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6 miles N of Coleraine, off the A2
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The Valley course at Royal Portrush Golf Club was originally nominated by Stuart as gem and was added to the Top 100 site on 15th February 2005. Since then, the Valley has become a ranked course. Stuart’s original nomination article follows: “I’d played the Dunluce course a few times before finally deciding to play the Valley and pound for pound, the Valley is significantly better value at about a quarter of the price of the big Dunluce. For dune lovers, the Valley is set in more tumbling terrain with the holes cut between the dunes. You feel much more enclosed here than you do on the Dunluce. I certainly think Royal Portrush is missing a trick with the Valley course. They should market the course better than they do so that a few more people can get to know and love it like I do.”
The Valley lies between the East Strand and the Dunluce golf course in Portrush. As its name suggests, the course is situated between the huge sand hills immediately along the Atlantic shore and the higher ground on which the Championship course is laid out.
That is not to say the holes of the course are routed over anything like plain, level lying land, far from it, as the Valley has more than its fair share of the humps, hollows and undulations to be found on any links worthy of the name.
Although owned by Royal Portrush Golf Club, the Valley has been the home club to the members of Rathmore Golf Club since its formation in 1947. Royal Portrush Ladies are also based at the Valley and it is very hard to avoid the impression that Royal Portrush are happy to keep all bar the gentleman members and the big spending golfing tourists off the Dunluce.
How many people have made a point of playing Royal Portrush Golf Club and never given a thought to playing the sadly underrated Valley – something approaching 90%, perhaps even more? And that’s a real pity as the 6,304-yard, par 70, Valley is a very fine test of links golf, with greens, in particular, every bit as well tended as those next door. Harry Colt is credited with designing the course three years after the Dunluce and he was never known to put his name to many, if any, poor courses.
James W Finegan on the course: “The Valley Links, as its name suggests, is tucked away, down in the lower reaches of the club property, tall sand hills enclosing the acreage and blocking out any view of the sea. A sheltered quality, an attractive snugness, if you will, characterizes the course… The Valley course is full of very good golf holes. Even accomplished players are challenged – and all of us are charmed.” From Where Golf is Great – the finest courses of Scotland and Ireland.
To accommodate changes to the Dunluce course, the existing 5th and 6th holes on the Valley have been replaced with a new par three 15th, played after the existing 16th (the new 14th), and a new short par four 18th, which will start from a new tee position in the dunes and progress to a green close to the 1st tee on the Valley course.
Two feature holes on the card are played back-to-back on the front nine and they are situated at the furthest point from the clubhouse. They epitomise all that is good about golf at Portrush. The 336-yard, short par four, 5th hole is played from an elevated tee in the sand hills to a green with steep drop offs left and right framed by towering dunes and protected by menacing, deep bunkers. The 237-yard, par three, 6th hole is then played slightly uphill to a green with its right hand edge obscured by a dune tongue. Beware of the bunker sited short and left of the green and also the steep drop off to the left of the apron.
In addition to these changes, the existing 17th (the new 16th) has been extended to a doglegged par five and the new 17th restored from old, obsolete tees to one of the greens on the 9-hole Skerries course.
Exciting times ahead for the Valley course.
Royal Portrush can also boast a second course and a very fine one The Valley Links is too. The first tee is located around 700 yards from the main clubhouse (you can drive or walk down the old 18th fairway) where you will find a starters hut and buildings for the Ladies Branch of Royal Portrush Golf Club and the clubhouse for Rathmore Golf Club.
Following an innocuous, but perfectly acceptable start, the round really gets going at the 6th from where we enjoy a run of holes until the 10th which are quite excellent. The 6th, 7th and 8th in particular offer much shot-making opportunities - I simply loved the short par-four 7th ‘Cradle’ where you have a number options on how to find the putting surface with your approach and the 8th is a bamboozling long hole.
We must then find some big hitting for the up and down nature of the flatish 10th, 11th and 12th before a wonderful run for home which contains some full blooded links golf.
The Valley course, also originally designed by Colt, recently lost two holes (5 & 6) to the main Dunluce course but created some new ones towards the end of the round to compensate and tweaked a couple of others. The slightly altered 16th (now a par five) is the highlight from this rousing closing stretch which also contains a couple of very good short holes and a fun finisher over bumpy ground.
The course in its own right is a very fine links and one that makes a fine bedfellow for the Dunluce. It’s no pushover either at 6,346-yards, the par is 71.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
A fine second 18 and second round of the day. This is a perfectly good golf course, but pales in comparison through no fault of its own, to one of the true greats next door. It's readily apparent why it's called the Valley course and it does lack the movement of the Dunluce course.
That said, there are a bunch of quality holes here, with some well positioned bunkers and just enough turn in some of the doglegs to keep the interest up. The course was pretty much empty when we played it, so makes for an easy ad-hoc second round.
I've played this highly under-rated track three times, most recently in July 2018 on a day of overcast skies and some drizzle. Given the quality of this course, it is mind boggling that the weekday green fees are only 42 GBP. The holes are skillfully carved into a valley of dunes, with excellent greens and nice variety from hole to hole. The recent redesign unfortunately came at the expense of a very long par three (formerly hole #6), but the slightly revised layout is still top notch. It should be played either in tandem with a trip to the adjoining championship Dunluce links (entrance roughly a half mile away), or as a cost-effective, slightly shorter alternative. Pat M., Houston, TX
Two years since the last review! Seems legitimate, since we were the only ones on the course that rainy morning. After spoiling ourselves during the one hour delay in the great pro-shop at the Dunluce course, we got off and after two or three mediocre holes , we arrived in the valley that this course was built in. The Valley course has a wide variety of golf holes, has a very fair feel to it and actually is a class-course. I loved the par 5 7th, the par 3's are very scenic and the finish is especially good. One can only see the sea on the 18th tee, and the wonderful sight made for a great end to our yearly trip. Portrush and it's neighbours very rightfully make the destination one of the golfing capitals in the world, as you can strongly feel the history, purity and love for the game. MO