SECOND STOP: PORTSTEWART
A three-hour ride north the next day took our foursome through Belfast and on to Portstewart Golf Club. Overshadowed by a much more famous neighbor Royal Portrush, Portstewart’s front nine was a revelation. The opener, with an elevated tee high above a dogleg right fairway, provided a memorable start. But that was immediately topped by the par 4 second, where another elevated tee towers above a sliver of fairway before an uphill approach to the green. The rest of the front nine took us through towering dunes. The back nine, enjoyable but far less dramatic, eased our group back down to earth.
Scores were discussed that evening over properly poured pints in the tiny front room of the Harbor Bar in Portrush (Darren Clarke, who owns a home nearby, has his own honorary corner spot), followed by a seafood dinner. The evening’s accommodations were at Craignamara Guest House on a hill well above Portrush. While its 12 rooms are fully booked for the 2019 Open, that’s just one week next summer. When you do eventually stay there, do try the delicious scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on toast for breakfast.
The next morning included a pre-round visit to the nearby Giant’s Causeway, a coastal rock formation and UNESCO World Heritage site, which instilled a sense of wonder, while a brief tour and tasting at Bushmills Distillery either took the edge off or put one on – I’m not quite sure which in hindsight! Count that as yet another benefit of having a driver.