This is what it is all about. It’s golf at it’s best. Not only can Royal County Down boast a breathtaking layout but more significantly it manages to scale the highest heights of course presentation while staying true to the raw natural qualities of the terrain that birthed the game. It is an experience not to be forgotten.
However beautiful the backdrop of the Mountains of Mourne and the long stretching sands of Dundrum Bay may be, they are merely an accompaniment to a course that will come as a surprise to even the most experienced links golfer.
To begin with you have a layout of 18 individually memorable holes each of which more than lives up to the expectation the previous one has laid upon it. From the challenge posed by the 473-yard par-four third, to the beauty of the par-four ninth, and on again to the undeniable invitation set out by both the tee shot and approach shots on the par-five 12th, the design is faultless.
The distinctive greens are creased with subtle slopes and ridges that drift even the slightest misjudgments into hollows, run off areas and deftly positioned bunkers, while the fairways hug the contours of the sand. If there is a god he knew this land was meant for a golf course. If it wasn?t for the perfect greens and firm yet spotless fairways, you would almost expect to find yourself chasing a feathery with a hickory shaft in your hands.
The clumps of gorse are kept firmly in check yet they have a messy look, the dune grass has spread through the undulations with a will of its own and the bunkers are rivetless with sand sloping up to the lip and fine grasses whisping from their faces like great eyelashes.
County Down triumphs the best of what modern greenkeeping techniques have brought to the game but continues to stay close to the heart rendering spirit of a game that began as man against wilderness.
As great as 21st century golf is with it’s titanium woods, perfectly manicured courses, Royal County Down is an important reminder of how and why it all began.
Best Hole: The par-five 12th just begs to be attacked
Green Fees: Monday to Friday am £110, pm £95, Sunday £105
Address: Newcastle is 30 miles south of Belfast via the A24
Tel 02843 723314