Northern Ireland – A world class golf destination
In 2019, The Open will return to Northern Ireland for the first time in nearly 70 years. The 148th rendition of the world’s golf tournament will be contested on glorious Royal Portrush, the only club in Ireland to host the event.
Royal Portrush is an important locale in Irish golf history as it welcomed the inaugural Irish Open Amateur Championship in 1892 and inaugural Irish Professional Championship in 1907 as well as staging both the Irish Open and Senior British Open multiple times.
Featuring two 18-hole layouts designed by legendary Harry Colt, both are “must-plays” for lovers of golf course architecture. Dunluce Links – the championship layout – consistently ranks among the world’s greatest courses and is widely noted as one of the game’s sternest tests. Playing through rugged terrain and featuring dramatic elevation changes, Dunluce bedevils even the most accomplished golfers. Vivid views of the North Atlantic and 13th Century Dunluce Castle enhance its timeless charm.
According to GOLF Magazine, it is also one of Northern Ireland native Rory McIlroy’s Top 10 Favorite Courses. “Royal Portrush is one of Ireland’s most stunning golfing venues,” said McIlroy. “I could mention every hole in detail, but Calamity Corner, the 210-yard par-3, must be played to be appreciated. With the wind blowing in from the North Antrim coast, this is not a hole for the faint-hearted! In almost every sense, Royal Portrush is a truly awe-inspiring experience.”
The course recently underwent substantial renovations ahead of the upcoming Open Championship. Two entirely new dramatic holes now replace Nos. 17 and 18 of the old routing. Multiple holes enjoy new greens and “Calamity Corner” boasts a new back tee now stretching the famous par 3 to almost 240 yards.
The 6,304-yard, par 70 Valley Links is shorter and slightly less demanding than Dunluce Links, but equally well-maintained and a blast to play. Tricky fast greens and punishing rough provide all the challenge any golfer needs.
Royal County Down
Two hours south of Royal Portrush sits mighty Royal County Down. The iconic course just hosted the Irish Amateur Open Championship and previously has held the Irish Professional Championship, Walker Cup, Curtis Cup, Ladies’ British Open Amateur Championship and Senior Open Championship.
Situated in the stunning Murlough Nature Reserve, Royal County Down is set against the magnificent background of the Mountains of Mourne. The zigzag design offers glorious vistas from virtually every hole. It is “links” golf at its finest. With intimidatingly narrow fairways weaving between formidable sand dunes, the course is as difficult as it is striking. Multiple blind shots offer an added challenge. Last year it held the pole position in Golf Digest’s list of “The World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses.”
A robust Northern Ireland golf itinerary should also include rounds at Portstewart, Ardglass and Castlerock. Portstewart will host the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open July 6 – 9. This marks the third time in the last six years the tournament will be staged in Northern Ireland after previous outings at Royal County Down and Royal Portrush.
Ardglass Golf Club
Just a scenic 30-minute drive from Royal County Down, Ardglass’ difficulty is intensified by unpredictable winds, hard fairways and small, firm greens. The Irish Sea is visible from most every vantage point and even comes into play on eight holes. Golf history buffs recognize the clubhouse, dating back to 1405 AD, as the oldest in the world.
Castlerock Golf Club
Castlerock, just 20 minutes from both Royal Portrush and Portstewart, features 27 holes. The par-73, 18-hole Mussenden Course sits hard against the North Atlantic, making wind a huge factor. A railway line runs the full length of the course’s most recognizable hole, the par-3 4th known as “Leg O’ Mutton,” which plays to a raised green.
Nestled in the heart of Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast, the Bushmills Inn is an ideal home base less than a half-hour from Casterock and Portstewart and just five miles down the road from Royal Portrush.
Read our Perfect Pairing to learn more about this luxurious boutique hotel.