Ballyliffin's $100m Irish Open boost
Ballyliffin Golf Club

Ballyliffin Golf Club

The enormity of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open gave the European Tour the courage to take the $7 million Rolex Series extravaganza to Ballyliffin from July 5-8 next year.

At least that's the view of the club's hard-working General Manager, John Farren, who expects the event to generate $100m for the local economy next year alone with the long-term spin-off "immeasurable."

“The people are a big part of it and the ambition and grá they have for the place given the club’s importance to the local economy," Farren said. “But getting it over the line was probably the reinvigoration of the Irish Open through Rory. 

“That gave the Tour the confidence to bring the event to somewhere like Ballyliffin.”

For course designer Pat Ruddy, the man who built the stunning Glashedy Links that will host Rory McIlroy and the best players in the world two weeks before The Open at Carnoustie next July, the key to the deal is the pride and passion of the local community on the windswept Inishowen peninsula.

"These guys are like the Kerry footballers," Ruddy said. "They are man-eaters on the move. And they have made Ballyliffin the centre of the universe. 

"The community spirit is wonderful. There's Packie Farren, Patsy Doherty, people like that. There are about ten men there who are the whirlwind of pride in place. 

"You go to other villages in similar locations around the country and the roofs are off the houses. This place is building hotels!"

These guys are like the Kerry footballers. They are man-eaters on the move. And they have made Ballyliffin the centre of the universe.
— Pat Ruddy, designer of the Glashedy Links, on Ballyliffin's can-do spirit

Farren reckons the Irish Open will be worth at least $100m to the local economy next year alone with the long-term spin-off incalculable as the nine course that comprise the North & West Coast Links group market themselves around the world.

"It's one of the premiere golf events in the world," he said. "It's going into 420 million homes. The TV coverage is phenomenal.

"The opportunity to showcase not just Ballyliffin but Donegal and Derry and the region is invaluable to us. 

"The long-term return on the investment that the area is making in bringing the event to Ballyliffin is immeasurable."

European Tour boss Keith Pelley revealed that McIlroy was key to the decision to go what he called a “stunning” venue but refused to guarantee 100 percent that they will remain on a links course in 2019 or that they won’t swap dates with the Scottish Open in two years’ time.

The event now appears certain to head south from 2019, when Royal Portrush hosts The Open.

But while venues like County Sligo are being mentioned as possible venues, there are no cast-iron guarantees it will be played on a links.

Pelley said: "Right now the links strategy seems to make a lot of sense because it gives our players the best opportunity to prepare for The Open Championship.

"Could it ever revert back? Could we play on a parkland course? Absolutely. And as I said, it is a collaborate decision that we make with all of our partners."

Pádraig Harrington will be playing in Donegal for the first time.

"Hopefully we get the crowds," he said. "It is tough the Irish Open, we have to pull out all the stops every year. we can’t take it for granted but I assume it should be a big deal in Ballyliffin. Hopefully, it is what we want in an Irish Open to have that festival feel, that event feel, not just a golf tournament."

Shane Lowry added: "I was just saying to the lads there, they will not bring us any further away. It will be a nice venue. When the Irish Open goes to small places, small towns, they really embrace the tournament, and they will be planning for that for a year from now.

"I am sure they will put in a lot of work, and it is going to be a great event. I played the Interprovincials there in '06. I can't remember what it was like. It was 11 years ago."