Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Royal County Down tops fans’ choice of the best golf courses on the planet

10. Royal Melbourne, Australia

We may not be in the running to host the Open Championship any time soon but two of Northern Ireland’s courses have been named among the best in the world.

Royal County Down has topped a poll of the World’s Top 100 Courses You Can Play in the latest edition of Golf World magazine.

The Newcastle course joined this year’s Irish Open host, Royal Portrush, in the top 10.

The Co Down course fended off some of the world’s most famous fairways including Open Championship venues such as St Andrews in Scotland and Royal Birkdale in England, to take the top spot.

Royal Portrush finished seventh, ahead of Australia’s Royal Melbourne.

Despite reservations from the head of the sport’s governing body in the UK, Peter Dawson, who said an Open championship in Northern Ireland was “not imminent” — the province’s golfing credentials appear to be going from strength to strength.

Mr Dawson had said staging the Open for the first time since 1951 at Royal Portrush would require a “huge amount of money” to be spent. But Royal County Down’s club secretary David Wilson said being placed top was “both great for us and fantastic for Northern Ireland golf and tourism”.

“We are obviously very pleased and in some ways very humbled,” he added.

“The majority of our visitors would be from America and they look at these things and think — I want to play there.

“And it’s great with Portrush also being so well considered.”

Last month, Royal County Down was also named as the best course outside of the US.

As for hosting the Open in future, Mr Wilson said that while the course held top events in the past “getting big crowds and people around” would be difficult.

“It’s a difficult question to answer. We see ourselves in the top amateur business. There is a problem in getting big crowds but who knows what the future may hold. That’s where we would see it,” he added.

More than 100,000 spectators turned up to watch the Irish Open at Royal Portrush this summer.

The club’s immediate past captain Philip Tweedie said it was “very pleasing” to be ranked at such a high level but added the top 10 finish would unlikely sway any decision by golf’s governing body in selecting the course as an Open venue.

Golf World’s top 10

1. Royal County Down, Newcastle

2. Bandon Dunes (Pacific Dunes), Oregon, US

3. Turnberry (The Ailsa), Scotland

4. Royal Birkdale, Southport, England

5. Kingston Heath, Australia

6. Muirfield, Scotland

7. Royal Portrush, Portrush

8. Pebble Beach, California, US

9. St Andrews (Old Course), Scotland

10. Royal Melbourne, Australia