Proposed Bushmills Dunes Resort in Northern Ireland faces one more obstacle

By Brandon TuckerJuly 6, 2012, 9:05 pm

PORTRUSH, Co. Antrim -- The captain of Bushfoot Golf Club, Paul Pentland's eyes light up when showing me the future site of Bushmills Dunes, located just across a small river from his little nine-hole club on the northern coast of Antrim.

'It's the greatest thing that could happen to the area,' said Pentland. His feelings aren't alone. Residents and members at golf clubs throughout County Antrim are excited at the prospect of the proposed golf resort.

Located between the natural wonder of Giant's Causeway and the town of Portrush, Bushmills Dunes, developed by Northern Ireland-born businessman Alistair Hanna, will feature an 18-hole pure links course (the first new links to come to Ireland in over 100 years) a 125-room hotel, conference center and spa. The entire capacity of the 100 million-pound development will be 295-300 rooms and is expected to bring 360 direct jobs to the county.

Hanna and his team have spent 19 years on the project thus far without putting a shovel in the ground. That's the amount of time it's taken to both acquire the land and conduct numerous feasibility and environmental studies. Their due diligence widely appeased country officials, and in February, Northern Ireland's Environment Minister Alex Atwood gave the project the green light. But the support was not enough to satisfy the United Kingdom's National Trust, who in June, announced it's intentions to apply for judicial review of the development. Among the concerns expressed by the National Trust is the resort's environmental impact, as well as the suggestion that building the resort so close to Giant's Causeway could cause UNESCO to reconsider the natural wonder's status as a National Heritage Site.

The decision by the Trust to oppose Bushmills Dunes has most of Ireland's tourism industry in disbelief. Darren Clarke, who lives County Antrim and is a member at Bushfoot, expressed his displeasure with the Trust's holdup prior to last week's Irish Open.

'The National Trust has a huge backing from Northern Ireland,' he said. '9 million pounds, and they're using it to block the new course, which can only enhance the area.'

'Hopefully at some stage they will come to their senses and let the course be built.'

David McLay Kidd lands Bushmills Dunes design job

Hanna selected David McLay Kidd amongst the half dozen designers who visited the site. Hanna is just one of many golfers who adore Bandon Dunes Resort on the northwest coast of the United States and was especially impressed with the work done by Kidd. He wants a similar effort here: a pure links course with wide fairways and large greens that offer great playability to go with tremendous coastal scenery. Kidd's expertise with both natural and manmade links designs will come in handy. At Bushmills Dunes, fourteen holes will laid out in the dunes naturally, similar to his minimalist work at Machrihanish Dunes. The remaining four will be sculpted out of farmland, resemblant of the St. Andrews Castle Course.

Whether or not Bushmills Dunes can finally join Northern Ireland's roster of must-play golf courses as the country enjoys a spotlight in the game as homegrown stars Clarke, Rory McIlroy and Grame McDowell win tournaments all over the world, will be at the hands of the U.K.'s courts. 

But Hanna shrugs off the most recent obstacles: a teetering European economy and new opposition from the National Trust. After all, he conceived the idea 19 years ago at the height of 'The Troubles,' when Northern Ireland's tourism industry was virtually non-existent.

'I wasn't so confident [in the project] 19 years ago,' admitted Hanna. 'It was a big leap then.'

In all likelihood, it will be until at least November before the country's judicial review can take place. Until then, Hanna will watch the clock tick on his dream project towards year twenty.


Bushmills Dunes a needed addition to a Northern Ireland golf tour

Bushmills Hotel

The proposed hotel at Bushmills Dunes will be a low-lying, eco-friendy building with a green roof in order to blend in with the landscape. 

The only real knock on the northern coast of Antrim is the lack of any pure golf resort with first-rate accommodations. But there are some suitable options presently. Off the coast in Limavady, Roe Park Golf Resort offers comfortable, four-star accommodations and dining, plus a full, lighted practice range and golf school with a pleasant and affordable parkland course. Perhaps the country's best stay-and-play option is at the Slieve Donard Hotel, a historic hotel built over a century ago, located steps from Royal County Down. But the two properties are not affiliated, and the hotel can't guarantee tee times on this coveted links, rated by many as the finest in the world.

The addition of a new, luxury hotel and links would enhance the Causeway Coast's claim as one of the best golf tours in the isles. Currently, there are 36 holes at Royal Portrush, plus championship links at nearby Portstewart Golf Club and Castlerock Golf Club, each within a few miles of one another. Also, smaller seaside courses Ballycastle Golf Club and Bushfoot round out Ireland's most compact golf destination. 

Groups can also easily include Royal County Down and Ardglass Golf Club, located about two-hour drive to the southeast. In Belfast, enjoyable parkland golf is abundant, highlighted by Malone Golf Club and Belvoir Park Golf Club, as well as Ireland's oldest golf club, Royal Belfast. And to the southwest, 36-hole Lough Erne Resort is the best stay-and-play golf resort in the country.

View Northern Ireland tee times and golf packages at GolfNow.com


Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

5/2: Rory McIlroy

7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

9/2: Justin Rose

5/1: Brooks Koepka

15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

10/1: Adam Scott

12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.