For those going to this year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, there will be a lot to enjoy, both on and off the course. As part of the Rolex Series the event will be the biggest and richest ever.
The prize fund of $7 million (€6.1m) has attracted many of Europe’s and the world’s top stars.
There will be no big-name Americans, unfortunately, but there will be a tremendous buzz to the event as Rory McIlroy’s involvement has seen the Irish Open become one of the European Tour’s highest profile events.
Here are 10 top tips for the coming days.
1. Championship Village:
The Village is crammed with places to eat, drink, and even shop. Numerous golf clubs and organisations — and not just Irish ones — will be promoting themselves, with prizes and giveaways galore.
There will be places to experience golf for those who have never tried it before… especially for the youngest fans who can receive free tuition. There will also be a kids’ park.
The tented village will play host to a variety of family-themed activities and entertainment, and fans will also have an opportunity to listen to the thoughts of the professionals with player Q&As lined up during the tournament.
New on-course bar areas will give fans a golf day out on a whole new scale.
2. Music Stage:
For the first time ever at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, a Showstage in the Championship Village will play host to headline music acts, Two Door Cinema Club, and Scouting For Girls, as well as various local singers and musicians.
Two Door Cinema Club will open the tournament at 7.30pm tomorrow, following the Pro-Am, and music and golf fans will enjoy unbelievable value for money as the opening ceremony is included in the Pro-Am ticket price of just £20. English pop-rock stars, Scouting For Girls will close this year’s tournament on Sunday night at 6pm.
3. Spectator Points:
The paths which have been created through the dunes promise some stunning spectator points, not just over the course but also of the River Bann, Mussenden Temple, and the surrounding countryside.
The path high above the 2nd green and 3rd tee will be one of the best places to be. Tee shots from the distant 2nd tee — with nothing behind but sky and ocean — can be viewed from here, as can the towering tee shots on the par three 3rd. The 8th tee is located nearby and there will be views of holes 4, 5, 6 and 7, too.
If you find the right spot you probably won’t want to move for the rest of the day. Seating in the stands will be at a premium and while fans pay extra for the one on the 18th, the stand on the 6th tee — yes, it’s actually on the tee — is free.
For those with seats at the very top, there will be views of five of Portstewart’s best holes: the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 12th. The 6th is a gem of a hole, being a short par three with steep slopes off almost every side. Any pro who misses and sees their ball tumble down the slopes can expect to hear groans of disappointment from the gallery.
4. Fireworks Display:
As part of the local celebrations for the Irish Open, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council is organising the famous Portstewart fireworks display as part of their festivities. This can be viewed from The Crescent and all along Portstewart Promenade. You will have a good view from the endless Strand beach beside the golf course, too.
5. Outdoor Cinema and More Music:
Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council is also providing its own series of music concerts every night on The Crescent (in town, a mile from the golf club) and an outdoor cinema. It is all free and very family-focused.
6. Follow the Irish:
The big names we all know — Rory, Shane and Padraig among them — but the field of 152 golfers will contain 16 Irish. Irish PGA professionals Damien McGrane, David Higgins, Colm Moriarty, Neil O’Briain, Simon Thornton, and Richard Kilpatrick booked their places in the field via the 2016 Order of Merit standings.
It will be a unique experience for Banbridge (Co Down)-based professional Richard Kilpatrick, who, at 35 years of age, will be playing in his first Irish Open. “I can’t wait. The crowds, the buzz, the field that is being assembled. I can’t wait to tee it up, let it go and see what happens. It will be some test.”
7. The Causeway Specialty Market:
The event’s popularity means that many fans will be in accommodation outside Portstewart, with Coleraine a prime destination. By happy coincidence, the Causeway Speciality Market will be taking place in Coleraine (4 miles away) on Saturday (9am to 4pm).
With more than 50 traders providing organic and speciality goods it is an opportunity to experience lots of local produce (e.g. meats, veg, beers, and anything pickled, baked, smoked, or cooked by the stallholder). The market is celebrating its 11th year.
Continuing the food theme, the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink, in 2016, raised the profile of the country’s gastronomic offerings.
Each month had a different theme (breakfast, dairy, baking, brewing, etc.) but there wasn’t one for golf. The DDF Irish Open should correct that with the famous Harrys Shack located on the beach immediately below Portstewart’s 1st tee — lunchtime reservations still available — and an outside oyster bar will be open all week.
The acclaimed local Morelli’s has created a Hole in One sundae for the occasion. What’s in it? Toffee sauce, their special whiskey ice cream, oatmeal crunch (to look like a bunker), fresh cream, green sprinkles and topped off with a bubble gum golf ball! How do you get it? Visit the town’s promenade.
There will be a merchandise store in the tented village — no surprise there — but they will be selling a limited edition of Rory McIlroy’s much-loved St Bernard Driver Headcover. A limited quantity, created especially for The Rory Foundation, is available to purchase (€25) at the official merchandise store. All profits will go straight to the Rory Foundation.
10. Mobile Phones:
You might think this is an odd one to have on the list but this year’s Irish Open is breaking new ground. As part of a pilot scheme being trialled by the European Tour, mobile phone photography will be permitted in all areas of the course, throughout the tournament.
What’s more, to mark this change in policy, spectators are actively encouraged to get snap happy as part of a competition to win £500 of Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and European Tour merchandise.
To enter, fans must tag their mobile phone photographs with #MyDDFIrishOpen on Twitter or Instagram or add their picture as a comment in the dedicated competition thread on the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Facebook page.
However, please make sure that your camera flash is off and your phone remains on silent.
Video capture is restricted to non-competition areas.
Further afield, the Causeway Coast offers mile after mile of beautiful scenery, embracing the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a- Rede Rope Bridge.
The Dark Hedges is just one of many famous local landmarks now associated with the blockbuster series, Game of Thrones, while the Bushmills Distillery provides tours and tastings of its world-class whiskey.
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