The Early Years


In the Summer of 1881, Thomas Sinclair spent a holiday in Scotland, which included a visit to St. Andrews to play golf. He was immediately smitten and on his return home he sought out George L Baillie, a local teacher and an experienced golfer, originally from Musselburgh in Scotland.

Together they approached Captain John Harrison, the Laird of Holywood, who generously gave permission for a golf course to be laid out free of rent on his land at Kinnegar, Holywood. These frontiersmen of golf wasted no time and the first 18-hole competition took place over the new 6-hole course on Boxing Day 1881.

Becoming a Royal Club


In 1885 the Club became “Royal” after the Prince of Wales (Subsequently King Edward VII) was invited to become its Patron during a visit to Ireland. As the game grew in popularity, the course became overcrowded and the Club relocated to a new 9-hole course in Carnalea, near Bangor in 1892.

Post War


After World War 1, the Club moved to Craigavad House and its beautiful 140-acre estate, on the shores of Belfast Lough near Holywood, a home originally built in 1852 by Mr John Mulholland, who was later to become the 1st Lord Dunleath. In 1925 the Club’s Council made the wise decision to appoint the eminent golf course architect of the day H S Colt (designer of Royal Portrush and Royal County Down) to take full responsibility for the design and layout of a new 18-hole course. The new course opened in September 1926 and remains much the same today as it was then, a tribute to the enduring excellence of its original design.

Recent Years


In recent years the facilities have been extended whilst retaining their Victorian charm and the Club has a thriving Membership. The course is now widely recognised as one of the premier parkland courses in Ireland and has been the recipient of a number of accolades and awards.

Awards Received

  • Winner of the IGTOA Parkland Golf Course of the Year 2013 & 2022
  • Golfer’s Guide to Ireland Best Parkland Golf Course in Ulster 2014
  • Golfer’s Guide to Ireland Clubhouse of the Year 2024