When Rory McIlroy raised the US PGA's Wanamaker Trophy high in the air in Louisville, Kentucky, he could also lay claim to a staggering four major titles by the age of 25. But just where did this exceptionally talented young player find the skills to take on the world’s best and beat them all at their own game? We explore the courses that have made McIlroy a four-time major winner.
Where Rory McIlroy learned to play…
McIlroy was a winner from an early age. He was raised on challenging links and parkland courses along the
Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland and won several prestigious titles as a teenager. No doubt these stood to him when he held off Tiger Woods in 2011 at the Honda Classic to become the World Number One for the first time.
Sand and sea at Royal Portrush
Putting time at Royal Portrush
Royal County Down Golf Course
Long hours of practice at his home club of
Holywood in County Down gave the rising star the confidence he needed to produce the goods: proven in full when he captured the 2005 Irish Amateur Close title. The victory, at age 16, made him the youngest ever winner of the title, which had been captured in the past by stars such as Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell.
It was also in 2005 that McIlroy set a new competitive course record with a score of 61 on the
Dunluce links of Royal Portrush Golf Club in County Antrim. The course dates back to 1888 and is the only club on the island of Ireland to have hosted The Open Championship – and looks set to once more in 2019.
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In 2007, McIlroy earned a coveted spot on the Great Britain and Ireland team at the Walker Cup, held at the
Royal County Down Golf Club. Although his team didn’t take home the cup, he did win his single matches against Billy Horschel. 2007 was also the year that Rory turned pro, though success took a while as he didn’t win his first tournament until 2009.
Fast forward six years and McIlroy was back at Golf Digest's World No 1 course,
Royal County Down, for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in 2015 as the tournament host. Using his Rory Foundation to promote the event, the pride of County Down raised huge sums for local charities. He continues to host the Irish Open with the 2016 edition held in The K Club in County Kildare, the venue for Europe’s memorable 2006 Ryder Cup win over the USA.
Ballyliffin Links The wilds of Donegal
After McIlroy became Irish Close champion for the second time, he prepared for his title defense by humbling a giant, his mentor Nick Faldo, on the windswept Old Links at
Ballyliffin, which is perched on the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal, Ireland’s most northerly county.
Ballyliffin is a great golf course,” says McIlroy, who shot a course record 67 to beat six-time major winner Faldo by a stroke. “They have two great golf courses there. The Old Links, which is a little shorter and a little tighter with small greens. Nick Faldo redesigned it and it is very tricky and a very good test. The Glashedy, meanwhile, is a big golf course measuring more than 7,400 yards.
McIlroy continues,“They have two brilliant golf courses on a spectacular piece of land so if you have a chance to go to the northwest of Ireland, Ballyliffin should definitely be on everyone’s list.”
Probably the best links course in the world
After beating Faldo in Ballyliffin, McIlroy retained the Irish Close title at
The European Club and declared that it was the best links course he had ever played.
That’s high praise from a player who grew up just a few minutes’ drive from the great links of
Royal County Down and regularly teed it up at Royal Portrush when he was just a young boy.
“The European Club is probably the best links course that I have ever played, and I include Royal St George’s, Royal County Down and Royal Portrush in that,” McIlroy said at the time. “It’s just the definition to it and then there are the sleepers in the bunkers. The fairways are the best I’ve ever played on. It’s totally unbelievable.
“I love courses where you really have to think your way around. It gets me focused much more. That’s pretty much why I’m so impressed with it.”
The European Club Links In the eye of the Tiger
Back to the Irish Close, and McIlroy was on his way to beat the course record of four under par 67, set by Tiger Woods in July 2002, when he went to the turn in three under par. He had to settle for a 70 in the end, and ended up taking 80 in the second round as the wind blew and the rough took its toll.
He still qualified for the matchplay stages with ease, though, and eventually cruised to the title having learned some valuable lessons about course management and wind play. This, you could say, has stood to him in his professional career since then.
Born in Northern Ireland, McIlroy is a golfer defined by the courses of his youth. Courses that create winners in the
By Brian Keogh
More information about events and approved courses is available from the Golfing Union of Ireland
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