Royal Portrush Golf Club
Designer: Harry S. Colt
Over the last several years, the long awaited return of Royal Portrush to The Open rota was perhaps the worst kept secret in golf. And although the Dunluce links is now officially set to award the Claret Jug in 2019, the only question from those who have journeyed here since the course last held The Open in 1951 is why it ever took so long.
After leaving his mark on the likes of Pine Valley, Muirfield, and Royal County Down, architect Harry Colt was summoned by the members of Royal Portrush in 1929 to begin work on a pair of new courses. The club was anxious to leave behind their original Old Tom Morris layout which lay further inland, in favor of the coastal sandhills along the Atlantic Ocean. The ever modest Colt once regarded his work at Swinley Forest outside of London as “the least bad golf course I have designed,” however after arriving in Portrush and laying eyes on the dunescape which stretched before him, he must have known that claim would have to be rescinded.
The beauty of Colt’s work at Royal Portrush centers around his marvelous routing of the course. The holes on Dunluce wander between the rumpled dunes in a manner that feels completely natural; the same way one might walk the links were it never a golf course. At times these corridors flanked by sandhills feel a bit narrow, with the notoriously thick Portrush rough looming all too close for comfort. But to have skipped these natural fairways in favor of something wider and more forgiving would have been a travesty for such a fine piece of golfing land.
The collection of par-4s at Royal Portrush is among the finest in all of golf, led by the famous 5th and its magnificent view of White Rocks beach. The approach to the 4th is another heartstopper with a green tucked in the dunes; while the 12th seems rather innocent, that is until one finds the 10-foot deep crater guarding the green’s left side.
Although the par-4s are nothing short of brilliant, the main attraction at Royal Portrush is a notorious one-shotter. The 14th, affectionately known as “Calamity Corner,” has laid more than its fair share of scorecards to ruin in the chasm guarding the front of its elevated green. When the wind is up, it’s possible even the driver isn’t enough club.
Ahead of The Open’s arrival, the rather mundane 17th and 18th holes are set to be abandoned, in favor of a pair of new holes on more interesting land currently part of the club’s underrated Valley course. The R&A will surely provide a few other tweaks along the way – a new tee here, a couple of bunkers there – but just as it has for nearly 70 years, Royal Portrush stands ready for The Open.
It will have been worth the wait.
Major Basil Haversham, OBE
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Independent Travellers: The Club is located on the A2 on the eastern edge of Portrush towards Bushmills. From the car park, report to the professional’s shop on the ground floor of the clubhouse then walk across to the starter’s station adjacent to the first tee. Changing rooms on the ground floor. Bar and restaurant on the upper floor. Golf shoes are prohibited in the clubhouse.