Lugging the British Open across the Irish Sea

Posted by on July 20, 2019  /   Posted in golf reviews

PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland – For the first time in 68 years, the British Open has arrived at beautiful and, currently, soaked Royal Portrush. Which also means that for the first time in 68 years the British Open has left the British mainland and traveled through the Irish Sea.

And yet, walking the track or visiting the spectator village this week, it all seems so familiar to an Open Standard, from the stands to the cavernous mediator to the two imposing yellow scoreboards that face each other Opposite the 18th green

"What they have done here is very special, isn't it?" David McCombes said as he directed his young staff deep into one of the multi-scene scoreboards, which are still operated manually .

McCombes is a history teacher at Charterhouse School, an English boarding school in Godalming in Surrey, England, whose students and alumni have hand-held the scoreboards since 1979. The other scoreboard is staffed by representatives of rival Cranleigh School.

Each school tries to post updates the old-fashioned way ahea from the others. Despite the return of the Open to Northern Ireland, the rivalry and the scoreboards, which were stored in Liverpool for the rest of the year, made the journey across the water.

"It was a bit more of a logistical challenge this year to come here with the transports and costs," McCombes said. "But we succeeded and it was good. We have nine children with us this year, where we would normally have between 12 and 15 years, so we all work a little harder. The stress is quite nice."

The nine other Open-rotation courses are on the British mainland. Much of the material used to build the temporary infrastructure of the Open is transported by road – sometimes a long way when material is brought from Southern England to Scotland.

"Every Open Championship location has its unique challenges," said Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, executive director of R&A championships, who is organizing the Open. "Royal Portrush is the only one in our pool of locations with a large amount of water between us and most contractors based in Great Britain."

Cole-Hamilton said that semi-trailer trucks eventually travel around 2,000 to deliver the infrastructure to Portrush and then remove it.

Most came by ferry, which arrived in Dublin in Ireland or Belfast in Northern Ireland. Cole-Hamilton said he and his staff should also follow the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit process. Ireland is part of the European Union. Northern Ireland is part of the UK negotiating its departure from the EU

"Part of the Brexit process is discussion about the movement across the border," Cole-Hamilton said, adding, "so we I wanted to make sure that we got so many things early in the process to make sure everything went well."

Temporary office structures, tenting and enough stands for 12,500 spectators were among the items that were sent from the British mainland and assembled in Portrush, starting in May.

"It's like building a small village on a 450-acre site," said Cole-Hamilton.

But more permanent changes were also needed. New roads had to be built to support the weight of the trucks.

"The roads raised a few eyebrows," said Gary McNeill, chief professional at Portrush. "They can see all these trucks coming, and if you don't have that, they'll be chasing your golf course."

But no project in Portrush was greater or more invasive than the destruction of the existing 17th century. and 18th holes to make room for the spectator village and to create more space on the closing holes.

The historic left course, last used for the Open in 1951, was subsequently reconfigured with new 7th and 8th holes close to the ocean, partly on land that had never before been used for golf.

The result – undulating fairways hidden among imposing dunes – is spectacular.

"They are in the most picturesque part of the ocean. Golf course, and they are two squat holes," said McNeill, who has been in Portrush since 1999.

To use locally-based peat, a turf cutter cut two existing putting greens from the club into blocks of turf that were replanted to make the new 7t h and 8th greens.

The R & A already had experience with adapting a traditional location for the modern era. In 2006, the Open returned to Royal Liverpool after an absence of 39 years.

"It's a real challenge because you get a blank canvas much more," said Cole-Hamilton.

But although the R & A did a lot of heavy lifting and investing while overseeing the changes at Royal Liverpool, the site at Portrush broke.

A tunnel system was built at the heart of the redesigned runway to reduce congestion and allow players and officials unrestricted access between the 8th green and 9th tee and the 10th green and 11th tee.

"That's a unique thing for an Open Championship," Cole-Hamilton said. "We basically buried a corrugated iron frame in the sand and then on and around it."

The tunnel will be closed when the track returns to normal service after the Open; The members of Portrush do not have to worry about bottlenecks.

"When the doors are all closed, I should show you where it was because you would have trouble finding it," Cole-Hamilton said. "It was important to build something in such a beautiful landscape that was consistent with the golf course and into which it was mixed."

But now, like all modern Open locations, Royal Portrush is a flurry of turmoil and temporary construction with large crowds and & # 39; the world's leading golfers who defy the crowds and the elements.

High in the scoreboards on the 18th hole, it is also business as usual.

"She and I still haven't made these things watertight," McCombes said, looking cautiously at the rough planks in the ceiling. "So as soon as it starts raining, it flows right through it."

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