On the Road to The 148th Open at Royal Portrush with PerryGolf

Golf observers focused their eyes on the brilliant shores of Pebble Beach last weekend, watching the strong American pro Gary Woodland deliver an outstanding performance. His putt for birdie on the 72nd hole capped a three-shot victory over Brooks Koepka, who was seeking his third consecutive U.S. Open crown.

Now, the countdown has begun for The 148th Open at Royal Portrush, July 18-21, only 26 days away. The field is taking shape as 97 players have secured their position in the field for golf’s oldest championship. PerryGolf is an Authorised Ticket Provider to The Open (sometimes referred to as the British Open or The Open Championship) and eager to help clients enjoy a day in the gallery on this historic links.

Leading up to The Open, which returns to the Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years, we’re thrilled to highlight not only the various qualifiers that will round out the 156-man field, but also the wide array of links and parkland courses available to our clients throughout the British Isles. While most golf fans are familiar with pillars of The Open rota like Carnoustie, Royal Birkdale, St. Andrews, Muirfield etc, the courses used each year for qualifying are remarkable in their own right and popular options for PerryGolf guests. In addition, summer is peak season for golf travelers and championships on the British Isles and we’ll be certain to highlight those marquee events as the calendar unfolds. You’ll learn more about the Lahinch Golf Club, site of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, July 4-7; Woburn Golf Club, a hidden gem in England where the Ladies British Open unfolds in early August and The Renaissance Club in North Berwick, Scotland.

PerryGolf is also an Authorised Provider of Guaranteed Old Course Tee Times, taking golfers to St. Andrews, the Home of Golf, site of The 150th Open in 2021. Zach Johnson lifted the Claret Jug there most recently (2015), Louis Oosthuizen rolled to a seven-shot victory in 2010 and Tiger Woods avoided the bunkers to prevail in 2000 and 2005, joining Jack Nicklaus (1970, 1978) as a two-time champion on the historic links.

Max Faulkner won The Open in 1951, the last time it was held at Royal Portrush, outlasting defending champion and local favorite Fred Daly, among others. Competitors this year face a reconfigured Dunluce Links course. Renovations were made in recent years to accommodate spectators and merchandise areas while also delivering a stern stretch of closing holes.

If you’re looking for a favorite, don’t overlook Brooks Koepka, who has been relentless in his pursuit of the game’s biggest events over the last four years. He finished 2nd-1st-2nd in the first three Grand Slam events in 2019 after winning the U.S. Open and PGA Championship to close the 2018 major schedule. Royal Portrush will be Koepka’s sixth appearance in The Open and he posted top-10 finishes in 2015 at St. Andrews and 2017 at Royal Birkdale. Not that Koepka needs an extra edge, but he’ll enjoy one. Longtime caddie Ricky Elliott, a fine player in his own right, is a Royal Portrush member who has played the course at least 300 times.

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell also enjoy their share of course knowledge around Portrush and each is certain to receive rousing support from the local well-wishers.

Tiger Woods is in Thailand on vacation with his family and not expected to make another tournament appearance before The Open. Taking a similar length layoff did not benefit Woods at the PGA Championship – he missed the cut.

While Koepka is the clear frontrunner in Vegas (6-1 odds), the bookmakers don’t like Woodland’s chances to earn a second consecutive major championship. He’s 50-1.


How the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush came to be

Royal Portrush, ranked No. 14 in the Golf.com World Top 100, welcomes the best golfers in the world for the 2019 Open Championship.

The Open Championship was last held in Northern Ireland in 1951 and the champion earned 300£ (or roughly $11,000 today). Max Faulkner surely cherished clutching the Claret Jug as he stood on the 18th green at Royal Portrush and the winner’s check was a welcome sight as well. However, when compared to the $1.8 million Jordan Spieth collected for winning last summer at Royal Birkdale, the paltry pay Faulkner received reflects the immense growth professional golf has enjoyed during the last 66 years.

As the purses and galleries increased, having sufficient room to erect the necessary infrastructure on and around the course became a requisite ingredient for any club wishing to play host to the Open Championship. Few doubted the quality of the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush – it’s routinely ranked in the top 20 in the World – and whether the golf holes provided a stern enough test to deserve a spot in the Open rota. But the tight quarters around the course seemed too cramped to welcome 200,000 spectators during tournament week and ensure they enjoyed a pleasant experience.

Bordered by Bushmills / Dunluce Road on one side and the North Atlantic Ocean on the other, it appeared Royal Portrush in County Antrim, Northern Ireland must remain content to live forever as a one-time Open Championship host and savor the fading memories from Faulkner’s magical week.

That was the situation until 2014 when leaders from the Royal & Ancient Golf Club along with noted golf course architects Tom Mackenzie and Martin Ebert formed a plan to renovate Dunluce Links, create the necessary room for the Open’s Spectator Village and make the golf course a demanding test for the modern professional without compromising legendary Harry S. Colt’s design from the 1930s. The legendary golf writer Bernard Darwin described Dunluce Links as such in 1951:

Mr. H.S. Colt, who

designed it in its present

form, has thereby built

himself a monument more

enduring than brass.

Upon receiving unanimous approval for the renovations from the Royal Portrush membership in 2015, the R&A awarded the club the 2019 Open Championship. On-course construction began that fall and was completed in the summer of 2017. Each step of the journey, Mackenzie and Ebert surely saw Colt’s vision and heard Darwin’s words, as they steered their crew to execute a renovation fit to carry the course through the Open and decades beyond.

With the R&A intending to use the former 17th and 18th holes on Dunluce Links as the Spectator Village, it was Mackenzie and Ebert’s task to create two new additions on the existing property. They added the 7th, a 572-yard par-5, and the 8th, a 435-yard par-4, which fit the terrain and routing as if they’ve been in place for decades. No. 16, the brutish 235-yard par-3 known as Calamity Corner, is one of the only bunkerless holes at Royal Portrush – not as if sand is needed to protect par. Open contenders will aim to avoid Bobby Locke’s Hollow which lines the left side, poised to collect a wild hook or pull.

In all, Dunluce Links has the fewest bunkers (70) of any course in the Open rota. By comparison, there are 150 at Muirfield and 210 at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s.

Now, the refreshed and enhanced Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush, measuring more than 7,300 yards, sits along the shore waiting to test the world’s best in the summer of 2019. Once again, Mackenzie and Ebert have doctored a course in the Open rota and prepared it to face the extraordinary talent of the modern professional golfer.

Golf observers, club members and historians hope for a mystical week in July 2019 to extend a golden era for Irish golf as Dublin native Padraig Harrington, local favorite Graeme McDowell, longtime Royal Portrush member Darren Clarke and world No. 10 Rory McIlroy – who grew up in Holywood roughly 60 miles away – have claimed major titles in the last decade.

PerryGolf can take you to Royal Portrush. Join the Hogan Bracket on the 2018 Open Championship Cruise and you can test your game on the renovated links, pausing certainly to snap a photo on No. 13, a beautiful par-3, known as ‘Feather Bed.’

You can also attend the final round of the 148th Open Championship in 2019 and play other great links in the rota along the way, such as Royal Liverpool and Royal Birkdale, by joining PerryGolf on a 12-day cruise from Edinburgh to London aboard the luxurious Azamara Journey.


Graeme McDowell goes from Strength to Strength

Graeme McDowell

Arguably the world’s most in-form golfer has gone from strength to strength lately despite a gruesome schedule which has seen him clock up over 32,000 air miles in the past seven weeks.  Following up from his glorious 2010 season in which he won the US Open, was the hero at the Ryder Cup, rose to 5 in the world rankings, defeated Tiger at his own tournament (despite a 4 shot deficit going into the final round) and was awarded an MBE in the New Year honours, McDowell flew from his Northern Ireland home straight after Christmas for the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii (that’s one heck of a journey) only to miss out on a play off by just one shot, shooting a final round joint course record of 62 in the process.

Is there anything the gritty Irishman can’t do?  Watch this space in 2011 to see if he can add to his US Open or even dethrone Lee Westwood at the top of the pile.  I, for one, wouldn’t bet against both happening.

By Keith Baird.  Keith has been with PerryGolf for over 10 years and is one of our Golf Travel Specialists.


Dubai World Championship

After 48 events on the long European Tour season, it has come down to a 2-horse race for the crown of European number 1.  It is quite fitting that the 2 guys in the race are both European current major champions, both of whom won their maiden majors this season, and are also both members of the victorious European Ryder Cup Team at Celtic Manor in October.  They are also both ranked in the top 10 of the world rankings.

Having claimed 4 victories throughout the season, Martin Kaymer is currently leading the race but hot on his heels and only €290,910 behind on the money list is Graeme McDowell.  Having won 3 times this season, McDowell – who is in sparkling form – will feel confident going into the last tournament of the season.  With so much money up for grabs in the season finale it will be exciting to see who comes out on top.  I plan on watching as much of the tournament as possible in anticipation…I’m tipping McDowell to finish in the top 3 and overturn the deficit.

By Gary Sheppard.  Gary has been with PerryGolf for over 4 years and is a one of our Golf Travel Specialists.


U.S. Open Champion connection

Fortunately I receive a steady stream of positive messages from returning clients to our destinations and this morning I received the following email from a multiple repeat client from Milwaukee;


I would assume that you enjoy hearing good stories about PerryGolf experiences, so I have one for you. Last Wednesday, the day before the start of the US Open, I was playing golf with my old friend Bob Wells. I hit a shot into the rough.  We both saw it, but we couldn’t find it.  I told Bob, “if I had your caddie, this wouldn’t be a problem”. Although we had not talked about it for years, he knew exactly what I was referring to.
On our first PerryGolf trip to Ireland, in 1999, Bob’s bag was carried by the finest caddie either of us has ever experienced.  He was a young, cocky college kid wearing Oakley sunglasses.  Everyone in our group hit a number of shots into the brutal rough at Portrush, and no matter how badly we hit it, he could walk right up and find it.  It was if he had a ball radar detector or an extra sleeve of balls for each player.  We had a great time with him.  He planned to come to the US to play golf in college and we wished him well.  Bob asked me if I remembered his name, but try as I might, I could not.  I told Bob that I was calling the third member of our group, Nate Miles, on Monday so I would ask him.
Over the weekend his name finally came to me.  When I called Nate on Monday, I asked him if he remembered that caddie and his name.  “How I can forget him!” Nate said. “We expected big things from him, and it is safe to say that Graeme McDowell has now fulfilled our high expectations”.
This email remind me of another client who befriended Richie Ramsay while on a PerryGolf trip. Their first meeting was at Royal Aberdeen where Richie served as his caddy. Subsequently Richie traveled to the US as a guest of this gentleman and won the U.S. Amateur in 2006. In 2009 Richie won the South African Open.


About the Author: Gordon Dalgleish is the Co-Founding Director of PerryGolf, the leading provider of international golf vacations. You can find him on Google+