Raising the stakes for the Irish Open at Royal Portrush

The stakes will be gone when the pros comes to Royal Portrush.The European Tour will remove the eye-catching internal out of bounds stakes left of the first and 16th holes for next month’s Irish Open at Royal Portrush.

In fact, the cutting that marks the internal OB has been filled in and sodded for the arrival of the cream of the European Tour, a luxury the best amateurs in Ireland would have loved at last week’s Irish Amateur Close.

The Tour doesn’t like internal out of bounds and while there is still OB down the right hand side of the opening hole, the pros will get to slash back into play if they happen to hoik one left off the first tee.

The internal out of bounds cutting has been filled in left of the first and 16th (pictured). “It’s jungle in there anyway,” beamed Darren Clarke when asked about the removal of out of Portrush’s many hazards for the professionals. “That land didn’t belong to Portrush until a few years ago. There always used to be horses grazing in there as far as I remember. It’s not really in play for us.”

Clarke will be at Royal Portrush for a media day on Tuesday with the club announcing via Twitter that there will be a “big news” at the press conference featuring the Open champion and Arlene Foster, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment.

Whether the European Tour has found a title sponsor at the eleventh hour or a few more big names to add to an already strong field - McIlroy, McDowell, Clarke, Harrington, Keegan Bradley, the Molinari brothers - remains to be seen.

What is clear is that this is the most eagerly awaited Irish Open since the event went to Ballybunion in 2000 and fizzled out due to windless weather and the tour’s decision to cut back the rough on the eve of the event, fearing the pros would be humiliated.

The Dunluce Course doesn’t have much rough right now and while the greens are still slow and lacking in decent grass coverage, another month of warm, humid weather should guarantee a low scoring Irish Open on good greens.

Of course, the wind could blow and the rain could come slanting in from the north Atlantic. In that case, check out Direct Golf for rain gear and umbrellas. There is nothing wetter than an Irish Open and while the sights of the Causeway Coast need to be seen to be believed, sunshine is a must.

If you do intend to travel to Ireland for the tournament and play some of the great courses in the locality, make sure you stock up on golf balls with the boys at Direct Golf before you travel. 

Remember, the likes of Seve Ballesteros were often handed only three or four new balls a week back in the bad old days of the tour. So imagine what conditions were like when George Duncan won the first Irish Open at Portmarnock in 1925 or when Charles Whitcombe lifted the title at Portrush in 1930.

The humps and hollows of the Dunluce links with Portrush in the background.Direct Golf was founded by PGA professional John Andrew in 1991, the year Nick Faldo won the first of his three successive Irish Open titles at Killarney. It’s hard to believe that’s 21 years ago. Even the horses have left the internal out of bounds at Royal Portrush.