Scrabo Golf Club Course Review

Scrabo Golf Club in County Down offers something a little different, with holes snaking across the hillside through swathes of gorse

Scrabo Golf Club - 13th hole
A typical Scrabo vista with holes weaving between the gorse
(Image credit: Kevin Markham)

Scrabo Golf Club Course Review

GF £20-£30
Par 71, 6,270 yards
Slope 113
GM Verdict – A gorse-drenched, hilltop riot.
Favourite Hole – The 1st heads straight up Scrabo Hill, through the gorse, and sums up perfectly everything that this course is about.

Scrabo Golf Club - Scrabo Tower

Scrabo Tower dominates the skyline

(Image credit: Kevin Markham)

Since 1907, Scrabo has played over this rugged, bumpy, unpredictable, sometimes unfair but always adventurous and adrenaline-inducing hilltop terrain. It lies at pretty much the opposite end of County Down to the current No.1-ranked course in the Golf Monthly UK&I Top 100, the Championship Links at Royal County Down.

Gorse often swamps your foreground while views spill for miles, stretching down Strangford Lough and across to Scotland, and the Isle of Man. Right from the start you are hit by the drama of the course and its setting. The 1st plays from a high tee, driving over a wide dip before racing straight uphill between flanks of gorse. A small, steep green awaits at the foot of Scrabo Tower. It’s a par 4 of 459 yards and it is SI 1. Welcome to Scrabo.

Scrabo Golf Club - 1st hole

There's no easing yourself in at Scrabo with the 1st stretching to 459 yards uphill between the gorse!

(Image credit: Kevin Markham)

Scrabo is a course that divides opinion. Given its steep slopes, outbursts of rock and razor-sharp gorse this can be a tough day on the hill, but there is beauty in the beast. That sense of wild adventure remains untamed for the entire round and you will play 18 holes of pure adrenaline helped by those high tees, and the distant views will have you swinging hard.

Scrabo Golf Club - 18th green

The 18th green from the 1st tee

(Image credit: Kevin Markham)

Fairways snake across the hillside and you will find it an exceptionally natural course. You could almost play it as a links, such is the run on the fairways and the unpredictable bounces that can come your way. There are heathland flourishes, too. Bump-and-run works but you always need to assess the safe ‘miss’ because on small greens with danger somewhere off the edge, you need to be careful. The 3rd, for example, has gorse tight right of the green, while it’s on the opposite side on the 8th. And Scrabo combines long and short holes so a lot of your clubs will be used. The 459-yard 1st is just the start: the 12th rocks in at 443 yards while the downhill par-5 9th measures 582 yards. These are balanced by six par 4s under 350 yards.

Scrabo Golf Club - 18th green

The bunkers by the 18th green are the only two you will encounter on the back nine

(Image credit: Kevin Markham)

You have to wait until the par-3 4th for your first bunker and you’ve already played two of the three hardest holes by then according to the stroke indices. There are eight on the front nine and just two on the back… both of which are on the short, blind, tight par-4 18th. Who needs an army of bunkers when you have such shapes to fairways and terrain? Scrabo is the type of course that will have you pausing for breath. And when you do you should look around, enjoy the moment and appreciate that you are playing something very different.

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 (opens in new tab) – and spends hours on golf courses waiting to capture the perfect sunrise or sunset.

Kevin can be contacted via Twitter - @kevinmarkham