Clandeboye Golf Club Ava Course Review

The Ava Course at Clandeboye Golf Club fits the hidden gem billing very neatly

Clandeboye Golf Club Ava Course - Feature
The fifth green on the Ava Course at Clandeboye, a short par 4
(Image credit: Kevin Markham)

Clandeboye Golf Club Ava Course Review

GF £60-£80
Par 70, 5,748 yards
Slope 111
GM Verdict Pick your way successfully through the trees and Ava’s a little beauty
Favourite Hole The 319-yard par-4 4th plays from a high tee and into a dogleg that sweeps uphill and left

The word ‘gem’ is often associated with something small. In golf course terms that means short or a diminutive par. Clandeboye’s Ava may appear to fulfil both criteria (seven par-4s fall between 300 and 330 yards) but it is big at heart, and bristles with entertainment. It also provides a stern challenge for the wayward.

Clandeboye - Ava Course - Hole 1

The opening hole is a par 4 of 346 yards

(Image credit: Rob Smith)

The Ava may be Clandeboye’s second course - the Dufferin has impressive championship credentials and hosts the Euro Pro Tour Northern Ireland Masters in August 2022 - and most visiting golfers will be lured by the bigger sibling, but the Ava provides a punchy adventure of a different hue. Here you can expect a plucky heathland terrain of constant, sharp and unexpected eruptions… a bit like hiccups.

Clandeboye - Ava Course - Hole 2

The par-5 second is the toughest hole on the card

(Image credit: Rob Smith)

When considering golf holidays in Northern Ireland, Clandeboye Golf Club has much to offer. It is not far from some of the best golf courses in Ireland and dates back to 1929 with the Ava opening in 1933. Many fairways are now squeezed by encroaching trees or gorse, while subtle doglegs add to the challenge. There are holes where a driver is a must - the dark, tree-lined par-5 2nd measures 524 yards (Index 1) and is regarded as one of the best holes around, with an intimidating second shot - and there are holes that demand far more common sense… and that’s the majority of them. Consider the front nine where four par 4s are under 320 yards. Easy scoring you might think but the 312-yard 7th is Index 3 for a reason. Named Hells Bells, a narrow fairway threads through dense trees, moving right and up and over a cavorting ridge. It’s tight and OB lines the left all the way to the green which will be blind for your approach. It is a five iron if you believe in safety first. There are others here with similar challenges.

Clandeboye - Ava Course - Hole 5

Wind turbines loom in the distance beyond the fifth green

(Image credit: Kevin Markham)

The constant elevation changes add character to the course, even if that means some blind shots. Indeed, the best line off the tee might require you to drive over trees or clear hollows, gorse or hillocks.

Clandeboye - Ava Course - Hole 9

Looking down the ninth fairway with the Irish Channel in the distance

(Image credit: Rob Smith)

Positioning is therefore crucial so be sure to bring an accurate radar and rein in the muscle. Greens are accessible, with minimal bunkering, but they are small, often crowded by trees and not always visible. That crowding effect applies to tee boxes, too. You really have to pick your way through this maze with care. In a nod to the challenges you’ll face bunkers are reserved for greens, with several holes bunkerless.

Kevin Markham
Kevin Markham

Kevin Markham stepped into a campervan in 2007, and spent the next 14 months playing every 18-hole golf course in Ireland… 360 of them. He wrote two books on the back of those travels and has been working in the golf industry ever since, both as a freelance writer and a photographer. His love of golf courses has seen him playing extensively in Scotland, as well as across Europe. In total, he has played over 550 courses including most of Scotland’s top 100, and over half of Portugal’s growing number. He writes for the Irish Examiner newspaper, Irish Golfer magazine, and Destination Golf, and is a regular contributor to Golf Monthly. He has his own photography website – kevinmarkhamphotography.com – and spends hours on golf courses waiting to capture the perfect sunrise or sunset.

Kevin can be contacted via Twitter - @kevinmarkham