'It's a pity it's on an island' - R&A deny plans to stage The Open at Portmarnock in 2031

Chief Executive of the R&A Martin Slumbers. Jane Barlow/PA Wire.

Brian Keogh

R&A chief Martin Slumbers quashed all rumours that the Championship committee is planning to bring The Open to Portmarnock inside the decade.

Speculation that the great north Dublin links will stage the AIG Women's Open in 2026 as a precursor to hosting The Open in 2031 has been raging in Irish golfing circles in recent weeks and months.

But while it would be tempting to speculate on a 2031 staging in Dublin for what would be the first-ever Open outside the UK in a year when Pádraig Harrington turns 60, the R&A's CEO pointed out that the club's difficult geographical position on a peninsula prevents any serious consideration of its hosting the world's biggest golfing event right now.

"We are always looking at the pool of courses that we use," Mr Slumbers said at St Andrews. "I am happy with the courses we've got at the moment. "We will certainly be looking to bring more of our amateur events into the island (of Ireland).

"Portrush gave us a great platform, and we had the Amateur Portmarnock (in 2019), which was fantastic, and we will keep building up all the time."

The R&A looked closely at the Portmarnock links in the build-up to the Amateur Championship three years ago, but the difficulty of access remains a sticking point when it comes to The Open.

"We looked very closely when we staged the Amateur and it was a terrific golf course and it was a terrific staging with great support.

"But it's a pity it's on an island.

"It's quite difficult infrastructure-wise. It's a great golf course and we would love to go there more often. But are we considering it for The Open? No, not at this time."

The Open has become an infrastructural monster, but it's also the financial dynamo that drives everything the R&A does to stage its other championships and grow the game worldwide.

Royal Portrush, which will stage The Open again in 2025, was such a massive success that it would be logical to conclude a Dublin Open would generate an even greater financial windfall.

With Donald Trump-owned Turnberry out of favour while the former President remains its proprietor, the R&A is reduced to nine venues - Royal Liverpool (2023), Royal Troon (2024), Royal Portrush (2025), Royal Lytham and St Annes, Royal St George's, St Andrews, Carnoustie, Muirfield and Royal Birkdale.

While the R&A denies Royal Lytham’s small footprint means its days as an Open venue are numbered, Portmarnock has space to spare but its single-road access remains a major sticking point for now but perhaps not forever.