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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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”