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Golf is a triumph of hope over expectation – but where better to enjoy the frustrations and exhilaration of a good round than in Ballymena.
There are 10 golf courses within 10 miles of Ballymena and many more just a few miles further afield. Two are very close to the city, while the rest are spread across County Antrim in some of the most spectacular and scenic locations. You can enjoy the view from the first tee to the last, or in the clubhouse, even if your game is not quite as good as you’d like it to be.
Golf evokes passions of all sorts, particularly from club members who have strong views about the prestige of their own club. In no particular order then, here are some of the finest places to stroke or hack your way around Ballymena and County Antrim.
Ballymena Golf Club was created in 1903 and the course is almost in the shadows of Slemish Mountain. The club boasts that it is one of the driest courses in Northern Ireland – an important factor on the Emerald Isle where droughts seldom bother the locals. There is also a lively bar and restaurant in the clubhouse.
Galgorm Castle Golf Club is part of an enormous estate that was founded by the McQuillan family in the 17th Century. The course is sandwiched between the River Braid and River Main, and has few steep climbs for players to deal with – but mind the water hazards.
Massereene Golf Club is a few miles south of Ballymena, near the city of Antrim, but it’s worth the journey. The club was founded in 1895 and the 6,605 yard parkland course is said to be good for strategic golfers who pick the right shot. From the clubhouse you can see some superb views of Lough Neagh.
Not far from Masserene is Templepatrick Golf Club, a modern championship level course that was built in the 1990s. The parkland course lies beside the Six Mile Water river on the Castle Upton estate, a 400-year-old stately home that provides an imposing view from the course.
The hills of Cairndhu Golf Course near Larne provide some marvellous views of the Irish Sea, ranging around the coastline. The course is also exceptionally pretty, thanks to Sir Thomas Dixon, who was a famous Northern Irish botanist and arranged for a large number of interesting trees and flowers to be planted around the course. The collection of heathland colours and startling views make Cairndhu a course to remember.
Gracehill Golf Course, a few miles to the north of Ballymena, is one of the best parkland courses in Northern Ireland, according to the experts. Gracehill certainly has a lot to commend itself to the seasoned golfer. The 6,525 yard course is based on an old farm, which the owners, the Gillan family, decided to close in the 1990s to create Gracehill. The pretty, American-style course is certain to challenge players to be accurate and there are lots of views to enjoy during the walk to the next shot.
Several of the courses are close to major attractions where there is no shortage of hotels and guesthouses. A golfing holiday in Ballymena and the surrounding area is easy to arrange with Expedia.