Royal Portrush (Dunluce) - Antrim - Northern Ireland

Royal Portrush Golf Club,
Dunluce Road,
Portrush,
County Antrim,
BT56 8JQ,
Northern Ireland


  • +44 28 7082 2311

  • Golf Club Website

  • On Portrush coastal road

  • Contact in advance - Restrictions Wed & Fri pm, Sat & Sun am


Royal Portrush has the honour of being the only club outside mainland Britain to host the Open Championship.


Date Winner Country
1951 Max Faulkner England
2019 Shane Lowry Ireland


"Portrush stands on a rocky promontory that juts out into the Atlantic, and, if I may allude to such trivialities," wrote Bernard Darwin in, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, "the scenery of the coast is wonderfully striking. On the east are the White Rocks, tall limestone cliffs that lead to Dunluce Castle and the headlands of the Giant's Causeway. On the west are the hills of Inishowen, beyond which lie Portsalon and Buncrana and the links of Donegal."

Since its foundation in 1888, Royal Portrush Golf Club has undergone a transformation in more ways than one. It was originally a 9-hole course, known as the County Club. The following year it was extended to 18 holes. In 1892, its name changed to the Royal County Club, with the Duke of York as patron. In 1895, the Prince of Wales came along and the name finally changed to Royal Portrush. Why who knows?

However, the biggest transformation came along when Harry S Colt redesigned the course in 1932, including two holes in an area known as “The Triangle”. Just before the Second World War, when it became apparent that the clubhouse would have to be relocated, the professional at that time, a Mr P.G. Stevenson, designed the current 10th and 11th holes, allowing the old 1st and 18th in the Triangle to be released. It would take until 1946 though before club members moved to their present premises, the former Holyrood Hotel.

The Dunluce links is named after the ruined Dunluce castle that overlooks the course. It was the venue for the first professional golf tournament in Ireland, won by Sandy Herd in 1895. Until 2019, The Open Championship has been held outside of Scotland and England only once; that occasion was here at Royal Portrush in 1951 when Max Faulkner triumphed. Faulkner was the last British Open champion until Tony Jacklin lifted the claret jug in 1969 at Royal Lytham & St Annes. More recently, American Pete Oakley won the Senior British Open here in July 2004.

In 2014 it was confirmed that Royal Portrush would return to the Open Championship rotation in 2019. 2011 Open Champion, Darren Clarke, was thrilled to hear that his home club will stage the tournament. “It is wonderful for the area, for Northern Ireland and the whole of Ireland that one of the biggest sporting events in the world is coming here," he said. “It's just massive, with pictures of Royal Portrush being beamed around the world to people who haven't seen how beautiful it is.”

Royal Portrush is certainly beautiful and it has one of the most dramatic entrances to any golf course. As you wind your way towards the course along the coastal road, the crumpled, undulating links land suddenly appears in front of you, flags fluttering in the breeze. It's a classic seaside links, located in an evocative setting on the north Antrim coastline, blessed with magnificent ocean views. On a clear day (from the 3rd tee) you can see the Paps of Jura and the island of Islay.

The fairways nestle in natural valleys between towering sand dunes. The small greens blend perfectly into the landscape, one of Colt’s masterstrokes. The greens are generally protected by natural grassy hummocks rather than sand bunkers, further adding to the understatement.

The most spectacular parts of the course are down by the shore. The 5th hole (called “White Rocks”) is an absolute stunner. It’s a short, downhill par four with a left to right dogleg. The elevated tee provides a platform to soak up the vista. The green is perched on the very edge of the course some 50 feet above the seashore. The 16th, called “Calamity”, is a 210-yard par three; a deep chasm to the right of the green makes it a nervous tee shot.

The Dunluce is a seriously tough cookie and requires solid driving to hold together a decent score. It will intimidate many golfers; the rough is penal (and sprinkled with heather and briar). It has very few bunkers but frankly, it doesn’t need them. The course has enough natural hazards to wreck a card, not to mention the ever-present wind. However, at all costs avoid "Big Nellie" at the new 7th—it's one of the biggest bunkers in Ireland.

A trip to the Giant’s Causeway may provide some respite after a gruelling round, followed by a nip of whiskey at nearby Bushmills, the world’s oldest distillery. Failing that, you could head directly to the first tee of the Valley course. It may be the second course at Royal Portrush but it’s a little cracker.

In preparation for the return of the Open, architects Mackenzie & Ebert proposed a number of course changes to the course, the most significant of which was the replacement of holes 17 and 18 on the Dunluce with two new holes, located where the old 5th and 6th holes lay on the Valley course.

The new hole 7 is a par five, played over much of the former 6th on the Valley course, but in the opposite direction. The famous “Big Nellie” bunker from the old 17th on the Dunluce has been recreated in the dunes to the right of this new fairway. The new par four 8th is then played from close to the tee boxes on the old Valley hole number 5, back to a green perched in the dunes at a slightly higher elevation.

Although the four par threes remain untouched, except for mowing the green further out at the back of “Calamity Corner”, additional tees and bunkers at several holes have been added, as well as extending the greens at holes 5 and (the newly sequenced) 15.

Mackenzie and Ebert commented as follows:

"As part of the course review exercise, investigation of the evolution of golf at Portrush was undertaken to assess how the layout had changed over the years and especially since Harry Colt laid out his final design for the Dunluce Course in 1932. That highlighted a fundamental issue. When Harry Colt designed the Dunluce in 1932, the clubhouse was over 1,200 yards away from the present clubhouse in the town of Portrush. Two of his original holes - the key 1st & 18th holes – had been lost. They provided a link from the old clubhouse to the current 17th and 18th. The existing 8th and 9th holes did not exist. Although Harry Colt was consulted over the addition of the replacement 8th and 9th holes, they were the conception of the Club’s professional, P.G. Stevenson, and Colt was not involved with the detail of the holes. This shows that Harry Colt was open to adjustments to the course required by changing circumstances.

The Club found themselves at another juncture of its evolution with the opportunities presented by the possibility of The Open Championship coming to Royal Portrush again. The Championship has grown in scale tremendously since Max Faulkner lifted the Claret Jug when the event was held over the links in 1951. If The Open was to make a return, The R&A were clear from the outset of the negotiations that sufficient room had to be available in the right areas to allow all of the usual infrastructure to be put in place to support the Championship. Following an intensive study of all options, the inescapable conclusion was drawn that the existing 17th and 18th holes of the Dunluce Course would have to be made available for the majority of the tented village area.

Following a detailed study of the opportunities to replace the 17th and 18th holes, the conclusion was that two replacement holes for the Dunluce could be forged from the area of the old 5th and 6th holes of the Valley Course. This will provide a tremendous arena for two dramatic and iconic holes which should quickly achieve world fame. The knock on effect was that replacement holes were required for the Valley Course. In fact three new Valley holes have been formed with the last of them giving incredible views to the beach and the sea, something which the old course did not enjoy. The Valley element of the project also involved the restoration of one of the original holes at Portrush.

It will be fascinating to see how the world’s best players handle the reconfigured links in July 2019."

Fittingly is was Irishman Shane Lowry who dominated the final two days of the 148th Open championship to win his maiden major title by six shots from England's Tommy Fleetwood amid exuberant scenes at Royal Portrush. Tough weather conditions on Sunday saw every contender fall away, allowing Lowry to cruise home for a comfortable victory.

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Reviews for Royal Portrush (Dunluce)

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Description: The Dunluce links at Royal Portrush Golf Club is named after the ruined Dunluce castle that overlooks the course. Seven years after the club's formation, the first professional golf tournament in Ireland, won by Sandy Herd in 1895, was staged here. Rating: 9.2 out of 10 Reviews: 101
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Javier Pintos

I had played the 1953-2019 (and 2025 to come) venue in 2014 just before the redesign plans were executed and I was lucky enough to see them in a scaled model which at that moment was not yet public. And although I loved the course agreed with many that 17th and 18th were 2 weak holes for a fantastic course. Hosted by 2 very kind Members we had the chance to play the Dunluce and my view is that these course was elevated to the next level and I would not be surprised if it is put #1 in the GB&I rankings soon, it is all you want from a course: the best greens in Ireland (10ft at least), 18 phenomenal green complexes, every kind of hole you will want to play, demand to your golf skills every single minute of the round, beauty in the views in every spot and a final stretch that is tough to beat to enjoy an Open Championship.

The 2 new holes are both very good additions to Harry Colt’s original routing: 7th a gentle uphill par 5 with not the tightest tee shot nor the second but then if you were not able to get close in 2, the wedge will be a challenge to judge the correct distance. 8th a short par 4 with a false front and small green where missing left will be death penalty.

The course now finishes with what used to be 16th, a long dogleg right par 4 with an angled green protected by bunkers, a way better finishing hole than the old one. Now we are in front of maybe a World Top 100 Golf Course with not one single bad hole.

It was a fantastic experience to see the pictures and memories of the 2019 Open and now the course with the 2025 Championship is definitely inside the Rota to host many more, I couldn’t agree more with R&A’s decision.

June 18, 2022
10 / 10
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T P Dean

The Dunluce course at Portrush is a delight, and starts with the scenic drive along the Causeway Coastal Route. On passing Dunluce Castle on your right hand side, the course quickly comes into view after just a few more bends in the road as it sits amongst the dunes alongside the beautiful strand down below. What instantly caught my eye about Portrush on first view is the massive sense of scale. The landscape here is vast in a way that only Turnberry has struck me to date.

The Dunluce is an action packed round of golf from the off. There is no handshake opener here. A raised green adorned with a large trough bunker awaits and that’s only if you’ve safely negotiated the tee shot that features out-of-bounds on both the left and right hand sides of the fairway. Following this, it’s like working your way through a Tasting Menu from a Michelin Starred Restaurant; something to tantalise the tastebuds at every step, but with the occasional outrageous highlights such as the short par four 5th with the green that sits atop of Portrush Strand, or Calamity, the intimidating 16th, a beastly par three over a marram-filled precipice.

The course is laden with beautiful contours and swales which extend their way into the green-sites creating some wonderfully undulating putting surfaces. The 1st, 6th and 10th were greens that struck me as being particularly impressive, but there isn’t a weak green complex amongst any of the eighteen. Small undulations, slopes and runoffs are encountered around each green, allowing for a cocktail of creativity of short game shot-making but with the slightest dash of jeopardy.

Naturally, visitors to Northern Ireland will draw comparisons with the golfing smorgasbord that is Royal County Down. And whilst the Dunluce doesn’t have the linksland-fantasia appearance of Newcastle’s great course, the layout is arguably less flawed than its County Down rival. Our latest GB&I rankings sees Portrush drop two places to number six and my personal belief is that this feels harsh. Given the consistency of the course, the design strategy of each individual hole, the perfect and expansive golfing ground, a most wonderful set of greens and not to mention Portrush’s historical significance, I dare say it should be amongst the contenders for the top spot.

June 05, 2022
10 / 10
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Chris D

We played Royal Portrush on 25th March, on a beautiful sunny early spring day. The weather was almost as beautiful as the course.

This place is absolutely stunning. From the challenging opening hole (the approach to the green being far more elevated than it ever seemed on TV) through to the challenging finishing hole you will be tested, but always in a fair manner, with the majority of the test set out in front of you.

The run of holes from the 4th to the 7th was simply awe inspiring. I particularly enjoyed lining up my cliff top birdie putt on the 5th hole, with the sound of the sea crashing against the beach below. The 7th you then play from an elevated tee back down between the wild dunes. Its fantastic stuff.

Then there is the 16th. This hole makes the 17th on St Andrews Castle course look like a poor relation (and I love that hole!) as you have to play a 200 yard long iron over what is essentially a ravine between the tee box and the green. The course then gives you a welcome reprieve with a risk reward birdie chance on the downhill par 4 17th. Its tremendous stuff.

This is clearly a 6 ball golf course. I can't give it 6 stars on this particular occasion though, as due to what was explained as a problem with a lack of growth throughout the winter we had to play using fairway mats. It says a lot for the course that we all had such an amazing experience despite the mats, as I usually detest the things, but I can't give it the full 6 stars when you have to be on a mat. The greens were also very bobbly on the day, I assume due to the same problem with growth. I am sure this was nothing they couldn't sort out with a bit of good weather over the next few weeks, if they haven't sorted it already.

It seems wrong to offer any criticism at all of the course as it was a real bucket list experience and was fantastic. I just felt I had to explain the thinking behind the 5.5 rating. I will be back one summer to have the full 6/6 experience.

April 06, 2022
9 / 10
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Neil White

The sun has never shone quite as brightly, the sea has never been quite as blue and golf has never been quite as awesome as on the Dunluce Links on March 28, 2022.

I had played Royal Portrush twice before and was in attendance for two days of the Open’s return to Northern Ireland three years ago.

But I have to confess that it had previously not conjured the same magical spell as it had done over some of my pals.

That changed today. It was as if I had been struck by a bolt from the golfing gods and I suddenly had a heightened appreciation for every bump and hollow of these fantastic links and their stupendous views.

Indeed, it was that rare moment that a course was so good that it FORCED me to lift my game in an attempt to match the surroundings.

I played with one of my best friends who is Northern Irish and adores Portrush and with PGA Professional, Charlene Reid, whose sage advice helped me understand the nuances of the Dunluce.

It had not begun well.

The last time I was at Portrush, I played what I thought was the greatest bunker shot in my life from the deep trap in front of the first green only for the ball to re-emerge at my feet as I was diligently raking the sand.

This time, the green’s slope held more terrors even though I had played safely to the back of it.

My putt required a fine touch so the ball could go over a hump and slide gracefully towards the hole. However, just as I was sensing satisfaction, it rolled on and on and on - 20 yards down the fairway.

If Rory can score an eight on the first, so can I.

At this point, Charlene’s comment that Portrush is much fairer than many Championship links didn’t quite resonate.

However, she was right. After early huffing and puffing, I found my inner zen and previously impenetrable mysteries were suddenly resolvable.

The sight of White Rocks, the dogleg fifth hole, was my inspiration. With the azure sea providing the backdrop, my drive flew over the marker giving me a clear shot into one of the most famous greens in the world.

As my compadre discovered, an overly aggressive approach can result in the ball disappearing over the back of the hole and down onto the beach.

The last time we were putting out here a ball arrived at our feet from the tee. The chap who came to apologise in his buggy was none other than Darren Clarke.

On that day, Portrush fazed me but by now I was at one with my magnificent surroundings. Indeed, I reckon even Clarke would have been happy with my run between holes seven and 12.

The par-five seventh had intimated the bejesus out of me on my last visit but this time I avoided the cavernous Big Nelly bunker and crashed a fairway wood to within a few yards of the temporary green (they are ironing out a few undulations in the usual putting surface to make it fairer).

The curving 8th was a very special par. The draw from the tee took it over the rough and away from the far-side bunkers and a crisp five-iron strike saw the ball curl around towards the flag.

Portrush’s wonderfully complex greens and run-offs baffle many and can even repel good shots such as this one.

Often players will find themselves putting from dips at the side of the target as in this case. I was, therefore, thrilled, to knock the ball to the cup-side and claim my four.

I could happily write an essay about each hole on this glorious day when even failures were memorable.

For example, having run six pars together, I sent a heavenly seven-iron tee shot towards the par-three 13th.

I thought it was destined for flag-side but, even on the stroke index 18 surprises await and the ball dropped a foot short into the bunker protecting the hole.

And then there is the 16th – another of Portrush’s classics – a 200+ yard par three at the side of a grassy abyss.

Even my shot down the left-hand side nearly ended up down into the horrors of the right after the undulations grabbed hold of it.

Nevertheless, both my pal and I were close enough to par Calamity – only for the subtleties of the green to defeat us and force us to settle for fours.

The condition of the Dunluce course was remarkable for the end of March. The fairways were super-tight and the greens, although slower than in summer, were great.

Of course, this was Portrush on the most benign of days. The sun shone, the wind was gentle, the rough was very low (last time I lost eight balls, this time none).

Our rich entertainment was enhanced by Charlene telling us stories of her 10-year career at the club (especially anecdotes around the Open) and when former secretary Wilma Erskine joined us for the final few holes and lunch.

Wilma is a friend of my mate and entranced us with tales of her time when she and a small group of committee members transformed Portrush into one of the world’s very best courses and an Open rota links.

Listening to her after I had just had my Portrush epiphany added to one of the greatest days in my golfing life so far.

March 29, 2022
10 / 10
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Phil Ree

The Dunluce is an adventure. I didn’t play the old layout but I’d say the new one builds and crescendos extremely well, whilst using more of the biggest dunes earlier in the round. Once past the first few holes the routing efficiently goes backwards, forwards and sideways before climbing up to ‘Calamity Corner’ and descending - hopefully towards the 17th rather than following a pushed ball down that chasm. It is a frightening hole.

The rest of the course is equally as difficult and befitting of its Open status. There aren’t many bunkers so placement favours quality and intelligence over quantity. Many tee boxes are raised, many greens are elevated and more than anywhere I’ve played you’ll find your ball running and bouncing into large and steep hollows. The par 3s particularly don’t give much room to work with the constant wind, you will need to shape the ball or hope your short game is behaving.

I can’t pick out a weak hole, maybe a couple of less than excellent ones around the middle of the 18, but the course brings elevation changes, scenery and drama that I don’t think any other Open venues sustain for as long. I’ve played all of the current rota and though I have selfish reasons for preferring St George’s, and St Andrews apparently gets even better the more you play it, objectively I think Portrush could be or is the best. Combine the dunes, easy access plus local hospitality, and it has to be one of the best spectator experiences as well.

March 23, 2022
10 / 10
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Nicky

This is honestly the best course I've ever played, no hole in my opinion is boring, however while it is a tough course, it is will very scorable, it is fun! The course is always in perfect condition, summer or early winter and the staff are so welcoming. The vistas provided at the tee on 16 are breathtaking and you need to stand for a few minutes to take in its splendor.

November 08, 2021
10 / 10
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Andy Newmarch

I first played Royal Portrush in 2005 and now look back at that posted review and wince, what on earth happen that day, I have no idea!

Anyway this is not a long new review but just to say, that this without a doubt is a world best… with the most testing/punishing greens and complexes on the Open Rota for me. I think over the years, the original two final holes came into question as being just a little less than the first 16 holes - well that is all history and to confirm the two new holes; 7th and 8th are first class and as many have said, look like they have been there forever.

The now 16th, Calamity Corner par-3 commands world-status as do so many holes on the course.

The only tip that I give when playing the Dunluce is…. Don’t miss the fairways at all and when approaching every hole don’t be short, don’t be long, don’t be left and don’t be right …. other than that, pretty straight forward!

For me, the only ongoing debate now is what really is now the #1 course in Northern Ireland? If there ever was a gap between here and RCD, it has certainly closed and I would now say RP just nicks it - really small margins though.

November 02, 2021
10 / 10
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Phil Reid

Quite simply stunning and challenging in equal measure. The greens require precision approaches and will punish (or test) you if your precision approaches require some recalibration. Visually magnificent with each hole presenting a very different challenge, Royal Portrush is one to add to you ‘simply must play’ list. May merit 6 stars based on the course alone, but a couple of very minor disappointments reduced the overall experience by half a star. Still possibly the best I have played though.

September 12, 2021
9 / 10
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Brian Molko

After the Open championship made its return here and all the pro’s were raving saying it was the best on the open rota I have to say I was sceptical considering how good Carnoustie and Birkdale are! So we headed over to play it and…. The pro’s are spot on!

It’s quite simply stunning! The layout is incredible and the two new holes fashioned by Martin Ebert fit into the course so well you would never know they were new!

After a great opening 4 holes you get down to the 5th green where the view is pebble beach-esque towards the giants causeway. Every single hole demands your attention and while tough it is magical and enjoyable! When you walk up the hill towards the 15th green you are again given an amazing sea view and the 16th is an incredible par 3!

Is the best links course in the UK?? I’m not sure but it’s pretty damn close!

Well worth the trip over to play!

September 11, 2021
9 / 10
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Mike Brooks

It was with high anticipation that we teed it up at Portrush having avidly watched the Open on TV the previous year. Despite it raining all day we were not disappointed. This is an absolutely wonderful golf course which in my view is not bettered by any other in the British Isles. It is challenging but playable with no weak hole on the course. It is an impressive stretch of land with holes weaving their way through the dunes.

There is a wonderful variation of holes and, after the first 4 playing straight away from the clubhouse, regular changes of direction The first was not as tight as I had expected it to be, given the various OBs at The Open, and the second shot played much more uphill. The 4th is a fantastic par 4 with significant risks off both the tee shot and second shot. It was only after playing it twice (with wind hurting) that I realised the sensible play for me would have been to play it as a 3-shotter and look to take out the trouble. The two new holes (7&8) fit seamlessly in and I gather are a vast improvement over the two that were removed. I could try and pick out other standout holes but they were all good. If you haven’t played this course then I thoroughly recommend doing so. I will certainly be back.

January 10, 2021
10 / 10
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