Answer: Consider playing the hole backwards…
The winds continued to pick-up as our trip progressed. Initially, we thought we were on the receiving end of Hurricane Irene again, but soon learned this was Katia, a new hurricane now barreling down on us. After a few days at Rosapenna we headed south so as to be able to continue east and north again into Northern Ireland – that’s because Lough Swilly flows 40 kilometers into County Donegal from the Atlantic: we needed to go inland before we finding our way back out to the ocean.
Portstewart and Portrush were next on our itinerary. With only four miles between the two towns we stayed in Portrush, where from our bedroom window we could see the Royal Portush Golf Club lying just to the east. The B&B proprietor, with a twinkle in his eye suggested, “if we squinted really hard, we could probably see Darren Clarke raising a pint at the Clubhouse bar”. Remember, Northern Ireland golfers were on a hot streak at the time. Darren had just laid claim to the Claret Jug at Royal St. Georges in July, with Rory picking up the US Open win at Congressional in June and Graeme McDowell winning it the previous year at Pebble Beach. Royal Portrush was Clarke and McDowell’s home course. Bottom-line, we were walking on the golf gods’ own turf.
Back to the photography – Evan focused his attention first on the Portstewart Golf Club and specifically its par 72, 7,118 yard, championship course, “The Strand”. Portstewart was founded in 1894 with nine links holes. It now boasts 54. The Strand is the real deal – it recently hosted the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in 2017. FYI, “Strand” is a commonly used word for “beach” over there.
I will never forget the size of the dunes. Some were close to 100 feet high – and I distinctly remember because we had to haul the camera gear up and down these dunes to get some of the shots Evan wanted (2011 was pre-drone). The 2nd hole, appropriately named “Devil’s Hill”, is just that, a devil of a hill to climb! You’ll notice the wind’s “Michelin Man” effect on Evan.
The winds continued to gather strength but we still had a day’s worth of sun at Royal Portrush. That was about to change. It also got cold – notice that Evan is now wearing a winter cap.
Interestingly enough, one of the shots Evan captured that day was used on the cover of LINKS magazine for their story on the Open. It is the par 4 10th hole and also the feature photo for this post.
To ready itself for The Open this year, Royal Portrush’s championship course, Dunluce Links, went through a metamorphosis of sorts beginning in late 2015 – building five new greens, eight new tee boxes, 10 new bunkers and creating two new holes, the 7th and 8th on land once part of Royal Portrush’s second course, the Valley course.
With time running out, and the hurricane fast approaching, we decided to play Dunluce Links while we still could, “could” being the operative word. I can honestly say this was the first time in all my years of playing golf with Evan that he chose to walk off a golf course without completing his round, especially on a course of such renown, and one that we had paid full freight to play (add the exchange rate to the equation and this really hurt). If memory serves us right, we surrendered to Mother Nature on the 12th hole. We were playing into the wind (aka the hurricane) and our balls were being blown behind us… now admittedly, we knew the ball needed to stay as close to the ground as possible to move forward, but the situation had become so ridiculous that we made it a game. Our approach shots onto the 12th became a contest to see how much loft we could create such that the ball WOULD be blown backwards. Evan won our contest, but Mother Nature hoisted the trophy.
With our clubs as ballast, we walked, doubled over, back to the clubhouse. Would you believe it –we were the only ones out on the course that day??
For additional information on Portstewart Golf Club and Royal Portrush Golf Club please visit their websites: