Golf

New golf course layout in pipeline at Royal Portrush

Tony McGee

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As far as the Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Amateur Chanmpionship is concerned the new Dunluce layout will remain a Par 72 for players but when the big boys come to town for The Open in 2019 the course will be reduced to a Par 71.

“The R&A have decided to play the previous ninth hole, which now becomes the par five 11th, as a par four, thus reducing the course to a Par 71 for The Open. However, normally, the course remains as a Par 72,” explains John Bamber.

A big feature of the new course layout at Royal Portrush is the fact that the old 16th hole becomes the finishing 18th in future and that will have a telling effect on the North of Ireland Championship, from a spectator's point of view.

Traditionally, spectators crowded the balcony of the clubhouse to watch matches finishing in front of the building, particularly the semi-finals and final, if those matches went that far. Many people also used binoculars to watch the action on the 17th green but that will no longer be possible.

The new 18th hole is not now in sight from the clubhouse, so spectators will have to travel to greenside before getting a good view of the action. Of course, during The Open stands will be erected around the finishing green, as was the case at Portrush during the recent Irish Open on Dunluce.

No longer are the old 17th and 18th holes in play as work will soon begin on preparing that ground for the Tented Village that will be built for the 2019 showpiece.

“I want to stress that we don't have a 20-holes lay-out now as work will begin on the ground of the old 17th and 18th holes, shortly. That will be where the Tented Village for

The Open will be built and we will be moving in 14,500 HGV vehicles at the and of the summer for the necessary work leading up to The Open,” explains John Bamber.

Mr Bamber also stressed that the North of Ireland Championship will be staged, again, at Royal Portrush next year and that it will return to its home in 2020, as well.

“Yes, we will be offering the course to the GUI for next year's championship and for 2020, as well. Of course, it would not be possible to stage the North at Portrush in 2019 as The Open will be played in the third week of July.” he added.

History will be made then as, for the first time ever, the North of Ireland Championship will move away from its traditional home. To prevent a break in the competition, the week-long action will be hosted by Portstewart and Castlerock, with the 36 holes qualifying rounds at the latter.

“We are very thankful to the Portstewart and Castlerock clubs for agreeing to host the North of Ireland Champi0onship in 2019,” said GUI Ulster Branch chairman Eamon O'Connor.

Last year, because of work on the Valley course, at Royal Portrush, the North qualifying rounds were played at Portstewart but the matchplay stages took place, as usual, at Dunluce.

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