Could the R&A be thinking of adding a new course to the Open Championship rota? Or at least making a one-off visit outside the traditional circle of host venues? If you believe Rory McIlroy isn’t just gossiping for gossip’s sake when discussing the case for Ireland’s Portmarnock Golf Club becoming the first course outside the United Kingdom to host the world’s oldest golf tournament, then potentially so.
“I think there’s every chance [the R&A] are seriously looking at it, and it would be fantastic,” McIlroy said on Thursday afternoon after posting an opening-round 69 at the Horizon Irish Open.
Located 10 miles north of Dublin, the 129-year-old links is considered among the best courses in Ireland. But the infrastructure surrounding it has seemingly prohibited it from serious consideration for a championship of the magnitude of the Open, where more than one hundred thousand spectators descend on the event over the course of championship week. Additionally, the club’s male-only membership ran counter to R&A policy for host clubs, but the Portmarnock’s membership voted in 2021 to admit females. Last December, nine women were elected as full members.
The R&A had not yet responded to a Golf Digest question for comment as to whether it was considering the course for a future Open. However, last year when R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers was asked about the possibility, he noted: “It’s a great course but are we considering it for The Open? No, not at this time.”
It is not unprecedented for the R&A to look beyond its traditional list of courses to hold the Open Championship. The R&A did just that when it chose to hold the 2019 Open at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, which had held the major once previously (1951) before getting a second invite. (And only seven years before it held that event, R&A chief Peter Dawson also suggested the course was not a candidate for the Open.) The 2019 event, won by Shane Lowry, was considered enough of a success that the R&A quickly named it host again for the 2025 Open.
“I was looking forward to Portrush but concerned in terms of how it would do commercially,” McIlroy said. “There’s so many other considerations to hosting a major championship apart from it being a great golf course.
“There has to be a lot of stuff that that makes sense. But, you know, having a course that’s so close to a major city, so close to a major airport, having a great golf course, I think [Portmarnock] would be amazing.”
The R&A has held various events at the course over the years, including the Walker Cup (1991) and the British Amateur (1949 and 2019). It also hosts next year’s Women’s British Amateur.
Exactly when Portmarnock could get a spot remains to be seen. The R&A has announced host venues for the Open through
If Portmarnock were to get an Open, it would amount to a unique first in the 151 playings of the Open. Never before has the championship been held at venue outside the U.K.