It’s not everyday that we get an invite to stay and play at somewhere which was voted Northern Ireland’s Best Golf Hotel in 2022, but what a great place to start our WBGD mini Tour of Ireland. I say mini tour because there are so many great places to stay and play in Ireland, that we could spend 6 months touring and not cover them all.
Galgorm Resort is a luxurious resort located in the beautiful countryside, just outside the town of Ballymena in Northern Ireland. The resort is located 30 minutes north of Belfast International airport and 45 minutes from Belfast City Centre.
Now, here is something we didn’t know about the resort, the golf course isn’t in the grounds of the hotel and spa!
Where is the golf course?
Travel in style
Galgorm Castle Golf Course is about a mile away from the hotel and spa. For those staying in the hotel, there is a shuttle bus which runs between the two or if you are lucky (or well off) there are a couple of Bentley courtesy cars.
The Galgorm Castle championship golf course, was designed by Simon Gidman and opened in 1997. The course grounds is also where the castle is located. There is also a 6 hole mini course, a full size practice area, and a mini replica of the Himalayas putting green in St. Andrews.
The course is now firmly established as a DP World Tour venue and has hosted the ISPS Handa World Invitational on a number of occasions and will do again in August 2023.
The Championship Course
On the first tee.
The course is a par 72 layout with both nines having a par of 36. We played from the white tees with the course measuring just over 6600 yards. There are tees to suit all abilities from 5505 to 7275 yards. As always, please choose the tees to suit your handicap and ability. It just makes your round so much more enjoyable.
From the whites, the front nine is 250 yards shorter than the back nine. The run of holes from the 2nd to the 9th were our favourite holes. There is so much variety in these holes with reachable par 5’s, short but tricky par 4’s and a couple of excellent par 3’s. You might disagree, however, you will just have to play here to form your own opinion.
Tricky Par 4’s
Your approach shot to the 2nd green
The 2nd hole is a short par 4 of only 312 yards and plays left to right. It’s a narrow fairway which ends at 240 yards. Between the two bunkers at the end of the fairway is 3 inch rough so lay up short of the bunkers to give you control of your approach shot. The green is wide at the front and narrows toward the back with bunkers on either side. There is significant slope on the green so hitting the green in two is no guarantee of a par.
The 3rd hole is a 480 yard par 5 and plays left to right. It’s a birdie opportunity if you can avoid the four bunkers in the tee shot landing area. The green is protected a bunker 30 yards short and by two further bunkers, one on each side. Beware of going long as there is a lake behind the green.
The 2nd shot to the 4th green
The fourth hole is another short par 4 which has a deep burn just before the green. The fairway stops about 25 yards short of the burn. Choose you club off the tee to be short of the rough. For us it was a hybrid for position, then a wedge to the green. The green is 35 yards long so try and judge the distance to the pin to have the best chance of a birdie.
The Par 3’s
The par 3 fifth hole
The 5th hole is a lovely par 3 of 195 yards. The green is protected by two bunkers making it a narrow entrance to a wide green. It plays its full yardage so make sure you take enough club to get over the false front.
The 7th hole
The 7th is probably the signature hole. A short par 3 of 140 yards, it’s a relatively easy par if the pin is on the left. If it’s on the right, then aim for the centre of the green and try and two putt from there. The shelf on the right isn’t deep and the water awaits any tee shot that is short.
No Risk, No reward
Your 3rd shot to the 9th
The 9th hole is a 486 yard par 5. This hole has had some alterations carried out on it as the stroke saver guide didn’t have the water coming across the front of the green. After hitting a decent drive (250 yards) we were faced with a second shot of 220 yards into the breeze to carry the water. After thinking about for all of 3 seconds, we hit 9 iron, then wedge onto the green and two putted for our par. It’s all about course management after all….
After a quick coffee at the halfway house, we tackled the back nine holes which start and finish with par 5’s. Our favourite holes included the two par 3’s curiously named Arthurs Seat and Devils Elbow along with the 16th and 17th, both strong par 4 ‘s.
The 12th hole
Arthurs Seat, the 12th is a 158 yard par 3. Your choice of club depends on the pins location. There is a 3 club difference between a front and back pin.
The 14th hole
Devils Elbow, the 14th is a 177 yard par 3. The green is slightly uphill from the tee so take enough club. Similar to the 7th hole, if the pin is on the right side, play for the centre of the green. The burn runs all the way up the rights and around the green. Taking on a right pin can lead to disaster!
Your approach to the 17th.
The 16th is lovely par 4 of 420 yards. The landing area for your tee shot is narrow. If you hit the fairway you can then take on the green which is protected by large bunkers. The 17th was one of those holes which really suited our eye. From the elevated tee the hole sweeps downhill and left to right. Maybe we liked the hole so much because we hit our best drive of the day here and covered the 408 yards with a drive and a gap wedge. Never made that birdie though!
Galgorm Castle is an excellent parkland course. It was in very good condition and the greens were firm and slick. We found the variety of holes on the front nine more interesting. By that we mean you had to think about what to hit off the tee, to leave you on the fairway and the best angle into the greens. The back nine holes, except the par 3’s, were all driver off the tee. If that’s what you like then you will love the back nine more than we did. It’s all about opinions after all.
The Hotel and Spa
Our deluxe room
The accommodation at Galgorm is fabulous. There are 125 luxurious guest rooms including 48 deluxe rooms, Junior and Signature Suites, and a range of Log Cabins, Cottage Suites, Shepherd’s Huts and exclusive Residences perfect for groups or families. We stayed in one of the deluxe rooms which had a stunning view over the Thermal Spa Village to the River Maine.
Room with a view
In the interests of being thorough in our research, we had a wander around the Thermal Spa Village and we were happy to sample one of the 12 outdoor jacuzzi’s, the indoor sauna and pool. If you are looking to relax after a hard day on the golf course, you can’t do any better than to spend a few hours here.
From one jacuzzi to another
That was our overriding impression of the hotel and spa. Relaxation. We don’t think we have ever stayed in a 5 star hotel where you are made to feel as comfortable walking around in a bathrobe and slippers. No one gives you a second look.
There are a number of places to eat at Galgorm. There is the excellent Castle Kitchen and Bar at the golf course clubhouse, and Fratelli’s Ristorante, Gillies Grill and the River Room and Conservatory at the hotel.
The Bang Bang Chicken
We had dinner in Gillies Grill. The menu was what you would expect from a grill but there was also a bonus of Asian Fusion choices. We had the Salt and Chilli Chicken and the Bang Bang Chicken. Both were very tasty and well presented.
Next door to the grill is McKendrys Irish Pub. It’s a great place to meet and talk for a few hours about your golf game. The Guinness will keep the conversation flowing and will certainly make you feel better about your golf by the end of the evening.
The Gin Library
The Gin Library
Speaking about the drink. No visit to Galgorm would be complete without a wee stop off at the Gin Library. There are hundreds of gins to choose from, from every corner of the world. It’s another great place to spend a few hours.
Our breakfast was served in the Conservatory. Being Scottish, we obviously chose the porridge, which was excellent. There was plenty of choice from pastries, fruit, cold meats all the way to the cooked options including the legendary Galgorm Irish Breakfast.
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway, a challenging golf vacation, or a combination of both, Galgorm Resort is an excellent choice. The resort offers everything you need to enjoy a memorable stay, from exceptional accommodation and dining options to a range of activities and amenities. If you’re planning a trip to Northern Ireland, be sure to consider Galgorm Resort as your base for exploring this beautiful region.
Thank you to Ross Oliver, the Director of Golf for arranging our tee time and welcoming us to Galgorm Castle and to Leigh Heggarty for a wonderful stay in the hotel. It was truly memorable!
At a Glance:
- World renowned Spa and Golf Resort
- Unique Thermal Village Spa with indoor and outdoor facilities
- 5 star luxury in a relaxing environment
- 18 hole Championship Course
- 6 hole pitch and putt course
- Driving Range with short game area
- Multiple dining options
- 45 minutes from Belfast City Centre