Plans for a new championship golf course in Northern Ireland are likely to be finalised by golf course architect David Jones over the coming months.
The Hillsborough course has been in the planning for a number of years, with talk of the new course coming as early as 2001. The project has hit a few hurdles along the way however, such as the financial recession.
But the current signs are good, and Jones is confident that the vision for the Hillsborough course will become a reality sooner rather than later.
“In 2001, I was put in touch with a dairy farmer named David Wilson who had this idea that a golf course might be a better and more profitable use of his land,” Jones told GCA. “We talked over two or three years, while he tried to get some other partners involved. Eventually he put the whole thing together with advice from numerous parties, including myself. The final plans included real estate, leisure facilities, and hoteliers.”
Jones said that between 2001 and 2006, Wilson compiled an interesting and exciting set of plans for the site. Developers were brought in, and Jones continued to advise and make recommendations for the golfing side of things which would also meet the real estate ambitions of the site.
However, due to the recession and other hurdles, the project did not progress as originally planned. Wilson has however continued to work hard on the plans and get the necessary permissions and statutory requirements, with the project now once again a viable thing to start.
“I had done and revised the golf course layout numerous times to incorporate the various real estate ambitions of the site,” said Jones. “That’s been the case during this dormant period, which we hope is now coming to an end. It’s got back on track and David and I are about to look at the golf course plans again. We want to make sure everything fits, the safety aspects are still there, and then finalise the details of the design.”
Jones has spent much of his recent career away from his native Northern Ireland, with notable projects in Kenya, Tanzania and Turkey.
“It’ll be nice to get something closer to home going again,” Jones said. “It’s a nice piece of land. It’s largely farmland but it’s nicely populated with some mature trees, streams, and it has nice undulation. It’s very well located just outside Belfast on the main Dublin to Belfast road.”
Jones says it won’t be the easiest build he’s ever done due to the real estate element, but is excited by the plans for the course as the site lends itself to golf quite naturally.
“It’s going to be a very walkable and enjoyable course, but will certainly be testing from the back tees,” he said. “I’m due to meet David and the various people involved with the site’s design side this week. This is to make sure all the plans we created originally are still workable, and I think in the main they will be.”
Jones says that if Wilson and the other parties agreed that the time was right to kick on with the work, construction of the golf course could start as early as 2017.
“In terms of finalising the design, I could be in a position to start building in the spring of 2017,” Jones said. “The perfect scenario would be to start the golf course in 2017, looking at a potential spring 2019 opening time, which would then give a couple of years to kick on with the hotel and real estate side of things. An opening time for the whole project would likely be in 2019 or 2020.”