north coast it was a nice to play a round on a parkland layout.
After having an excellent buffet breakfast at the adjoining hotel we ventured onto the first hole. The course was in excellent condition, quite surprisingly as there had been heavy rain for the previous 3 days. Greens good as were the bunkers, fairways and rough. There were many pretty tree lined holes with clever bunkering and good use of water. If i were to pick out a negative it would be that it was a very flat course and in struggling to remember any insulation at all from my round.
The third hole was my pick, having to hit the second shot over a long stretch of water was new to me and really made it stand out when recapping my round. I thought the course didn’t have many weak holes, and finished with a good risk/reward par 5.
I’m not sure i’d make a b line for the course next time i travel to Northern Ireland but for anyone who is looking for golf close to the airport then this course won’t let you down. It has a very respectable green fee and an excellent breakfast and would be ideally suited for travelling parties.
As a frequent visitor to this fantastic inland course I am amazed that it is not a lot busier, every time I play it gets better - hardly surprising as it is still very much in its infancy.The fairways are always in immaculate condition and the huge greens run fast and true - 12 months of the year - how amny other prestige courses can say that? The multiple tee pods and multiple pin positions mean that you rarely play the same layout twice.In my humble opinion if the course had it's own clubhouse, rather than having a small pro shop inside the hotel it would be talked about as one of the finest courses in Northern Ireland, but as it is I would consider it to be a hidden gem.Yes there is plenty of trees and plenty of water, but that only adds to the visual appeal. This is a course that makes you think - if you're a hit it, find it, hit it again merchant this course will not suit you as you have to navigate your way around each hole with precision. Wayward tee shots bring the water/trees into play and with the enormous greens you can easily 3-4 putt if you leave your approach on the wrong side of the contoured greens.All in all, an absolute gem.
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!