My dad and I are in the middle of a Northern Ireland golf adventure.
If you missed part one, you can read it here.
Round 2, Friday, Royal Portrush Golf Club
Royal Portrush holds the distinction of being the only course outside of the mainland United Kingdom to host the British Open. The club also hosted the 2012 Irish Open in June.
Today it had the honor and distinction of hosting us.
The story of how staggering Portrush is starts on Thursday, when we stopped to buy a couple things from the pro shop.
The attendant glanced out the window and sighed “Here comes trouble.” We turned to see what he was talking about just in time to see Darren Clarke, winner of the 2011 British Open, casually striding through the door.
As it turns out, he had some personal issues in 2006 and decided to move with his sons to Portrush. 1947 British Open Champion Fred Daly and 2010 US Open champion Graeme McDowell also live here.
The town of Portrush even went so far as to proclaim itself the Major Golf Capital of the World, despite having a population of less than 7000.
As for the golf, the course is exactly what should come to mind when you think Ireland links golf. The rolling fairways and windswept greens look like they came right out of a European Tour event.
Even more astoundingly, the sun was kind enough to show itself today, and we were able to enjoy a full round with nothing but blue sky overhead and left the rain gear in our bags.
The club itself consists of two separate 18s: the Valley Links and the Championship Dunluce Links, which Golf.com rated as the 14th best course in the world in 2011.
I’d be remiss if I ignored describing the opening tee shot, which involves about 30 people standing there staring at you as you line up your shot, take a beautiful, smooth swing, and fire the ball straight into the fairway bunker.
On the plus side, that was not the worst shot we saw. Thankfully the people we watched tee off before us did not exactly set the bar high.
First tee jitters out of the way, we actually played quite well, and had more than our fair share of nice shots and long putts drained.
Of particular beauty is the fifth hole, the course’s signature. Not all that daunting a hole at only 379 yards, doglegging around to the right, but the green butts right up to a cliff overlooking the West Strand beach.
The beautiful White Rock Cliffs, as well as the ruins of the 13th century Dunluce Castle can be seen in the distance.
It is actually kind of hard to think of anything negative to say about the place, other than it got a bit breezy when the wind picked up. And the famed half-way house, which is more like a half-way whiskey bar, was closed when we got there.
Probably for the best.
We had gone to see the Bushmills Whiskey Distillery on Thursday and, because you can not go there and not buy some, had the obligatory shot.
And just when you are coming to the end of your round, you run into “Big Nellie” on the Par 5 17th Hole.
This house sized bunker will give you flashbacks to the Sarlacc from Empire Strikes Back, only slightly more menacing. While we all managed to avoid her, we did discuss how anyone could get out of there in fewer than three shots, and decided throwing the ball would be your best hope.
Tomorrow’s journey will take us south to Ardglass, so check back for part 3.