All bar two of the 237 members of Royal Portrush who attended Friday evening's Special General Meeting at the Magherabuoy House Hotel voted yes to accepting the R&A's invitation to rejoin The Open rota and the proposed course changes which will see two new holes built on the Dunluce Links for a potential 2019 staging.
With planning permission now being sought, it is likely that work will not begin on the new holes proposed for the Valley Course until the winter of 2015 which means that the two new holes proposed for the Dunluce Links will almost certainly not be built until the winter of 2016 for play in the spring of 2017.
Several weeks prior to the meeting, architect Martin Ebert laid the groundwork by installing an exhibition in the clubhouse that outlined all the changes proposed to every hole both on the Dunluce and the Valley courses.
The exhibition outlined the history of the course and the members who attended Friday's meeting were presented with a 75-page colour brochure — 2,000 copies were printed — outlining the plans in detail.
Several weeks of "walkabouts" undertaken by senior members of the club's Tournament Committee and by Ebert himself.
Several tours were conducted for groups of 40 or 50 members at a time so they could be talked through the changes first hand.
"It would be strange for members not to be enquiring and laying their minds at rest," said club captain Simon Rankin.
"We had an attendance of 237 at the meeting and it took almost exactly an hour. The President set out the stall and I made a 15 minute speech explaining what was going on. There was no discussion of the individual specific changes because everyone had had a chance to see those before.
"The crucial thing that it was a composite motion and both went together in one question: "Do you want to accept the invitation of the R&A to join the current Open Championship venues and therefore do you accept the changes that have to be made to the golf course for that to happen?"
A show of hands was asked for though contingency plans were in place for a secret ballot that was not deemed necessary in the end.
"We had two people that voted against," Mr Rankin said. "I'd love to tell you it was unanimous but it just makes me fall about with laughter that two people voted against and the age group of those two people who voted against — they were both from the same family and would be in the 35 year old age bracket — you'd have to wonder if they voted against for a joke or for a bet."
The Dunluce Links would measure 7,337 yards for The Open with a par of 71 with the following major changes:
- The par-five second green will be pushed back 50 or 60 yards to left with the current green replicated.
- The eighth and ninth greens, which were not holes designed by Harry Colt, will be changed. The eighth green will become a two-tier green while the (par-five) ninth will become a par-four, as it was in the recent Amateur Championship.
- The 10th tee will be moved behind the car park for the Halfway Hut. The car park will be lowered and the 10th will become a longer, straightaway par-five.
- The two new holes to be built on the Valley Course (a par-four and a par-five) may become the 14th and 15th on the back nine on the Open course, rather than the seventh and eighth on the front nine. Discussions are ongoing and the holes will be built first before a final decision is made.
- Some new bunkers will be built to fit in with the changes but it appears that many of the proposed changes were softened after the Amateur Championship. "Peter Dawson has been very involved and walked the course many times," club captain Simon Rankin said. "He has an opinion on the ground on the decisions that are taken but the course will not look differently to what it does now."
- While Royal Portrush has no input into the set up for the Open, a practice tee will be built on the fourth on the Valley Links for The Open, using the fourth and seventh holes there.
- The current practice ground as well as the current 17th and 18th holes on the Dunluce and the area right of the first will be used for tentage.
- There is likely to be no internal out of bounds either on the first or the 16th (the 18th for the Open).
- Royal Portrush will retain the current 17th and 18th holes on the Dunluce Links so give members the choice of playing the old Dunluce routing or the new Open course.
More to follow....