William and Howard Swan of Swan Golf Designs have completed the first phase of work at the Aberdelghy golf course in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, one of two public courses operated by Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council.
Renovation work at the course has included five new holes and extensive tree management in what were the substantial grounds of a nineteenth-century stately home, originally owned by the Richardson family.
The house was abandoned many decades ago but the landscaped gardens stretching almost a kilometre in each direction remained and the shortish nine-hole golf course sustained. The course was extended to 18 holes in 1998.
“In creating some of the new holes, the rerouting has taken advantage of much of the original landscape form – an outstanding lake stretching throughout the valley of the course together with some wonderful specimen trees dating back over 100 years. Selective clearing has been undertaken to expose some truly statuesque hardwoods throughout what was in the grounds of the estate,” said Howard Swan.
“There are some outstandingly impressive redwoods, cedars, oaks and pines, which were exposed, in particular, during the creation of the 400-yard par-four fifteenth,” said Swan. “Having been able to expose them, we’ve managed to bring them into the course and now golfers will be able to feast their eyes on the specimens which had never seen the light of day since Victorian times!”
The redesign has involved two par threes being extended to par fours, and the Swans have also added two new par fours and as well as a new par three at the seventeenth, adding some 275 yards to the overall length of the course.
“The layout was changed in order to maximise the usage of land, which was available but previously unused, and by doing so the opportunity to develop a comprehensive golf academy on an enlarged released area was realised,” said Swan. “It is envisaged that in the subsequent stages of the renovation, the city council will take the opportunity to develop the academy design concept provided by Swan Golf Designs and give Aberdelghy the chance to become an initial stepping-stone for those to take up the game and develop their skills. The long-term aim is to facilitate the council’s sister course at Castlereagh Hills, which is a considerably more testing 18 holes, to become the second rung on the ladder of the city council’s provision of public golf.
“I am excited to see how the golfing population in this part of Northern Ireland reacts to this first stage of redesign and renovation at Aberdelghy. The course has become much more spectacular than it was previously with the replacement of the two shortest holes. It has not only increased the length of the golf course – it remains not overly long for usage of those in the public golfing sector – but brought its challenge and the presentation of the new course up to the expectations of an increasing number of players who are arriving at Aberdelghy.
“I particularly like the new fourteenth hole which has become a rather teasing 295-yard par four, the type of hole which we golf course architects do not seem to create enough of these days, when there is pressure in creating more and more length.
“As it develops further, Aberdelghy will be destined to be more for youngsters, people taking up the game and the like, as well as for seniors and the mature sector, as it is not too hilly or too long, while Castlereagh is a little more strenuous. We do hope that we can extend its use to developing initiatives such as those currently being seen in bringing disabled and disadvantaged people, young and old to the game. Initial discussions with Golf in Society, in which golf is being used as a therapy for dementia, have been held.”
Local contractor Haffey Sports Grounds started construction work in November 2018, with all materials for the project locally sourced. Work has now been completed and the new holes are growing in. It is anticipated that the course will have a soft opening this summer.
Lisburn City Council and Castlereagh Borough Council merged in 2015 to become Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council – the new local authority becoming responsible for both Abedelghy and Castlereagh Hills golf courses.
Swan Golf Designs completed initial renovation and redesign work at Castlereagh Hills (on the original Gilnahirk nine-hole golf course) in 2015 and 2016 and has continued the relationship with the council to now work on both courses.
“I had worked at Castlereagh Hills, changing half a dozen holes,” said Swan. “It was driven by a lack of adequate safety on the golf course which had raised some significant problems and it was a necessity to revise the layout of two holes completely and re-bunker four more.”
Swan Golf Designs will be returning to Castlereagh Hills in autumn to continue the long-term renovation programme and this will complement its ongoing work at the Harry Colt classic, Belvoir Park, and at Helen’s Bay on the North Down coast.