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Royal Portrush Golf Club begins its drive to host Open Championship

By Catherine Wylie

The exclusive Royal Portrush Golf Club has passed the first hurdle in plans to upgrade its course and bring back the Open Championship by 2019.

A special meeting of members at the Magherabuoy Hotel has voted overwhelmingly in favour of the first redevelopment of the world-renowned links in the 60-plus years since it last hosted the major tournament.

Philip Tweedie, a past captain and current member of the club's tournament committee, said there was a feeling of excitement.

"We always wanted to have a unanimous decision as much as possible so there was unity in the club and we think that is what we have achieved," he said.

A planning application is expected to be made by mid-October but authorities are not likely to make a decision until possibly next April. In an attempt to expedite the process and avoid confrontation with environmentalists, the club has already undertaken ecology reports on the dune system. Work is being tentatively planned for next autumn-winter.

The first redevelopment will be on the Valley course alongside work on new greens on the Dunluce course, but any significant changes are being planned to avoid the bird-nesting season.

Mr Tweedie added: "Everything has got to improve and strengthen. Ultimately what we are working on on the Dunluce and Valley links are creating stronger courses that are fit for Open competitive golf."

The changes will involve taking two holes out of the Valley course and creating three new holes, plans which Mr Tweedie described as "stunning". Royal Portrush has undergone seven significant changes since the course first opened as The County Club in 1888 but no development work has been done in the decades since the Open last visited. The R&A, organisers of the Open, have been notified of the decision.

The Dunluce course will be improved to a par 71 0f 7,337 yards. Among the changes will be new greens – the eighth will be a two tier and the par five ninth will become a par four.

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