PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland – The knock on the Dunluce Links at the Royal Portrush Golf Club has always been its two soft finishing holes on flatter ground near the clubhouse. Sure, the ‘Big Nellie’ bunker to the right of the 17th fairway was memorable, but once players passed it, the day felt done.
Securing The Open Championship in 2019 has ushered in a new era for the historic links. Two new holes, fashioned from the dunes formerly in play on the Valley Links , will debut later this summer to replace no. 17 and no. 18. Architect Martin Ebert created the new par-5 seventh hole and new par-4 eighth hole to challenge today’s modern bombers and entertain the membership after The Open leaves. As a bow to history, a new ‘Big Nellie’ was constructed in a similar position, right of the fairway, on no. 7.
After the new holes, the routing returns to its old flow, following the old seventh hole (the new ninth) to the old 16th hole, the new finishing hole. That puts ‘Calamity Corner’ – the famously intimidating 210-yard par 3 - at a perfect place in the round as the 16th hole, adding more drama and anxiety for those chasing a claret jug.
Other tweaks won’t be as noticeable. New back tees and the pushing back of the second green to lengthen the par 5 have increased the yardage from 7,187 yards to 7,337 yards. Five new bunkers have increased the total to 64, by far the lowest number of any links in the Open rota. Portrush’s challenges are found elsewhere in the wind and rough and creativity of Harry Colt’s masterful greens. Hosting the club’s first Open since 1951 can’t come soon enough for golf fans around the world wanting to see major championship golf return to Northern Ireland and the Emerald Isle.