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.
The Valley is a cracking links course, totally overshadowed by the top 10 rated Dunluce course but you know, I think that's exactly how the locals like it as they can watch the golf tourists pay the big bucks to take on the championship venue, leaving them the run of the adjacent Valley links!
There are stretches of great holes here, in particular from the 4th to the 6th (with the very photogenic short par 4 Desert 5th a beauty) and from the 10th to the 14th on the back nine – though there are no weak holes on the course at all to give you any real respite.
Like at Castlerock, where you should play the nine hole Bann course in addition to the main 18 Mussenden course, I would also recommend taking on the Valley if playing the Dunluce at Portrush. Tee boxes and fairways were a little parched when I played due to lack of rain in recent days but putting surfaces were in great condition. At a shade over 6000 yards from the normal tees you do not need to worry about a long hitting slog round the Valley.
Do yourself a big favour and sample the delights of this course in addition to its big brother next door.