Portrush Open preparatory work approaches completion

  • Nemu2

    The new par five seventh hole occupies a dune valley close to the ocean

  • Nemu1

    The reconstructed ‘Big Nellie’ bunker on the new seventh

Adam Lawrence
By Adam Lawrence

Work is basically complete on the changes to Royal Portrush designed to accommodate the return of the Open Championship to the club’s Dunluce Links.

Architect Martin Ebert has created new greens for the second, third and eighth holes, all of which opened for play last week. As to the most important change, the creation of two entirely new holes to replace the seventeenth and eighteenth holes on the Dunluce, which are needed to accommodate the tented village for the Open, and which were also considered too weak for the finishing holes of a major championship, construction work on the holes is now finished, and they are growing in under the care of Portrush course manager Graeme Beatt.

The first of the new holes is a par five, stretching to almost 600 yards, in a valley behind the main seawall dune. The drive on the new seventh is threatened by a huge bunker, a replacement for the famous Big Nellie on the existing seventeenth. The green, tucked in the end of the valley, is protected by flanking dunes and will be a tough target for pros trying to reach in two.

The new eighth is a mid length par four occupying dramatic ground, with a severe drop to the left side of the fairway forcing players to decide how much to carry with the tee shot. The fairway is wide on the right, but a tee shot up this safe side will force a much more demanding second.

The new holes have been seeded with cores taken from the existing fairways of both the Dunluce and Valley courses, and should be in play next year.

Other changes to the Dunluce include a new back tee for the famous ‘Calamity Corner’ par three, which will stretch the hole to almost 240 yards.