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Is it time for an Open Championship at Royal County Down?

Is it time for an Open Championship at Royal County Down?

Is it time for an Open Championship at Royal County Down?

Golf Chats is a website to encourage discussions on various subjects relating to the game of golf. I am Mel Sole, Director of Instruction of the Mel Sole Golf School and SAPGA Master Professional.  I invite you to enter into a discussion on this or any article on the website.  The input is for the entire subscriber base to learn something new each time!  Please post your comments below.  Keep it clean and tasteful.  We are here to learn from one another!

Last week’s Irish Open at Royal County Down highlighted one of my favorite courses of all time.  

Royal County Down ranks as the best golf course outside the USA. Being a true links golf course gives the golfer an honest and true test of their golfing abilities.  You have to have your A-game to play well here.

Top Irish Professionals like Rory McIlroy, Graham Mc Dowell, Padraig Harrington, and Darren Clark, all Major Champions, make a strong case for bringing top-class golf to true links-style courses.  I think it is only a matter of time before such a great course hosts either the Open Championship or at the very least a WGC event.  I, for one, look forward to that day!

Below,  writing for, gives us his take on the future of Irish golf on the world stage.


Irish Open

Links events like the Irish Open present a huge technical test but the skills they teach are becoming lost to more clean-cut courses. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/R&A/R&A via Getty Images

Two anomalies have long existed in the upper echelons of golf.

Firstly, of the four “world” golf championships – just under majors in apparent significance – three are held in the United States. It is also curious that links golf, such a fundamental part of the sport.  And a skill surely necessary for any top player to master, is such a rarity.

Both issues seemed pertinent at last week’s Irish Open. The event was kickstarted, rocket-fuelled even, by the involvement of Rory McIlroy. This tournament felt like an Open Championship in so many ways.  It appealed to some of the best players in the world, with 107,000 people taking the time to come and watch at the wonderful venue of Royal County Down. As a television spectacle, despite the horrible weather that has cursed the Irish Open, the backdrop seemed well-nigh impossible to beat.

It wasn’t only golfers who bought into the concept: Van Morrison played in front of just 150 people on behalf of McIlroy’s charity with the telecoms and media tycoon Denis O’Brien, reportedly worth £3.85bn, part of the audience. Major players attracted major players.

Now, terrific Irish Open attendance figures is not novel. The broad support for this event routinely gains envious glances from elsewhere in Europe and the United States. But what do the public receive for that backing? Until McIlroy and Dubai Duty Free stepped forward, this was a tournament minus a sponsor.  With joined-up thinking and a strong PR campaign, the narrative changed entirely.

If golf was properly alive to vibrant, knowledgeable markets, this scenario would strike a chord. Three WGC events, the Cadillac Championship, Cadillac Match Play Championship and Bridgestone Invitational, are held by the PGA Tour. The European Tour co-sanctions the competitions and has staff on site at all three but to all intents and purposes they give the impression of added stops on the PGA Tour. For the US, three majors and three WGC competitions isn’t too bad at all. Or even remotely proportionate.

The final WGC event of the year takes place in China in November, which is fair enough. There is a desire to grow golf there; the tournament itself has moved forward massively from the early days when Tiger Woods alone would have the regognition of  the wider public.

But where does Europe come in?

And, specifically, why couldn’t Ireland be given the respect it deserves.  With large galleries and top-class golf courses by being granted the hosting of such a tournament? Far from an act of benevolence, this would seem basic common sense. Much, it has to be said, like moving the European Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth from the calendar spot where greens are never even close to good enough.

To read the conclusion of this article, click here.


Pictures: Charles McQuillan/R&A/R&A via Getty Images   Patrick Drickey

Thanks for reading – Is it time for an Open Championship at Royal County Down?

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