Portstewart Golf Club: Hole-by-hole guide

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The Irish Open takes place at Portstewart Golf Club 6-9th July

By Richard O'Reilly

The Irish Open descends on Portstewart Golf Club this week.  Host Rory McIlroy will be joined by a field of top pros.  Jon Rahm, Justin Rose and Hideki Matsuyama are just a few of the names who'll appear on the North Coast.

The Strand Course is rated as one of the finest courses in the province, comparable to the likes of Royal County Down, and the nearby Royal Portrush.  So, here's Q Radio Sport's hole-by-hole guide to The Strand.

All videos credit to @PortstewartGC/Facebook

Hole 1- Tubber Patrick, Par 4

With the first at Portstewart often cited as 'the finest opening hole in Irish golf', the tournament could scarcely get off to a better start.  The intimidating, downhill Par 4 offers phenomenal views of Portstewart strand and the Inishowen Peninsula.

Hole 2- Devil's Hill, par 4 

The ambitious golfer must clear a huge mound of heavy rough to the left, to reach the sloped fairway.  That's when the hard work begins, with an deceptively uphill approach to a tiered green.  Speaking from experience, if the pin's at the back of the green, a nightmarish uphill putt (or two)  is needed to get close.

Hole 3- The Settlement, Par 3

To find the green, players need to carry the rough.   While anything wayward will be punished by heavy rough on either side. Anything too long; equally punished by heavy rough.  In short, land on the green; it's a simple sport really.

Hole 4- Thirsty Hollow, Par 5

The first par 5 on the course, named 'Thirsty Hollow' after the area of land claimed by the club to construct the current front 9.  Two solid strikes up the middle will put the average golfer in good stead.  However anything short of green on the approach will be severely punished, with a mean slope and several pot bunkers waiting to punish anything but green. And with people teeing off on the nearby 5th, three or four duffs out of the bunker in full view of strangers can be fairly demoralising.

Hole 5- Rifle Range, Par 4

The hardest hole on the course for amateurs, with a stroke index of 1.  The wind can play havoc with the tee shot on a hole which offers fine views of the River Bann.  An undulating fairway, and a green protected by hills of heavy rough, make this a tough package for most.  A near impossible one for many

Hole 6- Five Penny Piece, Par 3

It's 'green or bust' on this tricky, short par three.  The elevated putting surface gives way to wicked slopes on either side.  Miss green and your'e facing a blind flop to get up and down for par.

Hole 7- Strawberry Hill, Par 5

An uphill dog-leg to the right.  The more adventurous among us can attempt a drive to the right.  However, it's a long carry to avoid the heavy rough on the right hand side.  The more conservative will favour a drive to the left, however this is no easy approach, with a chasm to the front right of the green, just itching to catch anything coming up short and right.

Hole 8 Portnahapple, Par 4

No sight of the flag from the tee, as the hole is a literal right angle to the left.  Two options; a long iron to the fairway followed by a long approach.  Alternatively an adventurous high draw off the tee will leave a short wedge to the elevated green.  Once again the view is often the big winner here.

Hole 9 Larkhill, Par 4

A strong tee shot will lead to few problems, however an uphill slope makes this hole play longer than it actually is.  It's all about the approach though, anything long is off the back and in all sorts of trouble.

Hole 10 Fisherman's Walk, Par 4

Any tee shot here needs to be left, but also avoid the bunkers on the fairway.  After that it's all plain sailing; provided the green is found.

Hole 11 Fernside Par 4

Again a straight drive is the ticket here, leaving a wedge to the elevated green.  However being short of the putting surface is punished, with a wicked slope front and left.

Hole 12 Barmouth Par 3

An down hill par three, which shouldn't offer up too much difficulty to the accurate golfer.  The only problem with this hole is concentration, as it offers sublime views of the Mussenden Temple and the meandering River Bann.

Hole 13 Cashlandoo, Par 5

Eagles will be possible for the pros on the first Par 5 in the back 9, but it's all dependent on distance.  Cross fairway bunkers need to be navigated, and if the your'e not long enough off the tee, an attempt at green becomes a trickier prospect.

Hole 14 The Hill, Par 5

Back-to-back par 5's and this is arguably the toughest hole on the course for professionals, especially with new tee positions making it close to 600 yards.  A narrow, uphill entrance to fairway is compounded by a surface which slopes to the right.  Heavy rough either side makes for a tricky approach too.  On a personal level, it was the site of my first ever birdie on the Strand Course, although that was before the new tee boxes were installed.

Hole 15 Articlave Par 3

It's all about accuracy on this one.  The green is jealously guarded by bunkers on all sides.  A nightmare to chip out off; an up and down bunker par will be a tough ask. 

Hole 16 The Plateau, Par 4

The clubhouse can be seen from this hole, meaning you are well and truly on your home.  Tee shot needs to be to the right hand side on this one, anything left will just head further left.

Hole 17 Agherton, Par 4

For the amateur, a tee shot in site of the clubhouse means people may be watching, so you want to make sure its a passable one.  Holding a drive straight on 17 should put you in good stead, however it's all about the approach here.  The green sits on a high plateau, anything short, will keep on rolling until the sun sets.

Hole 18 Strand Head, par 4

Bunkers protect the fairway left and right for the homeward drive.  An approach to the large green can be tricky, as it tends to play a little fast.  Putting is tough too as the smell of food drifting from the clubhouse can often provide a distraction.  Finish up, take your par, buy a pint, you've earned it.


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