R&A chief plays down prospects of Open return to Portrush

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Royal & Ancient chief Peter Dawson says the Open Championship is unlikely to return to Royal Portrush in the near future.

Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson has played down the prospects of the Open Championship making a quick return to Royal Portrush.

The successful staging of the recent Irish Open at Portrush raised hopes that the Open could return to the venue for the first time since 1951.

But the R&A chief said such a move was not "imminent".

"There would be much work to do for an Open ever to go to Portrush [again]," added Dawson.

"We have been there before. It's always, to an extent, been on our radar and our championship committee, I'm sure, will continue to evaluate it.

"But don't expect anything imminent - that's for sure."

Speaking at a news conference a day ahead of the start of this year's event at Royal Lytham, Dawson described Portrush as a "great personal favourite".

However, this initial comment was followed by a series of less favourable comments about the Northern Ireland course's Open Championship feasibility.

"If you were at the Irish Open and compare it to what we're doing here, we're talking 20,000 grandstand seats here. I doubt if there were 2,000 at the Irish Open.

"You're talking about a tented village here that I would estimate is 10 or more times the size than it was at the Irish Open.

"The crowd size at the Irish Open, while it was very, very good, was only as good as perhaps the lowest we would expect at an Open venue, ie Turnberry.

"Where would you put the big grandstand complex? The practice ground at Portrush would [also] need a lot of work, in my estimation.

"[And] We don't have a finishing hole that would have the grandstands around it."

Dawson added that a "great deal of money would need to be spent, in my estimation, to make Royal Portrush a sensible choice".

"It's not a criticism of Royal Portrush. It's a wonderful golf course. But the commercial aspects of it are quite onerous."

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