British Open set to return to Royal Portrush in 2025

Co Antrim links course set for quick return to rota after successful 2019 staging

Shane Lowry during the 2019 British Open Championship at Royal Portrush. Photograph: Inpho

Shane Lowry during the 2019 British Open Championship at Royal Portrush. Photograph: Inpho

 

The question is not if but when the British Open championship returns to Royal Portrush and, it would seem, that time could be sooner rather than later with the Royal and Ancient – the organisers of golf’s oldest Major – likely to confirm this summer that the event will be back on the Causeway Coast in 2025, just six years after Shane Lowry’s memorable win on the links in 2019.

That 148th Open – a sell-out, which saw attendance through the week of 237,500 people – was estimated in a post-championship economic impact report to have generated €116 million (£100 million) for the region.

With last year’s championship at Royal St George’s in Kent postponed for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, that links at Sandwich will instead play host to the 149th Open this summer (with Lowry defending the Claret Jug) and future venues have been confirmed for the following three years: The Old Course at St Andrews (2022), Royal Liverpool GC, Hoylake (2023) and Royal Troon (2024).

Portrush’s staging of the 2019 championship – for the first time at the Co Antrim course in 68 years – was generally viewed as a huge success, for both the quality of the course and the golf, but also financially which is increasingly an important factor in the R&A’s desire to grow the game and fund development of the sport around the world.

As Martin Slumbers, the chief executive remarked following Portrush’s successful staging, “ Big-time sport needs big-time crowds . . . [and] The Open is going from strength to strength. It’s very much a global celebration of sport at the very highest level and no longer simply a British championship.”

The British Open has a number of host venues, which – apart from upcoming championships at Sandwich, St Andrews, Hoylake and Troon – also include Carnoustie, Royal Birkdale, Royal Lytham and St Annes. Turnberry in Scotland, owned by former US president Donald Trump, has traditionally also been on the list but has not staged a championship since 2009 and Slumbers earlier this year observed it was unlikely to hold another “for the foreseeable future”.

It is believed Portrush – which would again be a guaranteed sell-out – has moved to the front of queue with regards to getting the confirmation for 2025 in the rota, although the R&A focus currently is on ensuring that the rescheduled championship goes ahead at Royal St George’s and hopefully with spectators on site. An R&A spokesman would not comment on any speculation of a return.

Following the 2019 championship, Graeme McDowell was among those players to support a sooner rather than later return to his home course. He observed at the time: “With the financial commitment that Portrush have made, for it to get the recognition and then get back here soon, to keep that Portrush train rolling, it would be huge. If we have to wait another 10 years, the icing might rub off.”

Meanwhile, Slumbers, the R&A chief executive has issued an open letter with the hope that spectators can return for the staging of this year’s AIG Women’s British Open, which is scheduled to take place at Carnoustie on August 19th-22nd.

After last year’s championship at Troon, won by Germany’s Sophia Popov, went ahead without any crowds, Slumbers – in his open letter – said: “Fans bring a whole other dimension to the AIG Women’s Open, from the cheers erupting across the course, to the nail-biting tension at the 72nd hole . . . we are greatly encouraged that we will be able to welcome fans [to Carnoustie] and we are working with the Scottish and UK governments, our health and safety advisers, agencies and our partners at AIG to progress our plans to ensure everyone can enjoy the action at Carnousie safely.”

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