The first few holes have not changed, with the opening hole being played uphill to a very tricky green, the first of the two par 3s comes at the 3rd hole, but it’s the 6th named Harry Colt after the original designer that will test the pros, anything short will see the ball rolling off into thick grass from this raised green.
Just stepping back one hole to the 5th, this will be a risk and reward hole for the pros; standing on the tee I am aiming at the far bunker on the left of the fairway, but I am sure a lot of the pros will be going for the green. And as I walk down the fairway I can see the R&A are growing the grass just short of the green on that carry line and it is already looking thick and should make interesting viewing once the championship starts.
The 7th is one of the new holes that have been added for The Open with the work being carried out by golf architect Martin Ebert of Mackenzie and Ebert. Five new greens, eight new tee boxes, 10 new bunkers and two new holes, the 7th and 8th on land which was once part of the Valley course, have been part of the extensive work carried out to test the best golfers in the world.
Standing on the elevated tee of the uphill par-5 7th named Curran Point you would think this hole was part of the original Harry Colt design and that is down to the great work by Martin and the team. Unfortunately my tee shot finds the rather large bunker on the right of the fairway and I take two to get out.
The new 8th hole runs in the opposite direction named Dunluce; be warned those two bunkers on the right side of fairway are reachable as I have just found out. The 9th brings you to the renowned halfway hut and after some much-needed refreshments we start the back nine. I love the 10th hole with its thin green nestled in the dunes.
The first of the par 3s on the back nine comes at the 13th and is played from an elevated tee and is surrounded by five bunkers and the 17th green is just behind and ideal spot for spectators. The course closes with a pair of classic holes the 17th known as Purgatory is 405-yards from the tournaments tees but plays downhill and will be reachable for the pros and with only two bunkers protecting the green we will see lots of eagles here and maybe even a hole in one–imagine that on the final day!
The course closes with a dogleg right with some very deep cross-bunkers sitting in the fairway, anything close to the left of the green will run away and down into a collection area. I am playing Royal Portrush in May with the stands all in place and walking down the fairway gives me goose bumps and the stands are empty. I can imagine the roars as the champion golfer of the year takes this same walk on Sunday. He will thoroughly deserve all those accolades that come his way as Royal Portrush has tested every part of my golf game today.