Royal Portrush ready to embrace The 148th Open
A lot has changed in 68 years. We’ve seen 14 British Prime Ministers, 13 US Presidents, witnessed one coronation and seen man walk on the moon.
Beatlemania has come and gone, colour TV has entered every household and the internet has transformed our daily lives, yet one thing has remained the same since 1951: Royal Portrush’s place among the finest links golf courses in the world.
Not since then has the seaside town in north Antrim hosted golf’s biggest event but in 2019, The Open will return as the Claret Jug leaves mainland Great Britain for just the second time in its illustrious 147-year history.
Back on The Open rota, the course will stage the biggest sporting event ever held in Northern Ireland and generate more than £70m for the local economy. A lot has, indeed, changed in 68 years.
"To have the biggest and finest tournament is a very proud moment and the event coming here is a huge step of trust by The R&A," said 2011 Champion Golfer Darren Clarke, a Northern Ireland native.
“The excitement is going to build and a lot of people have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to get us to this point and I am delighted for all of them.
“If you take a look back through some of our tougher days in Northern Ireland, I don’t think anyone could have envisaged what is happening. But with the way our country is now, with so many athletes and events such as The Open Championship which is the biggest tournament in the world, the biggest and the best can come to Northern Ireland.
“It is an opportunity to highlight our little part of the world globally, it is incredible for us all.”
Regularly ranked inside the top five links golf courses in the world, Royal Portrush will certainly present a challenge. The course will be similar, although not identical, to the one Englishman Max Faulkner conquered in 1951.
Two new holes have been created on the Dunluce Course and it has been lengthened by 200 yards to 7,317.
But if 2018 host Carnoustie is regarded by many as the toughest course on The Open rota, an intimidating venue where the unrelenting North Sea winds punish players on a daily basis, then Royal Portrush may be the perfect tonic.
The Atlantic gales still roll in but there are plenty of birdies to be made. Jamie Donaldson claimed the Irish Open title there in 2012 by finishing on 18-under par, while 17 players in all finished on ten-under or better.
Recent Open Sundays have proven to be some of the most dramatic in the competition’s history and there is no doubt Royal Portrush will leave its own imprint.
But it is the atmosphere which will really make this Open unique. Northern Ireland has never hosted such a big sporting event and in Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Clarke, there are plenty of players for the locals to follow.
The competitive action begin may begin on a Thursday but of course on Open week there is so much to see and do – with one of the highlights taking place on Monday morning when current Champion Golfer Francesco Molinari will hand back the Claret Jug.
The course is accessible to everyone too, with Belfast situated just 60 miles down the road while other famous Northern Ireland landmarks are within reach.
The Giants Causeway is just along the coast and the seven-mile stroll from the course to the Causeway is among the most spectacular in the British Isles.
That walk also takes you past the gorgeous village of Bushmills – most famous as the home of the Old Bushmills Whiskey Distillery.
Each Open venue leaves its own imprint and Royal Portrush is sure to become one of the most popular. It can’t be missed.