The European Club to host 2018 AIG Irish Amateur Close
 Philip Walton watches his drive from the 12th tee box during the Ladbrokes.com Irish PGA Championship. The European Club, Co. Wicklow. Picture credit: Matt Browne / Sportsfile

Philip Walton watches his drive from the 12th tee box during the Ladbrokes.com Irish PGA Championship. The European Club, Co. Wicklow. Picture credit: Matt Browne / Sportsfile

The AIG Irish Close Championship will be played earlier in the season from next year which will mean a new date for the prestigious Mullingar Scratch Trophy.

With the Home Internationals moving back to September, the "Close" will now be played shortly after the South of Ireland with the championship scheduled for The European Club from 4-8 August 2018. Mullingar could, in theory, move to the May bank holiday weekend.

According to the GUI, "a new date for the blue riband event in Irish domestic golf means the championship is more accessible than ever before for Ireland’s leading amateurs."

Scheduled to start on the Saturday of the Republic of Ireland’s August Bank Holiday for the foreseeable future, it will now be the last major event before the team is picked for the Home Internationals, which are moving back to September.

Ballybunion's Old Course (2019), Rosapenna's Sandy Hills Links (2020), Malone (2021) and Headfort's New Course (2022) have also been confirmed as host venues for the coming years.

Mark Wehrly, GUI Championships Manager said: “We are delighted to confirm these wonderful venues for the AIG Irish Close Championship over the coming years – and we’re very grateful to the clubs for offering their facilities for the championship.”

“We’re hopeful that the new date will help our leading amateur players, many of whom are career amateurs with jobs and young families, to continue supporting what is our leading domestic championship.

“We also hope the change in the date of the Home Internationals will further enhance the attraction of the Close to our best players.”

The date change required the GUI to liaise with Mullingar Golf Club in relation to their Scratch Trophy which has occupied the bank holiday weekend for the past number of years.

“We very much value the engagement and positive response from Mullingar in relation to the date change of the Close.” Wehrly said.

“The club have recognised the significance of this change for the Irish Close and have been more than accommodating in agreeing to move their Scratch Trophy dates."

The last time The European Club staged the Close in 2006, Rory McIlroy won the second of his back to back Close titles, beating Simon Ward 3 and 2.

Speaking after his victory in 2006, McIlroy said: "This is probably the best links course I have ever played. It’s just the definition to it with the sleepers in the bunkers. It is totally unbelievable. I love courses where you really have to think your way around. It gets me focused much more."

AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship –  Future venues and dates

  • 2018 August 4–8 at The European Club, Wicklow
  • 2019 August 3–7 at Ballybunion (Old Course), Kerry
  • 2020 August 1–5 at Rosapenna (Sandy Hills), Donegal
  • 2021 July 31–August 4 at Malone, Belfast
  • 2022 July 30–August 3 at Headfort (New), Meath