‘Royal Portrush can be one of the best golf courses in the world’ insists Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke

Royal Portrush is getting a make-over ahead of the 2019 Open Championship with Darren Clarke predicting the changes will power the Dunluce Link into the upper echelons of the world rankings.

Two new holes will be created to replace the current 17th and 18th holes freeing up that land to be used to accommodate the spectator village and Championship infrastructure.

A series of other changes are being made to the course under the watchful eye of Martin Ebert of Mackenzie & Ebert the club’s golf course architects to enhance the challenge that will face the world’s top golfers while remaining true to the ethos of Harry Colt’s original design.

“With the changes Martin is implementing, if this is not ranked in the top five in the world, I’ll be amazed,” said the 2011 Open Champion.

“This is as fair a links course as you’ll ever play. The thing about Portrush is that with the new tees, and the ones that are there, it’s so playable. There’s not many blind shots, everything is in front of you.

“You can work the ball into the greens here, you can run the ball in, which to me in the sign of a great links course. In my opinion, to be a good links player you have to be able to manage your trajectory and here you have the option to hit it along the ground if you have the talent to do so. That’s what Portrush gives you.”

The 2016 Ryder Cup captain admitted that he was initially sceptical about some of the changes proposed by Ebert but he was eventually convinced that the essential character of the course would not be diluted.

“The more I looked at them I could see the changes were going to make the course better. There’s a difference between making it tougher and making it better. He’s making it better and there’s a big difference,” added Darren.

“Who can say what Harry Colt would have done to the course now, but the changes aren’t massively different to what was there. It’s just a case of bringing the course up to a more modern links challenge. I can’t praise Martin Ebert highly enough as he is providing a modern lift to one of the best courses in the world.”