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Irish Open 2015: Stunning Royal County Down is also World number one

By Steven Beacom

Rory McIlroy is the headline act at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open this week.

As he should be.

He is golf's number one in every sense.

The boy from Holywood has movie star status now with the pulling power to attract other big names to his homecoming show... from Rickie Fowler to Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald to Ernie Els and Lee Westwood to Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Add on our wee country's other major heroes Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell plus Padraig Harrington, the Dubliner who started this incredible big time era for Irish golf by winning The Open in 2007, and the line up assembled at Royal County Down Golf Club truly is one to savour.

Everywhere you look there is a famous face swinging a club or sinking a putt.

It is heartwarming to see and, as has become the norm when a massive sporting event docks here for a short spell, the great Northern Ireland public will be out in force to support them.

From now until Sunday, rain, hail or shine, thousands will flock to Newcastle to witness these gifted golfers hit shots the rest of us can only dream about.

It's not just the stellar cast that will make this sporting drama special though... it's the location.

The players won't be the only stars this week. The course, complete with new grandstands and a purpose built tented village, will be too.

Royal County Down is a magnificent venue - one of the finest sporting landscapes on the planet.

It's little wonder so many come from far and wide to play 18 holes here.

The guestbook for visitors is filled with signatures and positive comments from all over the globe.

As you walk around the place there are moments when you have to stop for a second and simply admire the stunning views with the Mourne Mountains providing a spectacular backdrop.

Even the players have got carried away with their surroundings during practice on the famous links which stretches along the shores of Dundrum Bay.

Some of them have been taking pictures from various parts of the course to post on their Instagram page or Twitter accounts.

Former World number one Donald was particularily taken by the bewitching 486 yard par four ninth, with its blind tee shot, which locals will tell you is one of the most photographed holes in the world.

American Fowler says it is up there with his favourite courses and when McIlroy talks about Royal County Down he does so with a sparkle in his eye.

It means something to him.

It's where he plays with his friends when he is back in Northern Ireland and his Foundation, which is hosting this week's tournament, provides massive financial support to the nearby Cancer Fund for Children's Daisy Lodge. More money was raised at a star studded and fun event there last night.

Come tomorrow, things will get more serious when competition begins with the Irish Open trophy up for grabs.

Easy on the eye, the Royal County Down is also a test for the brain, especially when the elements aren't kind, as is forecast this week.

If you are lucky enough to have a ticket, you'll enjoy the supremely talented golfers. You'll also enjoy the wonderful course and all it has to offer.

Belfast Telegraph

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