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Sean_A

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This was my first visit back to Portrush in what must be 10 years, if not more.  It was surprising that I remembered so much of the course as I hadn't remembered some eight holes at nearby Portstewart.  My impressions of the RPD have altered a bit as I figured out what makes the course so tough.  Many blame the Sargassian rough combined with the relatively narrow fairways.  Of course, this is part of Portrush's difficulty. However, I think the real issue is the cross wind holes and in this way Portrush can be compared to Birkdale.  #s 5 through 15 tend to have a westerly wind cross them off the left or right making the fairways (of which many turn at the driving zones) very difficult targets to hit, especially when several have ideal landing zones which are hidden.  #s 1-4 and 16-18 normally play against or with the wind making these the holes which the player must take advantage of or suffer a long demoralizing day.

Despite the difficulty, even with a not too terrible 15-20 mph wind and from the forward (6400 yard) tees, Portrush is a special course and one of Colt's best efforts.  I was asked to choose between the Dunluce and Co Down and while I don't think there is anything between the two my preference is for the Dunluce.  While the fairways are bit too narrow, that in no way takes away from the clever routing which not only gets the best out of the rows of dunes perched high above the sea, but also the wind.  I know the club is keen to host the Irish Open and has added yards to their championship tees which now total some 7000+ yards.  This is a trend I disapprove of, but on the other hand I can see why this magnificent course should be show cased. 

The first is a lovely opener which would grace the best of courses, yet at Portrush its just another hole which doesn't particularly stand out.  OOB is down the right and left though to be honest, if you go that far left the ball will likely never be seen again. Unfortunately, the obligatory caravan park rears its ugly head on the first few holes and once or twice in later holes. One will notice that the bunkering is fairly light and that none are revetted.  The course wasn't playing particularly keen, even so one must take care with the approach so as not to go long if the intention is to fly the green.


A reachable par 5, the driving zone for the second is narrow.  Below are the bunkers which must be flirted with to reach in two.


The short knob to knob third.


The course starts to really pick up with the 4th.  This is one of the more clever holes because the obvious looking play is to take on the OOB right for the angle to the green...


...however, a layup short of the centre-line bunkers still leaves the option of using the contours on the right edge of the green to swing balls well to the left.


As stated previously, the following eleven holes essentially are what make Portrush's reputation as a difficult course.  The 5th is one of those snaking par 4s in which the ideal line is further left than we WANT to play.  One can also sling a wind assisted fade around the dune and gain the ideal line of approach without risking the long carry.  From the perfect position the approach is still not easy.  You have to scoot one up the green as very few players have the ability to hold the back tier.




I am very impressed with the old time tee markers which act as rubbish bins and bag stands, but that isn't why I took the photo.  I snapped this shot because I thought it unusual that a par 3 would be named after the archie except in the case of Colt.  That said, I don't think Portrush's short holes are Colt's best effort.  All are good without being brilliant - Calamity Corner excepted of course. 


From well in front of the tee we can see the classic use of dead ground.


These shelters are common on both Portrush courses and Portstewart.  They are also dead give-aways as to the general direction of prevailing wind. 


The 7th is a particularly difficult fairway to hit as it is obscured and twisting at the landing zone.  Here is a good look which shows the scale of the rolling dune-land.  Many spots leave blind approaches. 


A relatively new hole, the 8th was built before WWII (but opened after the war). A severe arching legger to the right, the ideal landing zone is blind and one can get there with a long carry or hit a fade which turns with the wind.  One can see that hole continues to turn right through the green. 


Like the 8th, number 9 was opened in 1945.  The hole offers a bit of respite as it is a short par 5, but the carry to the fairway can be daunting!   The green sits on a plateau with dead ground as its main defense.  The respite continues with the short par five 10th. Yet again, the drive is very difficult.  Despite the shortness in yardage, these par 5s are difficult to reach.  The green is typical of most at Portrush, there is some undulation, but the main elements of defense are the cant of the greens and their shedding nature.  In some sense, Portrush is very much a modern links built to test all facets of the player's game.  The number of bunkers and their placement signal when Colt thought the natural shot on offer was too forgiving....the 10th. 


...and short 11th.


The 12th is another hole which relies on the wind to cause trouble.  Bunkers are placed on the right side of the fairway prompting players to aim well left and hope the wind doesn't work the ball back too far right.  The green requires a precise approach.  Any weak efforts will fall off this turtleback green.


One of my favourite holes, a good tee shot up the hill is required to earn a view of the green.  Once on top of the hill a glorious view is on offer.  The green doesn't want to receive the approach and anything less than a true strike will likely slide away. #13.


Calamity Corner.






15 leads to a green which lays directly behind the 11th.  This is a strange hole and a bit out of character with the remainder of the course, but it is fun and much harder than it appears.  I was tempted to hit a putter from this spot.


One of Portrush's brutes, the 16th plays straight back into the wind, but a huge (for Portrush) fairway awaits.  It is best to keep left for a view of the green.  The cross bunkers are the over-riding concern for the approach as reaching the green is quite difficult.  As can be seen from this photo, the hole widens back out around the green and the bunkers are well short of the green, yet perfectly placed when the wind is factored in.  This hole doesn't get mentioned much, but I have a lot of time for it.


Its a great pity this bunker isn't more in play because the 17th does need a bit of spice. On a side note, is there another course in the world which shares a fairway with a hole from a different course? The Valley Links 2nd fairway is just to the right of the big bunker and runs just below the 17th tee.


The home hole swings back on the 17th.  I found this hole to be very un-Colt-like.  To take advantage of the left to right swing of the enormous green, the best angle of approach is from the right, but a host of bunkers eliminates this possibility.  Furthermore, if one does thread it up the left there is a cross bunker awaiting. 

Despite the narrowness of the course which can threaten to take away some of the joy of the game, Portrush can't be dismissed lightly.  The quality and variety of the holes throughout are of an exceptional standard and there are a few holes which standout out as All-Ireland candidates. All lovers of Colt, links and championship golf should play Portrush. It should be pointed out that two new holes were built for the 2019 Open. The old 17 & 18 were replaced by new holes created from 5 & 6 of the Valley Links.  These are now 7 & 8 on the Dunluce. The course then goes back to the old 7th as the new 9th etc. 2*   2009

Ran's Review.
http://golfclubatlas.com/courses-by-country/northern-ireland/royal-portrush-golf-club/

Valley Links
www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,40282.msg846630.html#msg846630

Ciao     
« Last Edit: January 17, 2022, 02:32:29 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Niall C

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Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2009, 09:09:04 AM »
Sean

Excellent post. Definitely one for the must play list.

Quick question on the bunkers; were there any revetted bunkers on the course ? I noticed on one of the holes that a couple of the fairway bunkers had been refaced recently and I was just wondering if the course were moving away from revetting as a cheaper means of maintainance.

Niall

Rory Connaughton

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Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2009, 09:17:56 AM »
Niall

  Was there two weeks ago for two rounds. I don't recall any revetted bunkers.  The contours in and around the bunkers widen the effective area of each.  Some of the best fairway bunkering anywhere

Bill_McBride

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2009, 09:34:14 AM »
Typical nice photo review, Sean.  I envy you all these links course opportunities!

During our 2007 Walker Cup trip (Royal County Down), we couldn't get on the Dunluce so played the Valley course at Portrush.  As mentioned here before, it's not the equal of the Dunluce but is a marvelous shorter course in its own right.  Visitors should definitely try to play both courses.

Jim Tang

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Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2009, 10:55:49 AM »
Fantastic photos!  I'll be at Portrush for the first time in two weeks time.  I can't wait.

Those shelters look more like fortified bomb shelters.  What sort of nutty weather goes on out there?  My lord.

Sean, you say the fairway width is relatively narrow.  Typically, how many yards wide are the fairways at Portrush?

Anthony Gray

Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2009, 11:09:11 AM »


  There is more to Portrush than just the golf. I found it to be a wonderful vacation spot. The Giants Causway is a must. Very scenic and low key.

   Anthony


Tom Huckaby

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Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2009, 11:11:04 AM »
Concur with Anthony about the area... my cousin went there on a three-year work contract and here 15 years later he is a rather permanent resident.  Great area for sure.

And regarding Royal Portrush Golf Club, well... they made the best hot whiskey I found in all of Ireland.  And believe me, I looked.

As for the course, great pictorial review as always Sean.  It is a hell of a course... perhaps too severe in parts, but still great fun.

TH

Cristian

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Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2009, 11:20:27 AM »
Thanks for the photo's Sean, Very nice review.

Brings back memories of my trip to N-Ireland 8 years ago; RPR is still my favourite course anywhere ever, even though we also played RCD...

Mark_Rowlinson

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Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2009, 11:25:04 AM »
Sean, Another excellent tour and, as always, very informative. You have a great talent in being able to photograph courses to show all the features while managing to play a round of golf - and, presumably, not hold up others on the course.

David_Tepper

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Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2009, 12:25:18 PM »
Anthony Gray -

Don't forget a visit to the Bushmills Distillery, one of the top tourist attractions along the Causeway Coast.

DT

Anthony Gray

Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #10 on: June 23, 2009, 12:47:02 PM »
Anthony Gray -

Don't forget a visit to the Bushmills Distillery, one of the top tourist attractions along the Causeway Coast.

DT

  David,

  That swinging bridge was fun also. It is truly a relaxed part of the world.

  Anthony


David_Tepper

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Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2009, 01:12:25 PM »
Anthony -

Don't mean to further hijack this thread, but I would highly recommend everyone consider playing in the Causeway Coast amateur golf tournament, which is usually held the 1st week of June. The tournament consists of 4 rounds played at the Valley, Portstewart, Castlerock and Ballycastle courses. Unfortunately, Royal Portrush is no longer part of the tournament rota.

The entry fee is reasonable and the event is big fun. It used to be sponsored by Bushmills Blackbush, but now is sponsored by Tullamore Dew.

www.tullamoredewgolf.com

I played in the event in 1994 and enjoyed it VERY much.

DT     

Anthony Gray

Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2009, 01:19:53 PM »


  I do have fond memmories of Portrush. It was there that I knew for sure is was over for #3. After we get the green card situated I would like to return with #4. I know of a great place to eat down by the water.

  Anthony

Rob Rigg

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Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #13 on: June 23, 2009, 01:20:55 PM »
Sean,

Excellent photo review - one of the great things about links golf is the way in which the land compels you to visualize your shots and then try to execute them. None of this - 150 to the middle, minus 5 to the pin BS - you have to feel your way around the course.

The dunes, undulations, etc. at Royal Portrush exemplify links golf in its most wonderful form.

Thanks for sharing.

Sidenote - It get's little discussion - but a brilliant summer trip to Ireland would coincide with the "open weeks" on offer there. As long as you have your handicap card it is fairly easy to play great courses and have a lot of fun - the formats are also interesting with a mix of stablefords, etc.

Adrian_Stiff

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Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #14 on: June 23, 2009, 01:55:02 PM »
Sean thanks once again, I find your golf tours very enjoyable. Portrush looks exactly as you say - A MUST PLAY.
A combination of whats good for golf and good for turf.
The Players Club, Cumberwell Park, The Kendleshire, Oake Manor, Dainton Park, Forest Hills, Erlestoke, St Cleres.
www.theplayersgolfclub.com

Bill_McBride

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Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #15 on: June 23, 2009, 02:09:56 PM »
Anthony Gray -

Don't forget a visit to the Bushmills Distillery, one of the top tourist attractions along the Causeway Coast.

DT

  David,

  That swinging bridge was fun also. It is truly a relaxed part of the world.

  Anthony



Anthony, I have been to that distillery and swinging bridge.  It only swings after a full hour in the tasting room.

archie_struthers

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Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #16 on: June 23, 2009, 02:32:29 PM »
 ;D :D ;)

Fabulous place , some great golf holes  throughout .   The first and fourth holes were quite testy when we were in town , as the wind and rain made them very difficult.

Number five (#5) is one of my favorite holes in golf , as I have talked about before.


Sean Leary

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Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #17 on: June 23, 2009, 02:55:55 PM »
I love this course as well. I have a hard time picking between this and RCD. I do think the greens are more interesting at FP, after 2 playings at each.


Ash Towe

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Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #18 on: June 23, 2009, 04:12:41 PM »
Sean,
Thanks once again for an excellent review. Your combination of photos and commentary are second to none. This type of thread are a highlight for me.

James Boon

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Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #19 on: June 23, 2009, 05:07:59 PM »
Sean,

As I said earlier, many thanks for a great set of pictures of this fine course. I wonder though if I am the only person who is somewhat disappointed now? Don't worry, nothing to do with your pictures, or the course for that matter, but the damn caravan park next door!

When I played there 2 years ago, there was quite a sea mist that morning. This meant though I could see the holes enough to fall in love with the place, I didn't see the wider setting. I new that out to sea would be spectacular, but inland far from it! A shame, but I won't let that spoil my love of this great course, and I would certainly love to go back, and this time play the Valley as well.

One thing I do remember from my round, is that while Colt's course is a good challenge, it wasn't a real tough one like say RCD was. I suppose if they turned 9 and 10 into par 4s and made it a par 70 that would stiffen things up a bit? However, from the visitors tees there seemed to be enough short to medium par 4s to make scoring well a real possibility. Maybe I just had a good day? But perhaps also thats the genius of a Colt course, it doesn't need to be long, or littered with bunkers, to be challenging?

Cheers,

James
2022 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Reay

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

Carl Nichols

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Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #20 on: June 23, 2009, 08:54:36 PM »
Sidenote - It get's little discussion - but a brilliant summer trip to Ireland would coincide with the "open weeks" on offer there. As long as you have your handicap card it is fairly easy to play great courses and have a lot of fun - the formats are also interesting with a mix of stablefords, etc.

Rob:
I've only heard of such weeks in connection with a course or two; do most have them?  Can you describe them a little more -- I'm fuzzy on the details.
Thx,
Carl

Brent Carlson

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Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #21 on: June 23, 2009, 08:57:29 PM »
Sean,

Not only are you a Michigan Man (huge points), but you compose the best photo essays on the site.  Nice work!

The real question - are you able to enjoy the round whilst taking so many photos??  I have yet to acquire the skill.

Brent

Tommy Williamsen

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Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #22 on: June 23, 2009, 11:23:53 PM »
Great stuff Sean. It has been fifteen years since I played Portrush.  i still remember almost every hole.  It is brilliantly routed and the green sites are awesome.  It is one of the best second shot courses in the world.
Tom Williamsen
Where there is no love, put love; there you will find love.
St. John of the Cross

bbarkley

Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #23 on: June 24, 2009, 12:56:11 AM »
I was very fortunate to have worked at Royal Portrush on the Greenscrew for 3 months in late summer of 2004.  During the time there I help update and fix the dilapidated and destroyed irrigation system around the tees?!??!?? Seems like after the Senior Open there in 2004 the players complained that the tees were not "green" enough.   Additionally, I was involved in the beginning of a major bunker renovation/redesign.  The club called in Martin Hawtree to develop a bunker study, and propose changes to the existing bunker maintenance practices.  The first bunker worked on was one on the 18th fairway.  The reasoning for the repairs was the turf quality of the grass face had deteriorated due to the sand splash as well as the bunker face orientation.  - on a side note, I was told (and witnessed) that a majority of the bunkers were constructed exactly like a reveted bunker, however it was carried one step further and sod was rolled over from the top of the bunker, down to the sand, as to create the steep grass faces.   A majority of those bunkers were experiencing a decline in the turf face conditions.   Martin proposed raising the sand face and reducing the amt. of turf on the faces. 

Here are some photos from the 18th bunker work....

Before....


Rolling the new sod, creating the clean edge....






Cutting out the old turf.....


Finished bunker....



Sean, do you have any photos of the bunker?  I am curious to see how it has aged and changed over the years....

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: ROYAL PORTRUSH: There is More to it Than Calamity Corner
« Reply #24 on: June 24, 2009, 04:59:44 PM »
I was very fortunate to have worked at Royal Portrush on the Greenscrew for 3 months in late summer of 2004.  During the time there I help update and fix the dilapidated and destroyed irrigation system around the tees?!??!?? Seems like after the Senior Open there in 2004 the players complained that the tees were not "green" enough.   Additionally, I was involved in the beginning of a major bunker renovation/redesign.  The club called in Martin Hawtree to develop a bunker study, and propose changes to the existing bunker maintenance practices.  The first bunker worked on was one on the 18th fairway.  The reasoning for the repairs was the turf quality of the grass face had deteriorated due to the sand splash as well as the bunker face orientation.  - on a side note, I was told (and witnessed) that a majority of the bunkers were constructed exactly like a reveted bunker, however it was carried one step further and sod was rolled over from the top of the bunker, down to the sand, as to create the steep grass faces.   A majority of those bunkers were experiencing a decline in the turf face conditions.   Martin proposed raising the sand face and reducing the amt. of turf on the faces. 

Here are some photos from the 18th bunker work....

Before....


Rolling the new sod, creating the clean edge....






Cutting out the old turf.....


Finished bunker....



Sean, do you have any photos of the bunker?  I am curious to see how it has aged and changed over the years....

Bryan

That is really interesting about the revetting underneath a grass face.  Do any other clubs do this? 

I don't know why the last photos don't show up, they are posted.  Its all down to the weird new site.  I do think there is more of a grass face than your photos show.

Ciao
« Last Edit: July 15, 2019, 04:25:51 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

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