Seize your golf equipment and comply with British Open to majestic Northern Eire

Our man Jon McCarthy places from the entrance of the 18th inexperienced at Royal Portrush in Northern Eire, web site of the 2019 British Open.

My caddie at Royal Portrush had simply two weeks to stay.

Don’t be afraid although, this can be a journey story, not an obituary, so there’s a nice twist forward.

Our springtime bucket checklist golf journey to Northern Eire really ended with the spherical at Royal Portrush’s championship Dunluce Hyperlinks, however with the golf world descending on the famed course for the British Open, it looks like the correct place to start out.

The return of the British Open – ahem, The Open – to Northern Eire has been a very long time coming. Royal Portrush is the one course exterior of England and Scotland to ever host the championship, however it hasn’t been right here since 1951. Evidently, it’s an thrilling time for this golf-crazed area that has produced stars similar to Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.

One factor you shortly study when {golfing} in Northern Eire is that the drive to the course may be as breathtaking because the course itself. As our caravan of golf writers – three Canadians, two People and two Aussies – made its method west alongside the beautiful Causeway Coastal Route towards Royal Portrush, we caught our first glimpse of Dunluce Fort. Perched excessive upon a cliff, the dramatic ruins of the fortress made for a surprising silhouette towards the brilliant, sunny sky. (Sure, brilliant and sunny, that’s no typo.) The ruins of the fortress jut dramatically from the luxurious however rugged cliff and date again to the 16th century. The location itself was defended from a minimum of AD 500.

As beautiful because it was, the one battles our group was outfitted for had been on the golf course, and even that was a stretch. Simply previous the fortress we bought sight of the crumpled fairways and epic dunescape of Royal Portrush. It was the start of Might, the British Open nonetheless greater than 70 days away, however preparations had begun. Beside the primary tee was a nine-foot-tall standalone brand for The Open that screamed photo-op for anybody fortunate sufficient to play. Most of the grandstands had been up, together with the amphitheatre-like seating across the inexperienced on the new 18th gap.


It may need been Might, however Royal Portrush was already getting ready for the 148th British Open which runs July 18-21.

From the opening tee shot at Royal Portrush, there isn’t any doubt you might be on one of many most interesting golf programs on the planet. For those who’re there for the problem, it’s aplenty. There are doglegs galore and the course routing has you hitting pictures in each route, which is bound to check your recreation within the windy seaside circumstances. There’s a premium on driving the ball within the fairway as there isn’t as a lot room to overlook at Portrush than at many different hyperlinks programs. There aren’t many blind pictures, and the power to see what’s in entrance of you on most holes will please many North American guests.

For those who’re taking part in Royal Portrush extra for the wonder and expertise, there are few hyperlinks programs on this planet that may match the vistas and seaside magnificence. Golfers don’t have to attend lengthy for the primary jaw-dropper. The par-Four fifth gap is a dogleg proper that makes you resolve how a lot of the nook you might be keen to tackle. After the drive you’re confronted with an strategy shot that’s most likely in contrast to something you’ve ever seen. Behind the inexperienced is, properly, nothing.

“Something lengthy right here will fall into the ocean,” stated my caddie (sure, that caddie).


The par-Four fifth gap at Royal Portrush is without doubt one of the actually particular locations on this planet of golf. Hit your strategy shot three yards lengthy and also you’ll discover your ball on the seaside or within the sea. (Jon McCarthy)

Not probably the most inspiring phrases to listen to when attempting to gauge the wind blowing in from the water. However he was proper. Past the inexperienced is 2 yards of fringe, a yard of tough, after which a 15-metre drop off a cliff to the seaside beneath. The fifth gap presents one of many uncommon moments within the recreation the place the golf appears to not matter as you end up overcome standing on such a splendidly unimaginable spot on this planet.

It’s additionally the place we discover out the ultimate destiny of our trusted caddie. As I used to be gazing over the sting of the cliff, he walked to my aspect and requested if I used to be a fan of Recreation of Thrones. Though I knew the present was filmed in Northern Eire and that it has been a latest boon for tourism, it appeared an odd query from an brisk and attentive caddie who, to this point, had been doing his darnedest to maintain me centered on the duty at hand.

However, sure, I instructed him, I used to be watching the ultimate season of Recreation of Thrones.

He pointed to the seaside beneath the fifth inexperienced and defined that it was used to movie scenes from the present, together with Khal Drogo on horseback and the Pink Lady’s seaside bonfires.

However there was extra. Regardless of not having seen any caddies on Recreation of Thrones, he instructed me that he not too long ago was forged as an additional and had spent a number of days filming. That’s when he checked out me, smiled, and delivered the unhealthy information.

“In two weeks, I get killed by dragonfire,” he stated.


Jon McCarthy, left, poses along with his caddie at Royal Portrush.

Since I’d by no means had a caddie killed by a fire-breathing dragon, I shortly jotted it down beside the bogey 5 on my scorecard and we headed to the following tee.

In North American phrases, Royal Portrush can be thought-about semi-private in that it’s a members membership that enables public play. Demand for the course has by no means been increased and inexperienced charges are simply over 200 kilos ($327), though there’s a winter price of 90 kilos ($147) from November to March.

In Golf Digest’s rating of the most effective programs on this planet exterior of America, Royal Portrush is available in at seventh.

Now that we’ve reached the tip of our journey, let’s return to the start.

After flying in a single day, we arrived on a relaxed, inviting Monday morning. The issue was, we weren’t scheduled to play golf till Tuesday. We had been staying on the ridiculously good Slieve Donard Resort & Spa in County Down. It’s principally a fortress however since we had been within the land of precise castles, we’ll simply say it was actually, very nice and pretty castle-like.

It was time to discover.

Via the car parking zone and down a captivating path was Royal County Down Golf Membership. For a lot of golf fanatics, Royal County Down is the holy grail, typically alongside Augusta Nationwide and Pine Valley on lists of the world’s greatest. On that very same Golf Digest greatest programs exterior of America checklist, it ranks first.


The doorway to Royal County Down, rated by Golf Digest as the most effective course on this planet exterior of the U.S. (Jon McCarthy)

After strolling throughout the resort car parking zone, there’s a wrought iron gate with Royal County Down written atop in white letters. The gate can be thought-about ornate if it had been on the finish of your driveway, however as the doorway to so many golfers’ bucket-list moments, it’s delightfully understated. So too is the winding backyard path that ultimately takes you to an precise backyard, a large placing space the place you might spend a complete night, the clubhouse, and the course.

The whole lot is at your fingertips from the second you arrive. A part of what I really like most about golf in Linksland is that, in contrast to many prime programs in America, issues right here appear to be precisely the place it needs to be. You don’t want a valet to take your automotive, a golf cart to take you to the driving vary, and a shuttle to get you to the primary tee. The routing of the power is nearly as good because the routing on the golf course. In every single place you look matches in superbly with the panorama and the golf membership feels a part of the native tradition as an alternative of above it. I additionally like that there’s an armchair, a fireplace, and a bar round each nook.


As if Royal County Down isn’t laborious sufficient, why not add some driving rain. The height of the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa may be seen within the distance. (Jon McCarthy)

Royal County Down is equally, or extra, in demand than Portrush and inexperienced charges are even increased, between 230-250 kilos ($327-409) relying on the day. The winter price ranges from 90-100 ($147-163). There’s a 150-pound ($245) April price that’s most likely your greatest worth.

We awoke Tuesday to the sound of driving rain. We made our method over to the Royal County Down clubhouse dressed for the circumstances and prepared for the worst. Or so we thought. About an hour earlier than our tee time, phrase got here from the golf store that there was standing water on the greens and the course would quickly shut.

Our spirits had been nonetheless excessive as we sat within the clubhouse nibbling on pastries, easing ourselves again to life after an evening of Guinness and good cheer. As minutes turned to hours and we’d had extra espresso than wanted, the course was nonetheless closed and our moods started to darken.

Had we come all this manner for nothing? Each face coming into the room regarded gloomier than the final.

The course was nonetheless closed, however the bar was opening. This primary excellent news of the day was adopted simply minutes later by the grand announcement that the course would open in a single hour!

Our ensuing spherical at Royal County Down was joyfully depressing. The rain by no means stopped and the circumstances by some means really worsened on the again 9. It didn’t matter although. With a caddie to maintain my golf equipment dry and level me in the proper route, I used to be on prime of the world. In spite of everything, what’s gusting wind and driving rain when the choice is staring out the window at the most effective course on this planet, being instructed you possibly can’t play.

The course is all the pieces it’s alleged to be and extra. There are extra blind pictures, extra bunkers, and possibly a number of extra unhealthy bounces available at County Down in comparison with Portrush. It’s an unimaginable take a look at of golf in an unimaginably lovely setting. It doesn’t supply the sweeping seaside vistas of its bucket-list neighbour to the north, however seeing the fantasy-like mountains of Mourne within the distance via heavy rain and gloomy skies, it was darkly lovely.

The one factor lacking was a dragon.

ARDGLASS A GEM

In between bucket checklist rounds on the two Royals, we performed Ardglass Golf Membership, which has one of the vital dramatic opening holes you’ll ever see, one of the vital terrifying par-3s you’ll ever discover, and a fortress for a clubhouse.

A brief drive from Royal County Down, Ardglass options elevation adjustments galore and unbelievable views of the Irish Sea on practically each gap. The clubhouse dates again to 1405 and there may be nothing like a pint of Guinness atop the tiny castle-top patio after your spherical.


The clubhouse at Ardglass Golf Membership is a fortress that dates again to 1405. In case you wanted extra strain on the primary tee, there are cannons geared toward you.

Inexperienced charges at Ardglass are way more affordable at 100 kilos ($163) on weekdays or 150 ($245) play-all-day price. In addition they have a winter price.

The beautiful views alone are definitely worth the value and though Ardglass gained’t ever host an Open Championship, it’s dripping with historical past and several other of the members of our group stated that the day spent at Ardglass was their favorite cease of your entire journey.

IF YOU GO

Meals in Northern Eire is nice, however you possibly can’t go fallacious at Brunel’s Restaurant (brunelsrestaurant.co.uk) or on the Bushmills Inn (bushmillsinn.com)

If it’s in your price range whereas in County Down, staying on the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa (hastingshotels.com/slieve-donard-resort-and-spa) is an actual deal with. The Causeway Lodge (thecausewayhotel.com) is close to Portrush and a captivating retreat.

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