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 8th and 9th 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 current 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 14th, 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 is the replacement of holes 17 and 18 on the Dunluce with two new holes, located where the current 5th and 6th holes currently lie on the Valley course. These new holes could be played between the current 6th and 7th on the Dunluce, though they could also be fitted into the new routing between existing holes 13 and 14.

The new hole 7 is a par five, played over much of the existing 6th on the Valley course, but in the opposite direction. The famous “Big Nellie” bunker from the current 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 existing 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: 9.1 out of 10 Reviews: 92
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Tim Browne
The Dunluce course is probably the fairest world class links course that I have played. You can see it all before you and generally your score will reflect the quality of your play. This is Harry Colt's best links course and a challenge from 1st tee to 18th green. The stretch of holes from 4 to 7 is just wonderful. The 4th is a great long par 4 with trouble wherever you want to find it. The 5th is a classic shorter par 4 played to the green perched above White Rocks strand, a hole without bunkers but full of character. The 6th is known as Harry Colt's and is one of 4 excellent par 3s and the 7th is a strategic long par 4 with good fairway bunkering. The par 5s 9 and 10 run in the same direction and can be quite short unless played into the wind. The 11th is a terrific par 3 downhill followed by two great par 4s demanding length and accuracy. Then the much talked about Calamity Corner, not my favourite hole, followed by two good par 4s the longest hole at 17th and a superb par 4 at 18th where a great round can still be well and truly wrecked. No poor holes, just pleasure all the way.
August 08, 2006
10 / 10
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Jordan
Wonderful course--played in late June on a week-long golf vacation in Ireland and NI. Very enjoyable, and probably "fairer" than RCD in terms of a course on which you can find your own line. Until the last four holes or so (15 is world-famous but left me at a loss why; 16-18 are downright pedestrian) I was ready to call this better than RCD all the way around but if I had to choose one...it'd be RCD. Do play the Valley Course as well, however. Both courses rate play and are tremendously fun tests of golf.
June 30, 2006
10 / 10
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mheywood
Had the misfortune to play the course in a 65 mph breeze and the course and elements won. Also played it the same week as RCD, which I prefer. It's a difficult test with what appeared to be small landing areas and greens - not in as good nick as RCD or Castlerock just up the coast. However, it's still a great track and would be in my top ten after RCD, Ballybunion, Turnberry, Tralee, Woodhall Spa & Swinley Forest.
April 05, 2006
8 / 10
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Adrian Gaspar
Wonderful golf course which lived up to my expectations (and they were high!). The weather was very benign which obviously made the course a lot easier, but for a Thursday morning in early Feb I couldn’t really complain. Everybody was friendly and helpful. As for the course itself I think it is as good as most reviewers say, the only very slight let down was 17 and 18, which are merely decent golf holes. I can honestly say I really enjoyed 1-16 and it may not come as a surprise when I say ‘Calamity’ was my favourite hole. The course was empty and having made the front of the green and then 3 putted (albeit with the pin right at the back of the green) I was really tempted to run back to the tee and have another go, but when you remember standing on the tee you realise that you (and a lot of golfers) would probably have taken a 4 if offered it, particularly if the wind is up. A classic links course which I would play anytime I had the opportunity. I would rate Portrush just behind (but only just) RCD and Turnberry, based on aesthetics partly, and also because I think RCD in particular has trickier and quicker greens. Certainly worthy of it’s high rating.
February 14, 2006
10 / 10
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Jim McCann

The Dunluce course at Portrush is a wonderful golfing track. It is no surprise that there have been so many major amateur and professional competitions played over these links. Yes it was tough and intimidating at times – even from the ladies tee postions used in the winter – but the setting is absolutely breathtaking from the opening fairways on the land further back from the shoreline.

The 5th and 14th are truly memorable holes but I also though the short par 4 8th (Himalayas) was a great hole - pity the last two holes are a little bland but you may well be needing some comparative respite after what has gone before!

I know no direct comparisons should be made with other courses but it is hard not to compare Portrush with County Down when they are both top 10 courses in the same corner of the British Isles but for what it’s worth, I personally think the former should be ranked higher than the latter though I’m sure many will agree the experts have the relative positions correct.

There’s hardly a blind shot to play on the Dunluce, there’s lots of variety with left and right hand dog leg holes and the greens were in tip top condition (even for late December) and the clubhouse facilities were first class.

Jim McCann

December 22, 2005
10 / 10
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simon smith
Played this course the first week in Sept 2005 which was a shame because of the hollow - tining that was in progress. This is very common at this time of year so remember to check before booking !!. It's a great course and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The first nine is definately the harder nine with tighter driving holes. The 17th and 18th holes are slightly disappointing when you consider the other 16 holes are very links like. I'm pleased i played it and would give it 9/10 but i still prefer Ballybunion for its setting and Carnoustie for its difficulty. I'm sure you will enjoy it.
September 20, 2005
8 / 10
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clarkey
I understand everyone's opinion but I can't see how anyone could be disappointed with links golf at it's greatest. Maybe they are annoyed because the course was too good for their golf game! It has hosted the British open and the senior British open numerous times and have you seen the website? People like Ernie Els, Gary Player and Darren Clarke have made comments on it and Gary Player ranks it as his favourite links course!!!
July 27, 2005
10 / 10
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Billy
As per the previous review, I too came away from Royal Portrush a little disappointed. Perhaps it was because we'd saved what we thought was the best until last (having just played Ballyliffin Old & Glashedy, Castlerock and Portstewart). Portrush is not the most attractive course in the world but it is certainly a tough and fair challenge (and the condition is superb). The 5th "White Rocks" and the stunning par 3 "Calamity" will remain lodged in my memory for ages, but I'm not too sure I'll remember too many other holes for the right reasons, the 1st, 17th and 18th are poor holes. Nevertheless, Portrush is a great course and should not to be missed. If you are touring here for the first time, play Portrush earlier on.
February 09, 2005
6 / 10
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Andy Newmarch
No doubt this can be described as a classic links but have recently come away a little disappointed. First three holes did not really give me the inspired feel that I hoped for and the views of the caravan park are not the starting backdrop that pleases the eye. Certainly some really fine holes (5th, 8th, 14th and 15th) are my choices and the views by the coast are exceptional. Portrush is tough obviously but biggest memory for me is that the balance of great holes compared to the ordinary ones is the wrong way around. I expected to get the WOW factor here but it just did not show up!
January 28, 2005
6 / 10
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jim
I have grown up playing both Royal County Down and Royal Portrush. They are both extremly difficult no doubt about it, but Royal County Down I suspect gets a better rating due to their greens being in better condition 90% of the time. However I personally prefer Portrush it is a lot fairer and has everything in front of you, so there is never any surprises. My favourite hole is the 4th - a humdinger - aim for the gap in the fence off the tee. What you do from there is up to you!!!!
August 11, 2004
10 / 10
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