148th Open set for Northern Ireland - Are You?

​By the time July 2019 rolls in, it will have been almost 70 years since The Open was held in Northern Ireland. The momentum is building and the epic journey to Royal Portrush has begun.

  • 10 January 2019

​PHOTO: Francesco Molinari - Champion Golfer of the Year 2018 - photo by Eoin Clarke / Golffile.

The eagerly anticipated return of The Open to Royal Portrush is sure to become one of the highlights of the Championship's long and illustrious history. An event you won't want to miss, only three hours from Dublin. 

Played since 1860 on iconic links golf courses, it is the sport’s most international Major Championship, with qualifying events on every continent. For one week each year, the pursuit of the famous Claret Jug trophy is the focus of the sporting world, followed by fans globally.

The first time The Open was ever staged outside of Britain was in 1951, when it was last played at Royal Portrush. Next year will be only the second time that the Championship has been contested outside Scotland and England in its history.

The eyes of the world will fall on Northern Ireland from Sunday 14th – Sunday 21st July 2019. The historic return of The Open is set to attract an audience in excess of 190,000 spectators to the region and images of the Championship will be beamed into an estimated 600million homes worldwide.

Preparations are well underway with Tourism NI working closely with the R&A, anticipating the arrival of golf’s original Championship. The 148th Open will be the biggest sporting event ever to have been held in Northern Ireland and has been over five years in the making.

Northern Ireland’s reputation as a premier destination for international events will be firmly established as a result of hosting The 148th Open and the world will witness all it has to offer. From world class golf courses across the country, visitor attractions, hotels, and a rich heritage to award-winning food & drink, Northern Ireland is perfectly positioned to host an event of this calibre.

Geographically Northern Ireland is not huge, but it is a giant in terms of golf. From the dedicated golfer to the first timer, Northern Ireland offers new places, new stories and new experiences to last a lifetime. Evidence lies scattered across the landscape, from the course at Royal County Down being voted number one in the world to world-renowned professionals whose origins lie in all corners. Therefore, it’s not just the fans who are excitedly awaiting the return of The Open – the local players are looking forward to seeing it back on home turf.

Rory McIlroy, who lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Liverpool in 2014, recently landed on home soil to launch the official Epic Journey to The 148th Open. Rory highlighted the huge opportunity The Open brings to Northern Ireland and commented, “The Open returning to Portrush is massive for Northern Ireland, everyone is so excited and is getting behind it. I never thought I would have the opportunity to play in a major championship at home and I’m really looking forward to it. You can really feel the buzz here already, it’s going be a fantastic year as we get ready to welcome The Open for the first time in over half a century.”

Golfing greats such as Rory, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Fred Daly prove that major courses make major championship winners. Northern Ireland has over 90 golf courses, with superb links and stunning parklands to the most challenging of rounds that would test even the most seasoned pro. Quality is to a tee, with 35 of the courses accredited with a Golf Quality and Assurance award. The high standards have led to the stellar reputation and growing international success of golf tourism in Northern Ireland.

Royal Portrush is one of the world’s top 10 courses (as voted by panelists of Golf Digest, 2017). Founded in 1888, it has two Championship Courses – the renowned Dunluce Course, that overlooks the 13th Century castle of the same name, and the Valley course. Both afford an impressive North Atlantic backdrop from the stunning Causeway Coastal Route.

Portrush can challenge even the most experienced of golfers, with only two during the entire 1951 Championship managing to break 70. Its most famed holes are ‘White Rock’ and ‘Calamity’. The former is an exhilarating two-shot that risks sending your ball into the waves of the Atlantic, while the latter requires keen precision to navigate a gigantic ravine.

In preparation for The Open, the course is being closely reviewed. Architect Martin Ebert has worked with the R&A and Royal Portrush Golf Club to design a new seventh and eighth holes on the course, increasing the overall total length by just under 200 yards and adding an additional three bunkers. The 148th Open at Royal Portrush is sure to offer new challenges, new stories and new experiences to last a lifetime.

Most golfing fans visiting Northern Ireland for The Open will be wishing to get out for a few rounds themselves. There is a long list of hidden gems to enjoy in Northern Ireland. If you are basing yourself in Belfast and travelling via public transport to the Championship, head to the top parklands of Belvoir Park or Malone, or stop by Balmoral Golf Club to play on the same turf as Northern Ireland’s first winner of The Open, the legendary Fred Daly.

​For convenience if you are staying on the stunning Causeway Coastal Route, a must-visit is Castlerock or Portstewart Golf Club, which hosted the Irish Open 2017. This is one of the few golf clubs that offers three 18-hole golf courses in the one spot!
For testing golf, awe-inspiring scenery and friendly locals, meet the road halfway between Belfast and Portrush and play a beautiful round at Cairndhu. The superb parkland was chosen as the site for this golf club due to the 200-acres of mature woodlands and rolling hills. It is arguably Northern Ireland’s most scenic course, where you can tee off and cast your eye towards the Scottish coast and islands.

The hospitality and hotel industries across the country are looking forward to offering the warm welcome that Northern Ireland is famous for to the masses of local and out of state visitors.
With a wide-range of stunning hotels, bespoke B&Bs and self-serviced apartments to choose from across Northern Ireland, visitors are encouraged to plan their trip in advance, as accommodation is in high demand. There is still availability on the Causeway Coast and with strong transport links across the whole of Northern Ireland, a huge array of accommodation options awaits visitors in July 2019.

There has been unprecedented demand for tickets to The 148th Open, however, you can still secure your place at Royal Portrush by purchasing a ticket for the practice days. Spectators can get close and interact with some big names as the players get their first look at Royal Portrush ahead of golf’s original championship.  

If not, it is still recommended to plan a short break to soak up the electric atmosphere in Northern Ireland as the golf titans descend and play for the renowned Claret Jug. 

Full details for Tourism NI’s official Epic Journey to The 148th Open and The R&A’s Claret Jug tour schedule for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, visit www.tourismni.com and www.randa.org​

There are a limited number of Hospitality places available for Championship day’s Thursday to Sunday​ - see www.theopen.com/hospitality​