Our golfing facilities won’t make the cut for a long time

I’m told I can claim as close a connection with the British Open as most punters, even if it was in 1951 at Royal Portrush and I was 2 years old. In those innocent days spectators could sidle right up to the tee. Just as somebody was about to drive off, I’m told I piped up: ”What’s that man doing Daddy?” and got no more than a dirty look. I hate to think what would happen today.

Like anybody with half a heart I’ve enjoyed the world wide speculation that the time should soon be ripe for us to host the British Open once again. But the reality that follows euphoria is always a bit of skunner.The problem doesn’t lie with the courses and certainly not with the local talent but with our feeble infrastructure.

Darren himself puts his finger on it very politely. The Slieve Donard in Newcastle and the Ramada in Portrush hardly make the hospitality cut  for 180,000 people, including a few score pampered multimillionaires who need more than a tour round Barry’s to keep them happy while they wait for the rainstorm to die down.

Ed Curran may have the right idea, to try for the Irish Open first and only then I guess only after a couple of decades of investment growth. Resist the  familiar temptation to walk before we can run. Develop as many specialist golfing holidays and pro-celebrity Clinton events as we can. But at my age (and maybe yours), my chances of heckling an Open player on the Antrim coast again look pretty slim.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

  • Mick Fealty

    Sounds like a metaphor for something much bigger even than golf Brian!!! 😉

  • Rather than underwrite the Irish Open, underwrite a junior Open and encourage young players to come here in much the same way as the Milk Cup for footballers.

    Extend this to other sports at all times focusing on youth and making friends for the future, when we are in a position to provide the infrastructure and when decisions are made. Long term it maybe, but surer in the end.

  • aquifer

    We don’t want an occassional golf open. We want hundreds continuously employed providing golf to thousands. Where are the sand dunes? Magilligan, Ballykinlar, Caslerock, Cranfield, Downings, Rossknowlagh? Build hotels and facilities next to each of them and they could all add up to an occassional open that people can drive to.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Anyone know roughly how many 3* + hotel beds there are in greater Belfast currently ?

  • HeinzGuderian

    It’s THE Open Brian. Being the original,it doesn’t need any prefix !! 😉

  • lamhdearg

    there are plenty of fancy house’s they could rent, thats what happened when the ryder cup went to celtic manor and the k club. put it on and they shall come. 2015…

  • Brian Walker

    Heinz.. Yes ok THE Open, like THE FA and the (English) RFU. And to extend the point, your choice of nom de guerre reminds me it was a German ambassador who pointed out to me that the UK is the only country in the world that doesn’t have to put the name fo the State on its stamps. His name was pretty exceptional. He was Freiherr von Richtofen. But sadly to be first doesn’t necessarily mean best.

  • WindsorRocker

    I think that’s a fair set of comments Brian. Having 2 world class links along with another several honourable mentions doesn’t merit an Open nor does being able to produce world class golfers.

    People looked at Sandwich though and thought if an Open can go there then why not Northern Ireland. The infrastructure around it is poor. A childhood friend I played golf with is now a tour caddie and his facebook posts when he arrived on the Sunday before the Open even bemoaned the lack of a decent bar. It only gets an Open because the R&A need a venue south of Liverpool. Ironically that is probably one of the arguments Portrush has in that surely an Open that was meant to be for all of the British Isles should be held across the British Isles.

    The Hotel rooms are a big shortfall. When the NIO were trying to encourage the Maze stadium proposals they told football fans they could get a UEFA Cup Final. When asked where the hotel rooms were coming from to accomodate 40k+, it was stated that Dublin hotel capacity was going to be used to make up the 40k! Clearly that doesn’t work for a Portrush Open.

    Oh, even the Americans call The Open by that name.

  • Cynic2

    The facilities around Sandwich may be poor but then the fans have public transport (like Trains) to get them there from London. Portrush is a derelict ghost town

  • dwatch

    The Irish Golf Open begins next friday, anyone know if the whole four days will the covered on RTE TV?


  • iluvni

    180000 people?

  • lamhdearg

    there is a train station in portrush, portrush hosts 100000+ people each year for the N.W. 200. there is an airport (Eglinton) 30 min from portrush, and an international airport 50 mins (15 by helicopter) from portrush. sorry all you downers Ulster can cope with the open.

  • andnowwhat


    Think you’ll find bikers a lot less fussy than the golf fans.

  • ayeYerMa

    What a lot of nonsense Brian – stop being such a self-loathing defeatist and get behind the bid.

    Fans will be able to stay all over Northern Ireland. There don’t need to be more hotels etc. in Portrush. Many are also talking about Northern Ireland as if it’s some vast place that takes days to travel the length of.

    Hundreds of thousands of people go to Portrush every year for the airshow. Indeed, the traffic is a nightmare, but official advice was always to go to Ballymena and take the train from there. It would be the same for the golf – put on a few extra trains on that line and it’ll be grand!

  • Nunoftheabove

    Yeah lamhdearg – how many Belfast to Portrush trips which enable the traveller to catch the start of play every day will NIR be able to manage would you think, even supposing that Belfast can cope with the hotel numbers numbering 15k +, which it can’t do anyway ?

    Golf people aren’t tent people and only a small proportion of those coming to the NI200 on the last say stay the night anyway. Oh and you’ll be breaking a few speed limits to do either Aldergrove to Royal Portrush in 50 minutes or Derry to Portrush in 30 mins with double-busy traffic en route; stick with the helicoptor trips if you can afford them.

  • lamhdearg

    As someone who has set off for the N.W. without so much as a tent (back in the days of campfires at metropole) i agree, they also (golf fans) come with a lot more lolly and can hire a house to stay in, and as many a one likes to point out on slugger, half the country leaves N.I. come the 12th fortnight, so there sould be lots of empty homes.

  • ayeYerMa

    forget al this putting it off on the long term too – we need to strike NOW while the iron is hot – in the years to come the case for an Open in NI won’t be as strong as we’re unlikely to have the golfing greats that we have now.

    (to add to the above, campsites are very easy to set-up too – we’ve already got plenty of those and plenty more are easy too. Let’s stop being so negative and push for a bid – only when such a bid is secured will any infrastructure be forced to be improved).

  • ayeYerMa

    “Golf people aren’t tent people” – Nunoftheabove – well those golf people need to get off their bloody high horses and become “tent people”. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with a tent – it’s actually quite fun, and our summers are usually pretty OK to do it!

    All these people talking as if the crowds coming here and speding all their money is a negative or something. For God’s sake, people of Ulster, please stop being such a self-defeatist bunch of losers and HAVE SOME BLOODY CONFIDENCE in ourselves for once!

  • andnowwhat

    Given the weather we have had this last few years, today’s weather not withstanding, it requires a certain mindset to camp in the North West.

    I’m not too sure how well equipped the well heeled golfing fraternity are with this mindset.

    As to striking while the iron is hot, Rory isn’t going anywhere but up. There’s no panic. The investment needed to just tidy up Portrush is considerable but there again, Derry is not that far away and has a fair few hotels there and about

  • lamhdearg

    thats better andnowwhat, we have bushmills and the new causeway centre for the non golf types that get dragged along.

  • ayeYerMa

    FFS andnowwhat, it will be OUR open and WE can dictate to the pretentious twats how they will be welcome here. After all it’s only a game of people hitting balls with sticks. If some yuppies don’t like our more down-to-earth reception here, then it’s their loss and they can skip it for another yeat.

    Golf is a game that requires both skill and extreme amounts of LUCK. The probabilities that we’ll still be in the limelight as much in a few years as now are remote. We need to strike NOW or never.

  • andnowwhat

    It’s the “yppies (how’s things back in the 890’s?)” that we need. Actually, we need much richer people than yuppies, the helicopter brigade etc.

    I’ve heard constant complaints for years about how Portrush needed tidying up on the radio. Now the lack of action has come back to bite us on the arse.

    The crash of 2008 should have been the imperative for the council to get it’s finger out and do something. There seems to be an issue with the council up there and it needs sorted ASAP.

  • Nunoftheabove


    Good luck with the tent idea (“this groundsheet sponsored by Rolex” ?) and yeah, all the great weather we have too, sure why wouldn’t American tourists come lol; all stacks up to sending a real ringing endorsement of the north as a great place to come visit, right ? NI couldn’t host an FA cup quarter final replay let alone The Open. Get real fellas. Ain’t gunna happen and the reasons why are staring y’all in the face and it has nowt to do with confidence. It’s to do with money, vision, ambition and professionalism.

  • andnowwhat

    Now, if it was a rioting open, we’d be well in there. The Palestinians have gone off the boil recently and everyone else has taken to tweeting when they’re pissed off.

    Sponsors could be BP, Translink and whoever iy is that makes those wooly masks

  • Mark

    ” FFS andnowwhat , it will be OUR open and WE can dictate to the pretentious twats how they will be welcome ” – ayeYerMa …

    With hospitality like that , it’s already in the bag !

  • Nunoftheabove


    Aye, Ski (Mask) Sunday highlights, sponsorsed by Magners. Press the red button for hoodievision.

  • USA

    Oh, even the Americans call The Open by that name

    No they don’t.
    The New York Times calls it the British Open.
    The Boston Herald calls it the British Open.
    All major TV stations call it the British Open – ESPN

    And so the list goes on and on.
    To the Americans the British Open is simply another tournament for golf fans to watch. No bigger or better than the many other major tournaments. All be it with awful weather.

    Still i’m sure Tiger and the golf fraternity will feel wonderful flying into Aldergrove on the back of the annual summer carnival of widespread street violence, marching, flags, sectarianism, “peace walls”, “flash points”, dissident attacks etc.
    Northern Ireland or Northern Florida….hhhmmmm?
    Great idea, good luck with that one!

  • ayeYerMa

    Camping isn’t a be-all and-end all of accommodation – it’s merely an option for spare capacity if we can’t cope (and absolutely nothing wrong with it either). Actually I think we can more than get buy with accommodation in the towns across NI – surely Coleraine, Ballymoney, Limavady (+airport), Derry, Ballymena, Larne (+port), Magherafelt, Antrim (+airport) and Belfast (+port +airport) can also take up much of the slack. Add extra dedicated train and bus services from all these towns and it’ll be grand. Are people seriously trying to tell us that the parts of remote Scotland and northern England where the Open normally occurs have SO much better “infrastructure” than we do – BOLLOCKS they do.

    Nunoftheabove, the reasons why things won’t happen is exactly because of negative losers like YOU. What is it with Northern Ireland that there is this ingrained mental attitude of negativity, cynicism and a CAN’T DO attitude rather than a “can do” (reminds me of when I was at Queens and a team I was in had a student team I was in had great business idea, but the typical Ulster negativity crept in and the team went nowhere – if we were in California the risk would have been taken through a difference in mental attitude.) How about showing some more “vision, ambition and professionalism” yourself rather than being non-constructive?

    Mark, there is ample accommodation and facilities for the golfers and the big wigs who want quality can afford to pay. People who actually care about the SPORT will be treated to the absolute best and will have a fine show to the highest standards. People who cannot afford to pay surely cannot complain about camping – absolutely nothing wrong with it, and if you’d stop whinging for just a moment and looked out your window at this very instant you’d see that our summers aren’t actually too bad. Are you also saying that you DON’T think that there is a lot of obnoxious pretentiousness around the sport of golf?

    Time for people to stop trying to destroy and talk-down Northern Ireland and get behind it. It is only a “dump” of the minds of the people who treat it as if it’s a “dump” (not helped though by a certain element who are hell-bent on a nutty ideology to destroy it though). The problem with many around here is that they don’t realise the privilege that they actually have to be from a great wee place like Norn Iron, and need to stop talking it town based on vast media exaggeration of the action of a few vocal extremist nutjobs.

    Right, that’s enough from me – am going outside to enjoy this BEAUTIFUL Northern Irish summer that we’re having right now! (much better than in Germany from the looks of the Grand Prix)

  • Nunoftheabove


    There is a line – in this case quite a thick one – between pessimism and ‘can’t do’, and reality – where is where I’m stood – and wishful thinking, which is where you are. This isn’t Glastonbury we’re talking about mucker; if it were, sure – pop pickers don’t quite have the same requirements as wealthy retired people and professionals with families. Portrush is scarcely capable of attracting tourists in any numbers these days and I can well see why. How many 3*+ hotels are there within 30 miles of Portrush ? Not very many. How much value is there there for the 2.4 children-family holiday-maker ? Not much. Get real.

    By the way your reference to extreme amounts of luck tells us all we need to know about your knowledge of golf so I agree that that’s probably more than enough from you. You might want to go check out your pot noodle as the primus stove’s starting to splutter a bit, much like your very strongly over-par argument.

  • lamhdearg

    It seems we have a split in the commenters on Brians post, those who dont think N.i. should excist also dont think N.i. has what it takes to run a golf touranment, or is it only a touranment with a british angle to it?, all the doubters do you think “we” could host the Irish open?.

    please point me to where i suggest the golfing folk from the U.S.A. would be happy to stay in a tent. And your right it would take”money, vision, ambition and professionalism”, i hope your not asked to provide the vision and ambition, best leave those to people who use phrases like “Qui audet adipiscitur” and “Fortes fortuna adiuvat” ,

  • Nunoftheabove


    I was perhaps – and it may only be a perhaps – bracketing you unfairly with the other tented village boyo.

    I do wish you’d stop inferring that people are being negative as they’d hate the thought of NI doing anything successfully etc as they have a political agenda. It’s the amateurishness and parochialism of the full array of local hayseeds in government which will kill this idea.

    With the exception of the accommodation and the infrastructure it could be done in theory; the corporate set-up etc is after all pretty much cookie cutter methodology these days anyway. Stormont won’t have the funds or the wherewithal to make this happen and no-one locally in the private sector is cash rich enough or daft enough to invest substantially enough to support it. Like I say, projects on this scale require big hitters with proven relevant experience to do them; they require big dollars and they need political support and big name backers to succeed. Can you name some of them in the local market who both could and would do it successfully ?

  • If you start off thinking that you can’t do it, then you won’t. I believe N.I. can handle it; just needs positive thinkers to do the planning.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Whither a 6 county Monsignor James Horan when you need one, hmmm ?

    ….would NATO donate the dough me boys, would NATO donate the dough etc ?

  • Portrush International Airport? Don’t think so unless there is an apparition of Tiger Woods or the like.

  • lamhdearg

    nunoftheabove, how about Mr Tayto.
    why would the sponsors have to be local, mastercard sponsored this years, i wish you would stop inferring that accommodation would stop this from happening big golf touranments are held in places all around the world that do not have 1000s of 3* hotel rooms within walking distance of the course, at the end of the day “we” are pushing for this to happen, and only the R&A will decide if we get it, if we get it we will make it work, thats the Ulster way.ps Mr Tayto was a joke but maybe Diaego, after all they own the next door to portrush bushmills, and Guinness after all the publicity Darren and co are giving them, but hey cheer up it may never happen.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Well…there are those who claimed that Fred Daly dabbled in the spirit world from time to time…..

  • Nunoftheabove


    I didn’t once say that the sponsors would have to be local. Neither am I sayng that the absence of specifically local accommodation would be problematic per se. Wasn’t a big problem at, say, St Andrews or Carnoustie, for example. I return again to the absence of sufficient decent accommodation in Belfast and the limited travel links between it and Portrush. That and the ineptitude and lack of ambition of local politicians generally and the utter uselessness of the local authority in Coleraine specifically.

    Incidentally I’m very much liking your highly grandiose ‘we’ and your chin-wobblingly emotive ‘Ulster way’ schtick – magnificent !

  • Coll Ciotach

    To all those naysayers out there I would like to point out that our wee country can do this. After all look at the great show we are making hosting competitors for the London olympics. Not a single complaint heard.

  • Wabbits

    More bread and circuses ! Martin McGuinness up in Portrush basking in reflective glory. As I remember ,his old buddies used to assasinate people at golf clubs !!

  • Well done, Wabbits, for hauhin’ yer whist for so long. Nuthin like a bit of irrelevant whataboutery to enliven a thread.

  • JAH

    Just happen to have been in Sandwich today which takes about 5 minutes to walk around. So I assume the great and the good stayed in Canterbury as I assume a B&B in Margate is not a prospect most would aspire to. Road links in Thanet are generally grim, there’s a tiny station and bugger all to do in the wind and rain.

    Can’t see a problem:-)

  • thethoughtfulone

    Before you all get too exited and start planning where you’re going to stay up at the north coast for this great event could I just inject a bit of realism as to what happens when government and the public sector get involved in running such things.

    Four words is enough,……..Northern Ireland Events Company!

  • DT123

    Remember that the vast majority of the spectators would be local golfers and sports fans,many of whom would be travelling from their own homes.A cruise ship (or ships) temporarily moored off the North Coast,would provide additional ,”luxury”,accomodation,to foreign visitors.
    Having been to Opens in Scotland,cars are parked miles from the course and shuttle buses working in temporary ,one way systems,quickly move the spectators back and forth.
    If the course can only handle 30,000 spectators per day instead of the larger numbers seen ,so be it,I am sure it will still make a handsome profit for the R&A ,whilst spreading the event throughout the UK and giving the TV fan a chance to see a different and arguably superior course.
    It can be done here,all it needs is the desire from all sides.

    Replying to USA’s comments,it is “The Open Championship”because when it started ,it did not need to be differentiated from any other ,Americans refer to it as the “British Open”,simply to inform non golf fans where it is taking place.
    To say NI should not have the event due to our internal problems,would imply that the USA has no community strife and that violence does not occur there.I wonder how many individuals were killed in America in the month of July?How many gang shootings/stabbings occurred?How many people did the police shoot?I don’t hear anyone saying that the US does not deserve any sporting events ,or that people are afraid to go there because of it.

  • The Raven

    I hate to fall on the naysayer’s side as well but as someone who lives very near it:

    I’d frankly be embarrassed to have that many *proper* tourists, as opposed to the multitude of daytrippers who have become used to Portrush being as it is. It’s a shambles of badly built apartments, between which nestles the odd Victorian or Georgian gem.

    The number of derelict sites and buildings, purchased by slavering developers who now, thankfully, are mostly bust or are returned to their viperous nests to lick their wounds is incredible. The town is a lesson in how to do property greed badly.

    The God Squad takes over the town “square” at least twice a week. The number of eateries – let me qualify there – eateries which you might actually eat at – is negligible, certainly when it comes to numbers of this size. The spide count is high, and will be higher still once they get a whiff of the number of Mercs and Bee-Ems worth ripping off. I think the nearest large-scale hotel of any note is probably the Radisson over in Limavady. (Sorry folks, Ramadas and the Lodge are all very well and good, but they don’t meet this market – and even if they do, there aren’t enough of them.)

    No, for this to work, it will take a Herculanean two way street. The club and the Council – for it is the Council who will have to take some sort of lead in it – will have to share the burden – and share the rewards. And they do not like to do that. They’re already £20-odd million in the red.

    Accommodation – and the independent sector up here, especially, I understand, on the Castlerock/Limavady side is superb – from the Glens to the farside of Limavady will have to be tip-top and able to wet their beaks in the moneyfest. The entire north coast region will need to be marketed and ready with an open door. A lot of money will have to spent sprucing the place up – and will the ratepayers willingly allow the Council to do that, especially when it comes to private property where the gains will be for certain individuals?

    Yeah, I’m no golf fan, but I’d love to see this happen. AyeYerMa, it’s not a can’t do attitude – it’s just that realistically, I’d like to see someone sensible put their head above the parapet and say “calm down – let’s aim for 2020.” And do the damn thing right, rather than half-assed.

    PS Aquifer – good idea, but just about the entire North Coast is swathed in ASSIs and other designations. It means you can’t build next to sand dunes. And thank God. I can imagine what one developer in particular would have turned this place into, if such things had actually been allowed…

  • The Raven

    Oh and PPS…I didn’t mention Troubles-related stuff there once. I’ll let others step back in time for that one…

  • CharlieMcCarthy29

    2020 wouldn’t be an unreasonable target. But, yes, Summer violence around those very few parades really does need to go away, and not just for golf.

  • USA


    Of course the US has crime, just like everywhere else. What we do not have is regular widespread civil disorder smack bang in the middle of the holiday period. Ballyclare, East Belfast (Short Strand), Lurgan, Derry, West Belfast, North Belfast (Ardoyne), Portadown (Obins Street) and i’m sure I missed a few more, particularly the Loyalist ones.

    To follow your analogy, that would mean we would have regular rioting in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Boston etc.
    That just doesn’t happen. Your position does not hold water.

  • DT123


    So you are saying there is less violence and disorder in the US than there is in NI ?The areas you are describing would have no influence whatsoever on a golf tournament ,wherever it was held in NI.People living two miles from these areas are unaffected by the goings on there as much as those in nice areas of LA are unaffected by violence there.

    I know it’s only Wiki but ,
    in 2007 nearly 400 people were murdered in LA alone.How can you say Northern Irelands seasonal rioting is worse than a murder rate like this?

  • dwatch

    USA, ‘So you are saying there is less violence and disorder in the US than there is in NI ?’

    New York City sees 532 murders in 2010,


    Murders in Northern Ireland were two in 2010.

  • CharlieMcCarthy29

    Comparing death rates in the USA with N.I. misses the point (in general). American citizens are quite insular and fear what they don’t understand. Perception is their reality and many would still be afraid to go to N.I.
    having said all that, I believe that an Open held in N.I. would be very successful and the people who do visit from abroad will hopefully have a great time and will tell their friends and relatives back home how well received they were.

  • DT123

    I don’t imagine there would be that terribly many American visitors to the Open anyhow.Although our seasonal violence seems to have no effect on the numbers of Americans already coming to play at our top golf courses.

  • dwatch