Dunluce Links Course at Royal Portrush Golf Club
Everybody has heard of St. Andrews. You all are surely familiar with Carnoustie. But have you been privileged to learn and hear about Royal Portrush Golf Club?
The Open Championship rotates between ten courses, nine of which are located in Scotland and England. The one exception is a venue on the northern coast of Northern Ireland called Royal Portrush Golf Club.
Before we go any further, we’ll just say that it’s the 14th-ranked golf course in the entire world, and it’s one of the top five tracks outside the United States of America. That’s how spectacular and special this place is.
We’re going to unveil everything you could imagine wanting to know about the brilliantly-designed course that’s set in an exquisite location. We’ll start by revealing a timeline for how things got started and how the golf club came to be what it is today.
We’ll follow by illustrating the layout and depicting the signature holes that make this track stand out as one of the best on the planet.
Of course, mentioning the 1951 Open Championship contested at Royal Portrush is part of the plan, as is letting you know all about the 2019 British Open at this venue.
We’ll also set you up with a whole bunch of stuff to do while you’re there if you plan on making the trip.
We want you to know all there is to know about the rich history that’s rooted into Royal Portrush Golf Club. A good starting point would be to glance at the key facts below before jumping into the “meat and potatoes” of this all-inclusive guide!
Royal Portrush Golf Club Dunluce Links – Key Facts
- Portrush, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
- Year Opened
- Owner/Operated By
- Course Designer
- Harry Colt
- Host To
- The Open Championship (1951, 2019)
- Official Website
Before we even attempt to jump into what this golf course is all about, we need to properly introduce its beginnings.
See, Royal Portrush Golf Club was established way back in 1888, save for the fact that it went by the name “The County Club” at first. It opened as a nine-hole course; the second nine wasn’t built until 1889.
Three years later in 1892 is when they added the “Royal” into the title, thanks to the support given by the Duke of York.
Fast-forward to 1895, and that’s when it officially became known as “Royal Portrush Golf Club,” aided by the Prince of Wales stepping in for an endorsement. That same year, the club became the first course outside of England to host the British Ladies’ Championship.
Despite the success in its early years, Royal Portrush GC caught their big break in 1929.
That’s when Harry Colt laid out his proposal for the Dunluce Links Course. Colt was known for designing a bevy of world-renowned venues – for example, both the East and West Courses at Wentworth Golf Club in England.
He even joined forces with George Arthur Crump to create the masterpiece known as Pine Valley Golf Club – otherwise known as the number-one-ranked golf course in the world.
Harry’s new design was tested out in 1930 at the Irish Open, a tournament won by Englishman Charles Whitcombe. Royal Portrush has hosted the Irish Open three times since, most recently in 2012 when Jamie Donaldson shot 18 under par to win by four.
We’d like to reference that in 1982, a portion of the golf course was almost lost due to Mother Nature.
Quite literally, the area surrounding the 5th green and the 6th tee box almost floated away into the ocean due to horrendous erosion and torrential weather conditions. The area was affected so badly, it nearly didn’t survive.
Fortunately, it did, and the golf course remains intact today. For more on the specifics of the layout, continue reading below!
Describing the Dunluce Links Course
We alluded to the fact that Harry Colt was hired in 1929 to further develop the golf course at Royal Portrush. The sandy land was suitable to house 18 golf holes, but it would take the wisdom and experience of an architect like Colt to turn isolated land into something extraordinary.
The complexity of the greens and the difficulty of the rough means that if you aren’t on your
“A-game,” it’s going to be a long afternoon out on the links. Even the low-handicappers and the professionals struggle to keep their balls out of the tangled and wispy grass that is scattered across the entirety of the property.
Part of what makes Royal Portrush so unique is the way it is constructed. Harry Colt used the natural flow of the land to his advantage while planting grass and adding sand traps along the way to help fill in the outline. He let the landscape speak for itself and did as little as possible to the existing terrain.
Taking this laid-back approach meant he was accepting the fact that being this close to the coast of the North Atlantic Ocean could expose certain holes to being the subject of severe damage.
While the 5th green and 6th tee box were saved in 1982, the same cannot be said for the original 17th and 18th holes of Colt’s design.
The loss of land continued to creep up in the 1940s, eventually compromising the final two holes completely. Their response was to create two new holes in 1946, thanks to the assistance from P.G. Stevenson and Sir Anthony Babington.
What you see today at the Dunluce Course is nothing short of breathtaking views and challenging golf holes.
The climate has a lot to do with how receptive this golf course plays. With how brutal some of the signature holes can play, pars are usually a pretty darn good score on just about all of them.
Rather than tease you about the most acclaimed holes, allow us to elaborate on the ones that stick out the most.
The 4th Hole at Royal Portrush Golf Club
It’s a par 4 on the scorecard, but don’t let that fool you into thinking 5 is a terrible score here.
Around 480 yards from the back tees, players will be staring at the North Atlantic Ocean in the distance on “Fred Daly’s Hole.”* That means it’s not uncommon for this brute of a hole to be playing back into the wind, thus requiring two near-perfect shots just to get to the green in regulation.
The rough is pretty nasty to the left of the fairway, but it’s still better than the out-of-bounds stakes that are lurking for those who miss their ball to the right. With four fairway bunkers and a putting surface nestled between some dunes, we can promise you this hole is no bargain. Even for a world-class player.
*Fred Daly was an Irishman from Portrush who won the 1947 Open Championship.
If we could only showcase one single hole at the Dunluce Links, it would unquestionably have to be the 5th. The short par 4 plays around 400 yards for professionals, but it’s the raw beauty that’s captured that makes this hole memorable.
The hole slopes away from the player, going down and curving to the right all the way until the edge of a cliff. That when it drops off down to the beach with the waves crashing down below, hence earning the nickname “White Rocks.”
If golfers thought the 4th hole was scenic, they get an even better glimpse at the amazingly picturesque setting at Royal Portrush here on the 5th. This isn’t the most difficult hole at Royal Portrush Golf Club, but players who go over the green will have to replay their shot and could end up making a pretty ugly number.
Because last we checked, you can’t play your ball when it’s down on the beach!
What typically plays as the 14th hole for members is utilized as #16 for the 2019 Open Championship. In a nutshell, it’s simply too good and dramatic of a golf hole to not be part of the final three-hole stretch at a major championship.
If the pin is located in the back portion of the green, we could see this hole play as long as 250 yards. Known as “Calamity Corner,” this hole can cause lots of headaches and can most definitely spoil a potentially good round.
From the back tees, a player must carry what the golf course describes as a “yawning chasm” just to reach the short grass. It will no doubt be one of the most unforgettable shots you hit, as words and pictures just don’t give this hole proper justice.
For as long and demanding of a par 3 as it is, the green is surprisingly rather tiny. And that characteristic certainly doesn’t make this hole any easier.
1951 – The First British Open at Royal Portrush
In spite of all the rich history that has been accumulated at Royal Portrush over the years, the 2019 British Open is only the second Open Championship hosted at the golf club since it was redesigned by Harry Colt in 1929.
The first instance came in 1951 when a grand prize of £300 was awarded to the “champion golfer of the year.”
And who was the fortunate recipient of that modest first-place check?
A gentleman by the name of Max Faulkner.
At the time of the event, Max had just celebrated his 35th birthday. The Englishman ended his career winning 19 professional golf tournaments, but his only triumph at a major came at the ’51 Open at Royal Portrush.
Played over the course of three days (18 on Wednesday, 18 on Thursday, 36 on Friday), Faulkner opened the tournament with a 1-under-par 71 and followed it with a 70. At -3 through two rounds, Max had built a 2-shot cushion over fellow Englishman Norman Sutton.
But it was Max’s 70 in Friday’s morning round that really gave him the leg up over his fellow competitors. In fact, his three consecutive under-par rounds left him at -5 and a full 6 shots clear of his nearest pursuer.
That’s why despite shooting a couple over during the final round (74), Max was still able to hold off a charging Antonio Cerda and claim the victory.
Not to take anything away from Faulkner’s win, but it is important that we point a simple fact out. A significant number of the top-ranked American players did not make the trip across the pond in 1951 to play the Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
This is because the second day of Open Championship qualifying took place on the same exact day as the final round of the 1951 PGA Championship that was held at Oakmont Country Club.
That meant that is was physically impossible for any golfer to participate in the year’s final two majors. So by “Slammin’ Sammy” Snead choosing to play and capture the Wanamaker Trophy in 1951, he forfeited his chance at winning a second Claret Jug.
So what Snead lost out on was there for Mr. Faulkner to gain.
The 2019 Open Championship
Believe it or not, when the 2019 Open Championship is contested in the summer of 2019, it will be the first time the British Open is played outside of Scotland or England since it was here last in 1951.
The golf community in Northern Ireland has been patiently waiting for nearly 70 years to host another Open Championship, so it’s no mystery if they’re getting a bit antsy. The good news is that the folks in the small town they call Portrush are finally going to get their wish.
Not only will this be the largest and most significant golf tournament ever held in the area, but it’s expected to the biggest sporting event of any kind ever to be held in Northern Ireland.
The course won’t look anything like it did back in 1951 when the Open Championship was last played here, as many changes have been in the works to ensure that the course is in tip-top shape when the time comes.
We talked about the stunning par-3 14th hole the locals call “Calamity” being altered to become the 16th hole during the ’19 British Open, and that comes for good reason. Once you watch the telecast in July, you’ll know exactly why it was so important to make sure this hole was “bumped back” to be part of the finish.
Plans also include swapping some other holes around, including making the current 8th hole the 10th, which will propel the 10th hole to become the 12th during Open Championship play. The “new #12” also gets an additional 50 yards of length added, which will force players to take a much more conservative line off the tee.
The R&A (The Royal and Ancient Golf Club), which is the governing body that controls the Open Championship, surely doesn’t want to see players ripping the course apart and shooting crazy-low numbers.
Amendments like these, along with new tees much further back at #10 (formerly #8), will most definitely add to the already arduous challenge that awaits the players. Once July 18th, 2019, rolls around, that long wait will be over.
Portrush – A Seaside Town in Northern Ireland
If you are familiar with Northern Ireland, then perhaps you have been fortunate enough to visit the seaside town in County Antrim called Portrush. It’s not the biggest or busiest area in Northern Ireland by any means, but its beauty and allure are enough to keep anyone coming back.
Portrush is located about as north as it gets for the country. The town is recognized for more than just being the home of Royal Portrush Golf Club. The West Strand, East Strand, and White Rocks make up the trio of beaches situated in the small town that has a population of under 10,000 inhabitants.
Of course, the Dunluce Castle is the must-see attraction for anyone visiting Portrush, as it appears to be positioned on top of the ocean when viewing it from a distance. Individuals can gain access by crossing a bridge that connects the castle to more stable ground, because the castle is literally built into a rocky setting with cliffs surrounding all sides.
We can’t confirm the exact date the entire castle was completed, but we can convincingly say that Richard Og de Burgh, the 2nd Earl of Ulster, got this project started sometime in the 13th century.
Barry’s Amusement is the biggest theme park in the entire country, and nearly anyone who visits the vicinity makes sure they at least stop by.
Whether you are into high-flying rollercoasters or need something a bit more subdued for young children, Barry’s Amusement is the closest thing to Disney World that locals of Northern Ireland get to experience.
Anyone who is contemplating traveling to the 2019 British Open will undoubtedly want to check these landmark attractions during their stay.
After a long day walking the Dunluce Links, there isn’t a better way to spend the rest of your day. Plus, there are a variety of restaurants and bars and even a couple high-profile nightclubs scattered across the central part of town for you to wind down your evening.
There aren’t many experiences like witnessing an Open Championship live and in-person, and now you know you have plenty to do during your downtime!
Northern Ireland is a gorgeous place, as the landscape and superb scenery make it an absolutely perfect setting for a golf course.
The fact that the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club turned out as magnificent as it did is a testament to Harry Colt’s brilliance and the upkeep of the staff and maintenance crew.
The 2019 Open Championship is going to portray just how dazzling this venue is, and hopefully, some of you are lucky enough and have the pleasure to view it up close and personal. We gave you a number of things to do and see while you are visiting Portrush, so it’s up to you to make a trip to the 2019 British Open become a reality.
We discussed the origins of the golf course, and we set aside a descriptive section devoted to the layout. Both were designed to dive into the Dunluce Links course and give you a deep look into why it’s so great. If you got to this part of the page and conquered the entire guide, then surely you get the whole picture now.