The course is a flat links course, located just outside the seaside town of Portrush. On a bright but chilly Sunday morning the course was surprisingly quiet. So quiet that you can’t even access the clubhouse without a PIN code. The doors are all locked, so only members or PIN code holders can get in. More like Fort Knox than the open, welcoming club you might expect if they want to attract visitors. Anyway, just a side note. Everyone was really friendly throughout.
There were some cracking holes, like the 13th which presents a blind uphill drive, which is against the breeze. Once you get over the crest of the hill, you’re looking down on a green with the sea and the beach in the background. This continues into “Calamity Corner” which was a tough 195 yard par 3 over a huge drop if you go anyway right. The 5th was also a great hole, with views of Dunluce Castle and the cliffs east towards Bushmills and the Giant’s Causeway.
After 18 holes, I’d managed ONE par. Yes that’s right and considering I’d no birdies, you can guess I didn’t have my best day at the office. Funny thing is I wasn’t disappointed about a lot of my game. I drove the ball well, and must have hit 8 or 9 fairways. The par fours were long, so I used my 3 wood a lot. But it was my short game where I left myself down. For example, the 18th was a long par 4, where I hit a solid drive and a great 3 wood which caught a bunker. I took 3 to get out of the bunker! And then 4 putts to get down. Shocking, I know.
The clubhouse was full of history – it’s the only Irish club to have hosted the British Open (in 1951). Graeme McDowell is the man of the moment, but Fred Daly is probably its most famous clubman. The course has hosted numerous famous events and welcomed all the top golfers. The clubhouse memorabilia include a 1911 letter from the King’s flunkies in London stating that the King had decided to allow them use the title “Royal” in the club name. Wow, fair play to him.
I like the funny rules that committees in golf clubs come up with. Half the time it will be something really innocuous or obscure, which just shows that they feel they have to justify their existence by making stupid rules. Anyway, RPGC had a good one – stating that GPS systems cannot be used by golfers! I mean come on, even if I had a GPS system from NASA I still wouldn’t beat Tiger Woods (or Lee Westwood as the case may be).
The other curious thing about RPGC was the fact that members thought 18 holes of golf was the perfect time to kill two birds with one stone and walk the dog while hitting golf balls. I saw at least 3 couples who brought their dog out and let him run wild on the links while they sized up their drives and pitches.
So now that I’ve got a taste for top 100 golf courses in the world, I just need to win the lotto or start winning pro-ams to give myself a chance of playing a few more. Next on the hitlist are Ballybunion and Royal County Down, which we should do by springtime.