Northern Ireland

The Open 2019: Guide to golf championship at Royal Portrush

The Claret Jug at Royal Portrush Golf Club Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Absence makes the heart grow fonder... The Open has not been played in Northern Ireland since 1951

The countdown is over, the Open is here.

Golf's oldest championship runs from Thursday to Sunday at Royal Portrush.

The Open is played every year at a course around the UK and it is returning to Northern Ireland after a 68-year absence.

Here's a guide to the hotly-anticipated championship, from its history and the Claret jug to star attractions and travel arrangements.

What is The Open?

Royal Portrush 2019 is the 148th Open, which traces its roots to 1860.

Back then, eight professional golfers assembled at Prestwick in Scotland for a tournament to determine who would be the champion golfer.

The Open flag Portrush 2019
In numbers:

The Open at Royal Portrush

  • 237,750spectators

  • 156golfers

  • 148th championship

  • 68years since NI hosted

  • £80mboost to economy

Source: The R&A

The winner was to receive the Challenge Belt, a prize crafted from red Moroccan leather and worth £25.

The Open still attracts the world's best players, though the winner receives a smidgen more these days - he'll lift the Claret Jug, earn the title Champion Golfer of the Year and pocket more than a million pounds.

For the golfing amateurs out there, the Claret Jug is a much-coveted piece of silverware.

The trophy was first awarded in 1872 after the belt was permanently claimed by Young Tom Morris - he had won three years in a row and thus the right to wear it forevermore.

Quiz fans take note - the championship is organised by The R&A, which stands for Royal and Ancient (Golf Club of St Andrews).

Where is it being held?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone in Northern Ireland has to visit Portrush and the north coast at least once a year.

Portrush is a seaside holiday resort near the Giant's Causeway and to the Northern Irish, it is synonymous with Barry's (an amusement arcade), rocks (of the boiled sweet kind) and beaches (usually in the driving rain).

It is also home to world-renowned North West 200 motorcycle road race and Royal Portrush, a links golf course founded in 1888.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tiger Woods has never played Portrush and is planning on getting there early to do some homework

The Open Championship has always been played on a links course and links courses are basically far less manufactured and mostly found on the coast.

The Dunluce course at Portrush, which is the one the Open players will take on, is rated as one of the most challenging and spectacular links courses in the world.

Only once before, in 1951, has the tournament made it to these shores, with flamboyant Englishman Max Faulkner clinching the win.

Bringing it back was in no small part due to the success of Northern Ireland's own stars - Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell.

When does it all tee off?

Although the golf tournament runs from 18-21 July, the players have a few days beforehand to get used to the course.

Saturday 14 July was the first official day of Open week, as the first of four training days, which are great opportunities for fans to get close to the action and the players themselves.

Image copyright The Open
Image caption Walk the red route and you'll definitely hit your 10,000 daily steps

There are 156 players in Thursday's opening field, many of whom are household names - who hasn't heard of Tiger Woods?

After Thursday and Friday's opening two rounds, 36 holes, the field will be cut to 70 and those golfers will compete for the trophy on Saturday and Sunday.

How do I get tickets?

Bad news first.

The four tournament days (Thursday 18 to Sunday 21 July) are sold out, with 237,750 spectators expected - more than any other Open except for the 2000 spectacle at St Andrews, which drew in 239,000 fans.

Additional tickets were made available in April after the original bank of tickets sold in record time.

VIP packages were available at upwards of £750 per person, but have now sold out.

How do I get there?

With such a large number of spectators from around the world due to descend on the small town, the logistics of getting them all in and out are huge.

To minimise congestion, organisers have urged people to consider public transport.

Image copyright Translink
Image caption Choo choo!

Translink is Northern Ireland's public transport provider and bus, coach and train services are available for spectators. There will be enhanced capacity on normal services plus additional capacity.

Advance tickets are limited so book online as soon as possible to ensure your preferred departure time.

There will be no car parking available at Royal Portrush or in the immediate area.

Image copyright Translink
Image caption Not a bad view for those taking the train...

All public parking will be provided at managed Park and Ride sites, which will be signposted on the day.

Spectators are advised to turn off their satellite navigation systems and follow the appropriate signage.

A cycle path will be available close to the golf club, and there's an official helicopter landing site at the Open should that be your preferred choice of travel.

Follow @Translink_NI #OpenTravel on Twitter for latest updates.

What can spectators expect?

There are thousands of seats located in stands dotted around the course, including at the 18th green and at the practice ground.

Away from the sporting drama and celebrity players, there's plenty on offer for fans of all ages.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The nearby Giant's Causeway is a popular tourist attraction

The spectator village will be offering food and drink, a dedicated children's play area and giant TV screens.

There is no dress code in public areas, you can bring your own food and drink, and no dogs are allowed (with the exception of guide dogs).

There are a number of rules when it comes to mobile phones - all devices must be in silent mode at all times and calls must be placed or received in so-called mobile device zones.

You're not allowed to film videos on championship days, nor take photos of players while they are taking shots.

The Open has joined the war against single-use plastics so remember to bring a refillable bottle, which can be topped up at free water stations.

Also, it is worth noting there's a no re-admission policy which means you cannot leave and return on the same day using the same ticket.

There's more spectator advice on the Open website.

What about accommodation?

What people have been charging to rent out their properties in the area has become the stuff of legend in Northern Ireland.

But there is still some room at the inn and the official Open Accommodation Bureau is a handy place to check options.

These include the Open Camping Village, hosted by Ulster University's Coleraine Campus, which offers pre-erected tents, a campers' clubhouse and glamping bell tents for those in need of a bit more luxury.

Where can I follow it?

The Open will be beamed into an estimated 600 million homes worldwide.

Follow ball-by-ball commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website.

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