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Royal Portrush Golf Club

  • February 6, 2021 // The Consummate Pro

The ‘Dunluce Links’ at Royal Portrush Golf Club is not only one of the best golf courses in Ireland, but is regularly acknowledged in the top 20 golf courses in the world. Overlooking the east strand of Portrush, just a short walk from the heart of the town, this famous links hosted the greatest championship in golf, The Open, for the second time, in the summer of 2019. Anyone interested in a golf vacation to Ireland, or specifically a Northern Ireland golf trip, Royal Portrush is a must-play.


The Royal Portrush golf club actually started life a lot closer to the town than its current location. When it was founded in 1888, the original clubhouse was opposite the existing railway station. This piece of land was known as the ‘triangle’. Legendary designer Harry Colt was tasked with redesigning the golf course, which was then two 18-hole courses (one Men’s, one Ladies), in 1922. However, the following year, the parcel of land on which the current course sits became available, and Colt revised his plan. World War II temporarily interrupted his plans, and by the time the club hosted its first Open in 1951, Royal Portrush had vacated ‘the triangle’ and moved to its current site.


The 148th Open Championship


When the decision was made to bring The Open back to Royal Portrush in 2019, it was clear alterations to the golf course would be needed. The 17th and 18th holes were universally regarded as too weak, and so two new holes were created. Utilizing part of the ‘Valley’, Royal Portrush’s second links, architects Mackenzie & Ebert, created a new 7th and 8th hole for the Dunluce. The space left behind by the old 17thand 18th was levelled and subsequently became the Open tented village. They added 13 new bunkers to the golf course, pushed the 2nd green back 40yds and lengthened the 10th, now 12th hole. New tee boxes were added for the elite players on nine holes, including the 16th, 17th, and 18th, to strengthen the finish. Overall, the course was only lengthened by 200yards. The Valley was also redesigned, needing as they had, to replace the holes lost.The new 7th hole at Royal Portrush


Few parts of Royal Portrush remained untouched in preparation for the Open. The R&A furthermore decided that the 148th Open championship was to be a blueprint for all future tournaments. New roads were constructed around the site to make access easier for the vehicles needed to build and run the event. Miles of fibreoptic cable, used to broadcast the tournament around the world, was buried underground in piping. A new waste water treatment plant was built on-site, and environmental protections put in place. The 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush was the definition of a modern championship.

The Open at Royal Portrush

Royal Portrush golf club is a magnificent, but fair challenge. However, as Rory McIlroy found out to his cost during The Open, the first hole is incredibly intimidating. A 420yard uphill par four, with out-of-bounds both left and right, the target is a narrow one for even the best in the game. The green at the 1st is one of Colt’s original’s, and has been beautifully crafted to allow for four challenging pin positions. Anyone walking off with a four, should quicken their step to the second tee. McIlroy sadly left with an 8.


The 5th – ‘White Rocks’, is one of the many signature holes at Royal Portrush. The green, which runs to the course boundary, enjoys the east strand beach, the cliffs and Dunluce Castle as its stunning backdrop. It is a fabulous dogleg par 4, which many of the professionals took on during the championship with varying degrees of success. The 16th is another of the signature holes at Royal Portrush, and possibly one of the most feared par threes’ in world golf – ‘Calamity Corner’. At 230yards from the new back tee, it is an intimidating golf shot played across some of the most exciting terrain on the golf course. It is almost entirely carry, with only ‘Bobby Locke’s Hollow’ as a bail out to the left of the green. This is a fabulous golf hole, where again, you will take par and run to the next.


Royal Portrush is a real client favourite. Despite its lofty world ranking, it retains the ability to be incredibly fair for the average golfer. Portrush is after all a member’s club. When Mackenzie & Ebert made the changes, they were acutely aware, not only this, but also of Harry Colt’s legacy. Unlike many of the championship links golf courses in these islands, Royal Portrush is relatively free of punishing bunkers. It is certainly not easy, but most of the golf courses is laid out in front of you. The golf course has more than enough rough to present even the best with a challenge. Anyone considering a Northern Ireland golf trip, simply must play Portrush.


Northern Ireland Golf Trip


The North Antrim coastline is home to three magnificent links golf courses. Royal Portrush, Portstewart and Castlerock form the backbone of any golf trip to Northern Ireland. The harbour area of Portrush is in many ways the epicentre of golf in this part of the world. No trip to play Royal Portrush is complete without a visit to The Harbour Bar for a pint, nor a meal at the famous ‘Harry’s Shack’. Quite often on a Northern Ireland golf trip, we will try to combine a visit to the Old Bushmills Distillery on the day we play Royal Portrush, either before or after the round. When you are going to play one of the best golf courses in Ireland, you might as well combine it with one of the best whiskeys!


We highly recommend that anyone considering a Northern Ireland golf trip, must absolutely include Royal Portrush. Its pedigree speaks for itself. The subtle and not so subtle undulations, the magnificent Harry Colt greens, and the stunning backdrop, combine to make Royal Portrush one of the best golf courses in the world. We look forward to hearing from you and personalising your Northern Ireland golf vacation.

You may also be interested in this article which we wrote for Hospitality Review a number of years before the 2019 Open Golf Championship was held at Royal Portrush.