Royal Portrush's Dunluce Links will be ready for play in 2018 but will it get The Open in 2019 or 2020 as Donald Trump and Turnberry's Ailsa Course lurk in the background?
All will be revealed by the R&A later this summer, it appears, but as far as Royal Portrush goes, it’s full steam ahead when it comes to changes to the courses and the preparations for the return of The Open, which was held on the Dunluce Links in 1951.
Royal Portrush’s Tournament Committee Chairman, John Bamber, wrote to the members on Monday to fill them in on what’s happened since last August’s Special General Meeting, when they agreed to build two new holes on the Valley Course to replace the current 17th and 18th on the Dunluce Links for an Open staging.
The big news is that with planning permission granted last March and everything going ahead without a hitch so far, it’s likely that the new "Open course" will be ready for a proposed 2018 staging of The (British) Boys Amateur Championship.
This will add more weight to the belief that Portrush will named as the 2019 venue for The Open at some stage this summer.
“Of course, all time-scales of this magnitude are open to variance based on conditions, but we are extremely optimistic these dates are genuinely achievable,” Mr Bamber writes.
“So everything is now in place and the final question on everyone’s lips: “when will the Official date be announced?
“The R. & A. had firstly, and quite correctly, wanted to wait until Planning was agreed. I now fully expect a date will be announced later this summer. Drawings and detailed timelines will be displayed in the Clubhouse for Members to view.”
With Mr Bamber confirming that “the local area will now benefit from substantial Government investment of up to £30M over the next few years,” there will be pressure to get The Open sooner rather than later.
However, with course architects Ebert and Mackenzie also undertaking the huge changes to Donald Trump’s Turnberry, is there a chance that the Ailsa Course could slip in for 2019?
The 70th anniversary of Portrush’s staging of The Open falls in 2021 but that’s surely reserved for the 150th staging of the Open Championship and another visit to the Home of Golf at St Andrews.
As for what’s been going on at Royal Portrush since last August's meeting, here are the highlights of Mr Bamber's update:
Significant important work has been completed since the Special General Meeting. The Planning Application was extremely detailed, involving many specialists and consultants; it was submitted in late November, 2014.
Planning was granted at the end of March 2015 which now allows construction to commence later this year. The Tender documents are due to be returned in early May and this will allow The R. & A., in conjunction with ourselves, to appoint the most suitable specialist operators to deliver this project.
It is appropriate to say each of the professionals and agencies involved made huge contributions in successfully delivering the Planning consent.
From Coleraine Borough Council to the wider public, we appreciated their support. I am delighted to say, as a result of this proposal, the local area will now benefit from substantialGovernment investment, of up to £30M over the next few years.
This can only be good news!!
The R. & A., as many will have noticed, have completed regular site visits along with Martin Ebert, over the past few months, continuing to look at all aspects of infrastructure and preparation.
Can I remind the Membership that costs will be met directly by The R. & A..
A brief is incorporated in this report; this could not have been detailed before, as we did not want to appear presumptuous before Planning was confirmed.
We have a slightly modified strategy to the original Plan which will now allow all major Links construction to take place from later this year and be complete by the Spring of 2016.
This will involve the 5th and 6th Holes on the Valley being removed from play temporarily this Winter; it will, however, have enormous benefits allowing play on the new Valley holes at an earlier stage in the project.
The shortened time-line will produce less general disruption for all Members. I would add that we have already met withRathmore G.C. and R.P. Ladies’ Branch both of whom were extremely supportive of this way forward.
To give some of the key time-line events, they are as follows:
May 2015: Tenders to be returned and specialists appointed
July 2015: Skerries Course to close allowing initial works to the new 17th and 18th on the Valley Links.
Late October 2015: Holes 5 and 6 on the Valley links to close; major Links works to commence.
Late October 2015: Temporary Green for Holes 2 & 8 on the Dunluce Links.
December 2015: Work on Tees and Bunkers on Dunluce Links to commence.
Mid-May 2016: New Valley Links open for play; all construction work on Dunluce Links to be completed.
Beginning of 2017: Dunluce Links – new Holes open for play, with our first major event being The Boys Amateur Championship in 2018.