History of Portstewart Golf Club
The Old Course
The original 9 holes were laid out on 26 acres of land belonging to the Cromore Estate on the seaward side of the County Road to Portrush at Portmore to the East of the town. Unfortunately no map of the layout survives but the length was given in the Irish Golfers’ Annual of 1897 as 1,495 yds.
In June of 1904 an extension of the ground provided a more challenging nine holes and led to the employment of our first professional green keeper David Simpson. In 1916 the club obtained area of ground on the landward side of the County Road sufficient to allow for its enlargement from 9 to 12 holes and these were opened for play in 1918.
In 1934 the course was further enlarged to 18 holes, designed by Mr R C Davison together with James Rea, the green keeper at the time.
The layout was similar in most respects to that of the present day.
The Club House (Old Course)
The first Club house was built by John Frizzell, a local contractor in 1895 and the construction was of corrugated iron on a wooden frame. It was situated close to the road at about the site of the present entrance in Portmore Road. This “tin shack” lingered on until the opening in 1931 of the substantial building, designed by Mr. C. McFadden, which still stands
The Strand Course
A special General meeting was held in March 1907 to approve the building of a new links course at Strand Head to the west of the town.
The planning of this 18 hole golf course was left in the hands of Mr A. G. Gow of Portrush. The first competition on the new holes was held in July 1908
Since then The Strand Course has had several makeovers one by the famous course architect, Willie Park in the 1920’s. In 1986 the land known as the Thistly Hollow was purchased and one of our own members, school teacher Des Giffin, designed the present 18 hole layout and a 9 hole course which become known as the Riverside which opened for play in 1990. A further purchase of land in 1999 allowed the expansion of the latter to 18 holes, again designed by in house under supervision of the Course Manager, Mr Bernard Findlay, with the help from STRI and opened in 2003
The Club House (Strand Course)
The Club House at the Strand Head has been changed several times. In 1907 the original Club House was a small cottage rented from the O’Neill family; this cottage was enlarged in 1912 to provide accommodation for the Professional and his family and rudimentary facilities for members.
A much larger Club House, designed by Mr C McFadden was opened in 1928.
In the 1960’s a doubling of membership led to a steady improvement in the club house as it was progressively enlarged and modernised to provide better accommodation and locker rooms along with restaurant and bar areas.
Work on a completely new building designed by HMD Architects started in January 2008 and was completed in May 2009. The New Clubhouse was opened by Dr J. A. McHugh, one of our longest serving members, and Andrew Hamilton, one of our youngest juvenile members, at a ceremony which took place on 19th September 2009. At the same ceremony, the new council room was named after the late John Dalzell MBE, who, as Building Convenor, played a major role in the successful development of this superb new facility.
Over the years Portstewart Golf Club has hosted many important events,
1931 First major competition to be held on the Strand Course was the Irish Native Professional Golf Championship which took place at the end of July.
1946 Portstewart hosted the Ulster Professional Golfers Championship.
1951 Portstewart was one of the qualifying stages of the British Open which was held at Royal Portrush.
1960 In the summer the Club played host for the fist time to the Irish Amateur Close Championship.
1974 the IPGA Championships were again held in Portstewart. The winner was Eddie Polland who set a course record of 66 which was not beaten until 1991.
1982 and 1983 The Smirnoff Irish Ladies PGA Open was held in Portstewart. The 1982 winner was Linda Bromen of the USA. 1983 winner was Cathy Panton of Scotland.
1984 The Ulster Professional Championship, which returned after a gap of nearly 40 years, was won by Paul Leonard of Royal Co. Down with a score of 70.
1986 The All Ireland Mixed Foursomes
1992 The Irish Amateur Close was held in Portstewart for the second time and was won by Gary Murphy of Limerick
1995 GUI National Cups and Shields Finals
1998 Senior Inter-Provincials won by Leinster
2000 Ladies Senior Inter-Provincials also won by Leinster
2004 British Ladies Senior Championship won by Eva Ansgarius of Sweden
2006 British Girls Championship won by Belen Mozo of Spain
British Girls Home Internationals won by Scotland.
2010 Irish Ladies Amateur won by Mary Dowling of New Ross
2014 Amateur Championship won by Bradley Neil of Scotland
Maureen Madill was undoubtedly the most successful golfer that Portstewart ever produced. Among her many other achievements she was three times Ulster Ladies Champion, an Irish International from 1978 to 1985, and British Ladies Match play Champion 1979 and British Amateur Stroke play Champion 1980, She can frequently be heard today commentating on golf.
Mr Des Ballantine, won the North of Ireland Amateur Championship in 1985.
Mr Paul Cutler became our first Irish International in 2007 at the tender age of 18. Paul went on to distinguish himself in amateur Golf and was selected for the GB&I Walker Cup team in 2011. Paul has since turned Professional.
Before 1906 the secretaries included Marcus Gage J. P, Lizzie Knox and and JJ Flynn.
1906 brought the enthusiasm of Rev P. H. Blaikie to the role of secretary. It was stated in the AGM of 1919 that Rev. Blaikie was one of the finest secretaries in Ireland. He gave everyone a hearty welcome, imparted all the knowledge possible and when going away, took them by the hand and asked them to come back.
T. R. Dobbin of Lisburn became the secretary in April 1932. He was chosen from 75 applicants after the Rev Blaikie passed away. During his term of office he lent an indefinable air of relaxation to Club affairs.
Robert Ferguson succeeded T R Dobbin after his retirement. Although partially disabled by polio he played an active role during a critical period in the Club’s history.
On his retirement in 1958 he was followed by Jack Armstrong who served the Club for 16 years before his retirement in 1974. He is commemorated in the Trophy which bears his name.
1974 Major Robert Smith became secretary and coincidentally with his arrival the Club hosted the Irish Professional Golfers’ Association Championship for the second time.
Lee Gage was secretary for a year from 1976-1977.
Our current Manager, Mr Michael Moss BA, took up the post in 1978 and has steered the club through many changes. He is now our longest serving
secretary/manager. Michael was awarded IGTOA Golf Manager of the Year in 2012.
In 1905 James McCurdy took up post as the club maker combined with caretaker of the club house. As well as refreshments, care of the building and the repair of golfing clubs, he was required to teach and play golf. He remained with the club as caretaker of the old course until his death in 1942.
In 1912 the extension to the club house on the Strand provided accommodation for the Club’s first full-time professional, Mr William Coltart of London. His duties also included those of Greenkeeper and, together with his wife, Caretaker and Caterer.
1916 William resigned as professional to take up a post at Cliftonville Club in Belfast. In his place came Charlie Pope of Fortwilliam who was at that time The Irish Professional Champion. Charlie remained with the club until 1919. William Coltart returned to fill the vacancy and remained at Portstewart until 1922.
James Rea took up the post of Professional in 1922. Once again sharing the duties of caretaker and caterer with his wife. He served the Club for 25 years until his retirement in 1947.
He was succeeded by Johnny Hunter who had learnt his trade during the 30’s along side Fred Daly. Johnny remained in this post until his death in 1974. He was remembered for his kindness and courtesy to members and visitors alike as “a Gentleman in the true sense”.
After a short spell on the continent, Alan Hunter returned to Portstewart in 1975 to follow in his father’s footsteps and retired on 31st December 2013. Making him Portstewart’s longest serving Professional. This extended the Hunter dynasty to a total of 65 years!
Neil Graham is our current Professional.
In 1986 Bernard Findlay took up the new post of Course Manager and, in addition to the considerable day to day responsibilities of maintaining a 54 hole complex, he has been an invaluable asset in the major developments that have transformed golf at Portstewart in recent years.