PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland – The Open Championship is heading across the Irish Sea for the first time in nearly 70 years, with Royal Portrush announced Tuesday as the 2019 venue for golf's oldest major championship.
Royal Portrush staged the Open in 1951, when Max Faulkner of England lifted the claret jug. That is the only time the event has been held outside England or Scotland.
The push to bring the Open back to Northern Ireland gained momentum after three players from country – Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy – won majors since 2010. McIlroy is now a four-time major champion and one of the world's best players.
The R&A said last year that Royal Portrush was returning to the Open rotation, but didn't give a year and said there would be logistical challenges to get the venue in shape.
The Dunluce course has been given the first available slot on the calendar.
"Royal Portrush is one of my favorite golf courses in the world," said McIlroy, the Open champion in 2014. "I think it will be a fantastic Open venue."
The R&A said it is expected to be the biggest sporting event ever held in Northern Ireland, and Northern Irish lawmakers predicted an economic boost of 70 million pounds ($108 million).
Royal Portrush held an extremely successful Irish Open in 2012, attracting some 130,000 fans for the week. It has also held the Senior Open Championship six times.
Work to create two new holes – Nos. 7 and 8 – on the Dunluce Links is underway, using land from the adjacent Valley Course to develop a new par-5 hole. Those new holes will replace the current 17th and 18th holes, freeing up land to be used to accommodate the spectator village and other infrastructure.
The length of the course will increase by just less than 200 yards to 7,337 yards, and the number of bunkers will be increased by three to 62. That still leaves Royal Portrush with the fewest bunkers of any of the courses on the Open rotation.
"We are delighted with the progress being made on the course preparations and they will undoubtedly enhance the challenge presented by these historic links," said Peter Unsworth, chairman of the R&A's championship committee.