Memories linger amid the magic of Malone


​​​Malone is a jewel in the crown of parkland golf courses. Located in the heart of Belfast, it is a tranquil escape from the city and an oasis for golfers.​

  • 14 March 2017
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Caption: A view across the lake at Malone with the 14th green in the distance

The course has not yet appeared and already the eyes are wide with wonder. A glorious, tree-lined avenue ushers the visitor beyond a busy cityscape and into the serenity of a golf club made in heaven.

Moving through the Ballydrain estate feels like floating through time. Nature tells its own tale, and it goes deep, far beneath this fertile ground. The natural landscape has no need for decoration.

Passing through the gated entrance, Malone’s secluded avenue gives way to pale, blue water idling across a vast lake. This soothing sight stills the mind although its becalming effect might wane when the water approaches the 15th tee. It sets the final scene too, running parallel to the 18th fairway, poised to sink any shot that slides from view.

Temptation is to stop and savour quiet contemplation but the grand clubhouse – centrepiece of this sprawling estate – beckons. Ballydrain House stands stately and proud, its Tudor design at once compelling. An English architect, employed by owner Hugh Montgomery in the 19th Century, bequeathed a building of timeless appeal.

Completed in 1843, almost nine years after construction began, Malone Golf Club are now proud to call it home. The interior has been modernised without compromising the integrity of the original design.

On its own, the clubhouse would be just enough to take in were it not for the wondrous golf course that lies beyond and below. There are three nines to choose from: Drumbridge, Ballydrain and Edenderry. Ballydrain serves as the back nine and Drumbridge completes the championship layout. No hole will disappoint.

It all begins high above the first fairway, where an elevated view sets up a tantalising start. Turning gently from right to left, position is paramount and so begins the perfect golfing challenge. Nothing comes easy at Malone but the glorious view. What can often appear straightforward always requires sound strategy.

Returning near the sight of the opening hole on the Drumbridge nine, the need for clear thinking and precise planning is readily apparent at the fourth. A par three that measures 166 yards, it seems modest from the tee but take this shot lightly and you will find trouble. A well struck iron to the heart of this sloping green is no guarantee that you will get out of here in regulation. Putting downhill to the front pin position evokes a fear that can quickly turn to terror when the ball gathers pace beyond the cup.

Escape with a par and you’ll be more than happy to leave the fourth behind. And if you have picked up a shot on the par five that precedes it then the day is set fair for a good score.

That said, a tough stretch awaits as five, six and seven demand a variety of shots. Number seven, justifiably the lowest index on the course, looks stunning from an elevated tee but there is a sting in the tale. Anything left off the fairway is imperilled by a steep bank and a collection of trees will hamper an approach from the right.

Find the fairway with the ball turning over and you are in prime position to seek out a long, narrow green. For the best result, you must play a different card. It is every bit as demanding as the tee shot so caution may be best. Bogey is more than satisfactory when margins are this slim.

Having come through that gauntlet, scoring opportunities await. A drive down the left of number eight leaves a short approach and with wedge in hand, it is an inviting prospect. Catch the left half on 10 you will gain lots of yardage plus a chance to take aim at the pin. Depending on conditions, the next par three at number 12 requires anything from three wood to eight iron. Then it’s time to buckle in for the finish.

Sweeping doglegs on 13 and 14 make for contrasting par fours, and both have the potential to derail any round. Keep calm though, splendour awaits.

On first glance, 15 is the perfect par three: short and complicated. You must carry water all the way and silence perilous thoughts. Whatever you record, the spectacular surrounds of Malone’s natural trout lake, which spans 25 acres, linger long in the memory.

Take a deep breath when the lake returns to view on 18. Apart from the carry, some 200 yards across a deep saddle, it seems like water, water everywhere.

Cleverly tucked away, the green is protected on both sides. To the right that lake that appeared so mesmerising on arrival is now lurking ominously. Just one bunker guards the green but it is deeply set, making for an anxious recovery shot. Prepare to make do, otherwise it’s a hasty retreat to the clubhouse.

When relief has washed over, the lure of Malone quickly returns. Her beauty is obvious but it will always be a challenge taming this beast.




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