Played by NCG: Royal PortrushMarch 28, 2018 Courses and Travel
James Savage headed to Northern Ireland to see how the 2019 Open venue is shaping up
Reason for a Royal Portrush review
Why wouldn’t you want to go and play at the host club of the 2019 Open Championship?
Luckily for me, I have friends in high places.
Well, I was actually one of about 15 journalists invited by Galvin Green to test out some of their new Interface-1 products.
Not a bad location for a press trip eh?
Where is Royal Portrush Golf Club?
Hopefully I won’t offend anyone’s intelligence by pointing out it’s in Northern Ireland.
The town of Portrush is about an hour’s drive north from Belfast International Airport.
If there’s one area to visit in Northern Island, this is surely the place as you have Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portstewart Golf Club and Giant’s Causeway all within a few miles of each other.
We stayed at the fantastic Bushmills Inn which was allegedly booked out completely by the R&A before announcing the 2019 Open would take place at Royal Portrush.
What to expect
As you can imagine, 18 months ahead of The Open, there was a fair bit of work going on but there’s plenty to get the juices flowing in the clubhouse alone.
And it’s not all paying homage to 2011 Open Champion Darren Clarke who fine-tuned his links play here.
There’s actually two courses here, the Dunluce and Valley Links. We played the former which is hosting The Open.
The course record holder is Rory McIlroy who shot 61 during the Amateur Open Championship in 2005.
He was playing with a handicap of +4 so had to mark it as a 65 but just check out that back nine.
Like most links courses, the weather will dictate the difficulty levels but it does seem very penal for missing the fairways.
It definitely ticks a lot of boxes with views of the sea, massive dunes, deep bunkers, blind holes, bouncy turf and slopey greens.
Portrush is sensational, charming and quirky at times but there are parts which seemed to pass me by without the urge to take my camera out of my pocket.
Favourite hole at Royal Portrush
This is too difficult.
The 2nd is a superb par-5 with a narrow undulating fairway while the 4th has a fantastic bowl-shaped green.
But the most memorable moments came from the elevated tee shot on the short par-4 5th and the 6th tee box which takes you a stones-throw from the ocean.
The hole which should create plenty of drama for the world’s best next July is the par-3 14th ‘Calamity Corner’.
Into wind it’ll be playing about 260 yards with absolutely no relief short or right.
I watched four single-figure handicappers tee off from here and not a single one needed a putter as their next club.
After topping a 3-wood into the abyss, I hit driver pin high and left before getting up and down for five.
My best bit
I nearly drove the green at the 5th which allowed me to three-putt for par.
What to look for
On some holes, like the par-4 7th, you really can’t afford to miss the fairway as you could end up with an unplayable lie. That’s if you can find your ball.
If you have a tendency to spray it with the driver then keep the big dog in its headcover until you reach the more generous holes.
When I go back to Royal Portrush
It would be fantastic to play at Royal Portrush after the Open as there was a lot of work going on while we were there.
We were playing off fairway mats and nearly every bunker was GUR so it we didn’t really get to see it at its best.
There’s no doubt it will be a fantastic venue for the 2019 Open.
If I went back I’d hit more 3-woods off the tee, fewer 3-woods from the rough and putt from off the green more often.
It won’t get me anywhere near McIlroy’s record but should improve on this pathetic attempt…