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

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.