Exciting times as Open plans get the green light

Royal Portrush. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Royal Portrush. Niall Carson/PA Wire.

A past captain of Royal Portrush and current member of the club’s tournament committee, said there was a feeling of excitement about the progress the club is making regarding The Open.

A special meeting of club members last Friday night saw overwhelming support for redevelopment plans, the first redevelopment of the world-renowned links in the 60 plus years since it last hosted the major tournament.

“We always wanted to have a unanimous decision as much as possible so there was unity in the club and we think that is what we have achieved,” said Philip Tweedie afterwards.

“Everything has got to improve and strengthen. Ultimately what we are working on the Dunluce and Valley links are creating stronger courses that are fit for Open competitive golf.”

The changes will involve taking two holes out of the Valley course and creating three new holes, plans which Mr Tweedie described as “stunning”.

The hour long hotel meeting on Friday night was held after detailed planning by the club’s management including architect Martin Ebert laying the groundwork with a model exhibition and maps in the clubhouse to detail all the changes.

Members were taken on tours of the prestigious Dunluce Links in groups of 40 or 50 for experts to walk and talk them through the redevelopment.

The Dunluce course will be improved to a par 71 0f 7,337 yards.

Among the changes will be new greens - the eighth will be a two tier and the par five ninth will become a par four.

Some new bunkers will be dug while the current practice ground will be used for tentage.

A 75-page brochure has been made available, primarily for members, to outline how the changes will alter the courses.

Mr Tweedie added: “It’s a massive sense excitement in terms of getting the opportunity to get the course strengthened and enhanced.

“The opportunity it’s bringing for so many people in terms of members and then in terms of the general public, for Portrush, for Northern Ireland and for Ireland.”

Royal Portrush was added to the Open rota, with 2019 a potential date for its long awaited return to major golf.

The decision was sparked in part by the record breaking attendance at the 2012 Irish Open at the venue.

The spectacular course on the scenic Causeway coast last staged the Open in 1951 - the only time it has been played outside England and Scotland.

Several major championship victories by local superstars Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke since 2010 have added a real impetus to the campaign to bring the championship back, with all three lobbying on behalf of the course.