Upcoming Golf Tournament
When it comes to golf, 2019 is Northern Ireland’s year. And with The 148th Open behind us, the spotlight is now firmly fixed on the upcoming ISPS HANDA World Invitational Men | Women.
The major new tournament, previously known as the NI Open, is one of the region's most exciting sporting events of the year, with a stellar line-up of players set to attend.
But the golfing action doesn’t stop there; Northern Ireland has an amazing array of links, parkland and resort courses - check them out here. Not to mention top-class hotels and restaurants to savour, post-round.
About the tournament
Massereene, on the shores of Lough Neagh, will also act as host venue before the weekend rounds conclude in the luxurious surrounds of the Galgorm.
The $500,000 tournament will feature around 300 of the sport's finest men and (for the first time) women players, including European Solheim Cup captain and Major champion Catriona Matthew.
The ISPS HANDA World Invitational's predecessor, the NI Open, was the most successful and best-attended event on the European Challenge Tour. In addition to the prowess on the course, there will also be live music at the Galgorm estate, a family area, coaching zones and a Junior event.
Extending your golf break
If the ISPS HANDA World Invitational inspires you to better your own game, Northern Ireland has a wealth of world-class courses from which to tee off. It’s also home to countless other amateur and professional tournaments, including the Newry, Mourne & Down Summer Trophy and Fermanagh Lakelands' Festival of Golf.
The 148th Open was held at the Royal Portrush Golf Club, County Antrim, a celebrated links club where you can test your talents on the Dunluce Course (where the championship was held), or opt for the slightly less challenging (but no less enjoyable!), Valley Course.
The Royal County Down Golf Club is regarded as one of the best courses on the planet, with a striking backdrop of the Mourne Mountains and Murlough Nature Reserve. Visitors can opt for its Championship links, or shorter Annesley links.
You’re spoilt for choice at the plush Lough Erne resort, with 36-holes to pick from, including the Nick Faldo-designed Faldo Course, Castle Hume golf course, and the resort's Golf Academy.
And for a slice of history, you can’t beat the Royal Belfast Golf Club on Belfast Lough's shores, dating back to 1881.
Exploring the area
Northern Ireland has so much for you to discover, from stunning coastline to as-seen-on-TV marvels.
Just 20 minutes' drive from the Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort is the Seamus Heaney HomePlace in the Nobel Prize-winning poet’s hometown of Bellaghy, County Derry~Londonderry. This interactive visitor centre is full of fascinating artefacts and information about Heaney’s life, along with excerpts from his timeless poetry.
The Giant's Causeway in County Antrim is a not-to-be-missed geological wonder. Be wowed by the 40,000 basalt stone columns, created by volcanic eruptions 60 million years ago - or ancient feuding giants, depending on what version of events you believe!
Take a deep breath and make your way across the nearby Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, suspended 100ft above sea level, for breath-taking views of land and sea (if you dare to look down).
Also in Co Antrim, the tree-lined Dark Hedges should ring a bell with Game of Thrones® fans. This beautiful avenue of 18th century beech trees was used as the show's famous Kingsroad.
And just a stone's throw from Massereene Golf Club (less than five minutes by car, or 10 minutes by foot), you’ll find the picturesque, 400-year-old Antrim Castle Gardens. With features including a Pleasure Garden and Yew Tree Pond, they are perfect for a relaxing stroll.
Where to eat and stay
The Galgorm Resort and Spa has a variety of dining options, ranging from the cosy bar and grill at Gillies and pizzas at the Fratelli Ristorante, through to the 3 AA Rosette-awarded River Room.
At nearby Galgorm Castle, the Castle Kitchen and Bar has a BBQ smokehouse feel, and signature cocktails such as the Lady Captain and Castle Colada.
Around 30 minutes’ drive from the Galgorm is Ardtara Country House. Built around 1896, it boasts elegant, antique-filled bedrooms, plus a daily-changing dinner menu of local produce and fruit and veg from the house’s gardens. Don’t forget to purchase a packet of Guinness Bread mix from reception!
In the town of Bushmills, home to the famous Bushmills Irish Whiskey, the Bushmills Inn is a former 17th century coaching inn which has been turned into a luxury boutique hotel. Its restaurant is set in the original stables and wine cellar, and serves seasonal, locally-sourced food.
Meanwhile in Ballycastle on the Antrim coast, Ursa Minor is fast becoming known as an innovative and exciting bakehouse serving up dishes such as coconut bacon doorstop sandwiches and chocolate and hazelnut ‘cruffins’.
Visit the official website of the ISPS HANDA World Invitational for more information about this fantastic event and to buy tickets.