Royal Portrush, One of Ireland's Most Famous Golf Courses

An aerial view of the Dunluce Links of Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland.
Looking across the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club.

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Royal Portrush Golf Club is one of the most famous of Ireland's golf courses, and the site of numerous major championships and other top-level golf tournaments.

The club actually includes two golf courses, the Valley Links—the shorter and easier of the two—and the more highly regarded Dunluce Links. In golf course rankings compiled by Golf Digest, Golfweek and other top golf media brands, Royal Portrush's Dunluce Links typically ranks among the best golf courses in the world, and always ranks (along with Royal County Down) as one of the two best Ireland golf courses.

Fast Facts: Royal Portrush Golf Club

  • Location: Portrush, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
  • Golf Courses: Dunluce Links and Valley Links, both 18 holes. Dunluce Links is the championship course.
  • Founding Year of Club: 1888
  • Course Architects: Old Tom Morris laid out the original nine holes. Harry Colt designed the Dunluce Links in 1929. Many others have worked on renovations since.
  • Major Tournaments Hosted: British Open, Senior British Open, British Amateur, British Women's Amateur, Irish Open

In 2019, for the second time in its history, the Open Championship takes place in Northern Ireland at Royal Portrush. For that major, the Dunluce Links will play 7,344 yards long with a par of 71.

In 2005, a 16-year-old Rory McIlroy established the course record at Dunluce with a 61. Today, three major championship winners from Northern Ireland—McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, and Darren Clarke—are members at Royal Portrush.

Major Tournaments and Tour Events at Royal Portrush

All of the top level golf championships run by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (R&A), the governing body of golf in the U.K. and most of the world outside of the United States, have been played at Royal Portrush. The lone exception is the Women's British Open, which has not yet visited Portrush. European Tour events have also been played on the Dunluce Links.

1951 British Open

The 1951 British Open was the first time that the championship was not played in England or Scotland—and the only time until the Open returned to Portrush in 2019. Englishman Max Faulkner won the tournament by two strokes over runner-up Antonio Cerda of Argentina. Faulkner was the only English golfer to win the British Open between 1949 and 1969.

Irish Open

The Irish Open most recently visited Royal Portrush in 2012. Jamie Donaldson of England won the tournament by four strokes. It was his first victory on the European Tour.

The three previous times the Irish Open was played at Portrush and the winners of each were:

  • 1930: Charles Whitcombe
  • 1937: Bert Gadd
  • 1947: Harry Bradshaw

Senior and Amateur Championships

The Senior British Open was played on the Dunluce Links annually for five years in the late 1990s, plus in 2004.

  • 1995: Brian Barnes
  • 1996: Brian Barnes
  • 1997: Gary Player
  • 1998: Brian Huggett
  • 1999: Christy O'Connor Jr.
  • 2004: Pete Oakley

The British Amateur Championship has been played at Royal Portrush three times:

  • 1960: Joe Carr
  • 1993: Iain Pyman
  • 2014: Bradley Neil

Of the major tournaments, the Women's Amateur Championship has visited Portrush most often, played there nine times:

  • 1895: Margaret Scott
  • 1903: Rhona Adair
  • 1911: Dorothy Campbell
  • 1924: Joyce Wethered
  • 1939: Pam Barton
  • 1955: Jessie Valentine
  • 1969: Catherine Lacoste
  • 1995: Julie Wade Hall
  • 2011: Lauren Taylor

Playing Golf at Royal Portrush

Royal Portrush Golf Club is a private club, but its two links courses are open to the public. However, access to the Dunluce Links and Valley Links comes with conditions. Guests must be members of a golf club and must have a current handicap. And that handicap cannot exceed 18 for men or 24 for women. In addition, guests must present both a certificate of handicap and a letter of introduction from their home club prior to play.

The links are often closed to visitors during the first couple months of the year, and golfers may be required to play off mats for another couple months until the weather warms up. Visitors are allowed to play only during specific time periods each day. Check the visitors section of the Royal Portrush website for updates and for green fees.

Green fees can top $300 on the Dunluce Links (the Valley Links is about one-third as much). Tee times can be booked on the Royal Portrush website. General inquiries can be made to info@royalportrushgolfclub.com, and the office phone number is 028 7082 2311. Although it may not be necessary to get access, visitors wishing to play the Dunluce Links are advised to book up to one year in advance.