Castlerock upgrades the Mussenden course

Castlerock upgrades the Mussenden course

Castlerock Mussenden courseWith Royal Portrush and Portstewart co-hosting the 92nd edition of the Boys Amateur in August 2018, the golfing centre of attention in Northern Ireland this year is firmly focused on the east side of the River Bann. On the other side of the river, at the point where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean, Castlerock Golf Club quietly goes about its own business, just as it has ever done since its formation in 1901.

Ben Sayers expanded the club’s initial 9-hole layout to an 18-hole course (now called the Mussenden) in 1908 then Harry Colt made further modifications in 1926. A fabulous little 9-hole track (called the Bann) was then threaded through the towering dunes in the mid-1980s, transforming the club into one of the best 27-hole golf facilities in Northern Ireland. If it’s honest, unpretentious golf you’re after then Castlerock’s the place to play.

Last year, a decision was made to renovate the bunkers on the main 18-hole Mussenden course so architect Martin Hawtree and the SOL construction company – who worked so well together when they built the Trump International Golf Links near Aberdeen a while back – were contracted to carry out the alterations, starting in October 2017.

Castlerock Mussenden course

It quickly became apparent that replacing or repositioning the sand hazards would not be enough to do a proper job on the layout so the plan evolved into an 8-hole project, extending to fairways, greens and bunkers. As work progressed, a number of issues then arose (such as drainage problems on the 11th, 13th and 15th) which meant more needed to be done on some holes than originally envisioned.

Diverting resources and effort from two of the intended holes ensured the other six were upgraded to the required standard whilst still remaining within the overall budget. Plans for the 3rd and 16th are still in place but they’ll remain on hold for the time being. Interestingly, the course is now 25 yards shorter than it was before, largely due to the green for the 2nd hole being brought forward.

Castlerock Mussenden course

Hole 1 now has an enlarged green with new surrounds and run off area plus two additional bunkers.

The right doglegged, uphill par four 2nd hole had its green pulled forward and buckthorn removed from the right side of the hole. Four new bunkers and a series of screening mounds have also been installed.

Hole 11 had drainage problems due to the high water table on that part of the property, which meant the greensite had to be raised by almost a metre, with a large area to the left of the fairway used as a sand mine to build up the elevated putting surface.

The green on the 13th was pushed back fifteen meters, due to the large volume of clay beneath the putting surface and the scope of work here more than doubled from the original vision for the hole. The green location now brings the small stream next to the hole more into play, with a run off down the right side of the putting surface.

Castlerock Mussenden course

Hole 15 was to have only its green and bunkers reconstructed but turf from the fairway was used on other green surrounds and additional drainage was installed which now also benefits the 3rd hole.

The home green on the 18th has been softened to allow more pin positions, the area to the right of the putting surface has been opened out, and the greenside bunker on the left has been reworked.

The renovation required a considerable investment from the club but the money’s been well spent on course infrastructure that will sustain the playability of the layout for many years to come.

Jim McCann
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