124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

The Open Championship

Portmarnock would be considered to host Open Championship, but ‘huge impediments’ stand in the way

October 26, 2023

Luke Walker/R&A

MELBOURNE, Australia — An Open Championship at Ireland’s famed Portmarnock Golf Club? R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers would welcome it. But overcoming “huge” logistical challenges to stage golf’s oldest major outside the U.K. for the first time in a small, seaside town in northern Dublin would hinge upon the club and the Irish government collaborating on a feasibility study.

Speculation kicked off last month when four-time major winner Rory McIlroy said: “I think there’s every chance [the R&A] are seriously looking at it, and it would be fantastic.”

That triggered Ireland’s Minister for Sport, Catherine Martin, to ask her officials to engage with Portmarnock to secure a plan to hold “what would be very significant for the game of golf in Ireland and our international profile as a must visit destination for golf tourism.”

Slumbers, in Melbourne for the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, said there were two hurdles to jump before Portmarnock could host an Open.

“One is Portmarnock Golf Club has asked the Irish government to help them explore how they can solve some of the infrastructure issues to be able to make a credible presentation to the R&A that they could stage the Open,” Slumbers told Golf Digest on Thursday at Royal Melbourne. “It's very much in their court and needs govern investment to do it.

“The second piece is, there are some huge impediments to be overcome before we can get to the conversation, but that’s very much with the club and the Irish government.

“But the golf course is magnificent. I mean, it is a wonderful links course. We have staged many much amateur championships there. Had [the 1991] Walker Cup there, The Amateur championship four years ago and the Women's Amateur Championship next year. It is a world class golf course that I think will be tremendous to see the world’s best players playing on it.”

The 129-year-old Portmarnock is considered among the best courses in Ireland. But the infrastructure surrounding it—there is one road into the course and it sits on its own peninsula—has seemingly prohibited it from serious consideration for a championship of the magnitude of the Open, where more than 100,000 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 membership voted in 2021 to admit females. Last December, nine women were elected as full members.

Working in Portmarnock’s favor is that it is less than 15 minutes from Dublin’s international airport and a 20-minute train ride from downtown Dublin. There are also large golf properties nearby, like the newly rebranded Jameson Hotel and Golf Links next door, as well as vibrant towns like Malahide nearby capable of supporting the championship.