Royal Clubs Series - No.5
Royal Golf Clubs Series 5
Northern Ireland Royal Courses - Introduction
There are three Royal clubs in Northern Ireland, Royal Belfast and Royal Portrush approved by Queen Victoria in 1885, and 1895, also Royal County Down by King Edward VII in 1908. Considering Northern Ireland and the Republic there are five royal courses in Ireland. Many people migrated from Scotland to Ireland. George Baillie, a local teacher and an experienced golfer, originally from Musselburgh in Scotland first laid out Royal Belfast and Royal County Down. However, the unique merit of the Northern Ireland Royal courses is that they were all initially or later designed by the creative golf architect Harry Colt. He certainly left a legacy to be enjoyed in the royal clubs of Ireland.
The first course at Belfast was laid out by George Baillie. The Laird of Holywood, gave permission for a golf course to be laid out free of rent on his land at Kinnegar, Holywood. The first competition was 18 holes over a 6-hole course on Boxing Day 1881. In 1885 during a visit to Ireland, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) was invited to become its Patron. This would have been approved by Queen Victoria. The club moved to a nine-hole course at Carnalea and then to its current location at Craigavad House near Holywood. The current Patron is HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York.
Royal Belfast has long claimed to be the oldest in Ireland but this is now seriously disputed by Royal Curragh.
In 1925 the greatest golf architect of the day Harry Colt (designer of Royal Portrush, Royal County Down and some 300 other top class courses), was appointed to re-design and layout a new course. He produced a charming course implementing his well- established principles.
Edward Prince of Wales was the eldest son of of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and was related to many royal families in Europe. He was heir to the throne for 60 years, longer than any of his ancestors. As Prince of Wales he was identified with the affluent, leisured elite. He performed public duties in Britain and represented the country abroad. He was popular on visits to India and North America. However, his mother did not approve of his playboy image.
Queen Victoria (1819–1901) was queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 to 1901 At 63 years this is now the second longest reign of any British monarch in history, after that of Queen Elizabeth II. Victoria became queen at when she was just 18. Her first prime minister, Lord Melbourne helped teach the young queen the complexities of being a constitutional monarch. In 1840, she married Prince Albert and the couple were devoted to each other and had nine children. Prince Albert died in 1861. Victoria was devastated and went into a 25-year isolation.
Victoria's reign saw great cultural expansion; advances in industry, science, and communications; and the building of railways and the London Underground. In Britain, the 19th century was known as Victorian England because of Queen Victoria’s long reign. She died in 1901, at age 81 and was succeeded by King Edward VII her eldest son.
The club was formed in 1888 as ‘The County Club’ re-named in 1892 ‘The Royal County Club’ its patron being the Duke of York’. In 1895 the Prince of Wales became patron and changed the name to Royal Portrush Golf Club. The leading golf architect Harry Colt laid out plans for the Dunluce links in 1932 and three years later also designed the Valley course. In 1951 the club became the first club outside of Scotland and England to host the Open Championship. It has been chosen again for the 2019 Open and will regularly considered.
The Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club ranks amongst the world’s greatest courses. Colt used the natural contours and dunes of the links land to create a legacy which attracts golfers from around the world. The Valley course is also a very fine test of links golf.
The Duke of York was the second son of Edward Prince of Wales and grandson of Queen Victoria. He was third in line the throne after his father and elder brother, He served in the Navy until the death of his brother when he became Prince of Wales. Upon the death of his father he became King George V.
Royal County Down
In 1889 the nine holes was laid out by George Baillie. Later that year Old Tom Morris completed the 18 holes, for which he was paid four guineas. Various improvements were made and in 1908 King Edward VII conferred royal patronage on the club. In 1926, the Club hired the distinguished golf architect Harry Colt to make further improvements.
This course is often ranked number one in UK and Ireland and is high in the world rankings. The golf writer Bernard Darwin described it as one of “big and glorious carries, nestling greens, entertainingly blind shots, local knowledge and beautiful turf – the kind of golf that people play in their most ecstatic dreams”. It still has an old fashioned quirky feel about it with some long carries and blind shots. You need to be on your best game as it is one of the toughest championship links.
King Edward VII succeeded the throne upon the death of his mother Queen Victoria in 1901. He took up his new role with energy and enlivened the monarchy which had been dull since his father died 40 years earlier. He was related to many European royals and this helped him to assist in foreign policy negotiations. His speeches helped to secure the Anglo-French Entente Cordiale of 1904. He was the first British monarch to visit Russia. He founded the Order of Merit in 1901 to recognize those who excelled in science, art or literature. In 1910 he died and was succeeded by his son who became George V.
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