Royal Belfast Golf Club was formed in 1881 and was one of nine Ulster clubs who founded the Golf Union of Ireland in 1891.
Members first played on an 18-hole course at Kinnegar, Holywood in 1882 but within 10 years the course became so busy – and the land was being used as a rifle range – that they moved to Carnalea near Bangor, this time playing on a 9-hole course. In 1925, the club finally relocated to its present 140-acre site on the south shore of Belfast Lough at Craigavad, Holywood where the views across the water to the Antrim hills are quite delightful.
Heritage and tradition are bywords at Royal Belfast Golf Club. The magnificent former manor house that is their clubhouse has golfing memorabilia tucked in corners everywhere – from an Old Tom Morris driver to an original scarlet golfing coat worn by a founding member – and the club is rightly proud of its position as one of the oldest clubs in Ireland, predated only by Royal Curragh in 1858.
To cap it all, the Royal Belfast course was designed by none other than Harry Colt, one of the leading golf course architects of his day. Assisted by W.A. Murray, Colt routed the holes over rolling parkland in a manner that is very easy on the eye. Stands of trees, lush fairways, gentle elevation changes and intelligent bunkering all combine to make the course an absolute charmer to play on – with holes 9 to 11 right on the shoreline particular favourites of many members.
It may be relatively short in the modern era, but don’t be fooled into thinking Royal Belfast is nothing more than a walk in the park – far from it! A very strong pair of long par fours open and close the front nine, four of the five par threes measure more than 175 yards in length and two of the final three holes are stout par fives. Any net score, approaching the standard scratch of one more than the par total of 70, will be hard fought for.
In 2017, architects Mackenzie & Ebert completed a course renovation which concentrated on refurbishing the bunkers.
Royal Belfast Golf Club, Station Rd, Holywood BT18 0BP