Club Captain Dr Ian Kerr spoke of the Portrush club’s progressive plans after the Freedom of the Borough was conferred on the club by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, in recognition of its successful hosting of the 148th Open.
Dr Kerr said: “We have ambitious plans for the club which will also have a positive impact on the local community.
“We have just completed and launched Our Vision – the 2030 Strategic Plan with an aspirational agenda including investment in our facilities to make Royal Portrush one of the greatest golf clubs in the world with a globally renowned 36-holes golf complex.
“We aim to be the first carbon-neutral golf club in Ireland, a process that includes switching all of our machinery to electric, generating our own solar power and maximising the recycling of our waste. We view the preservation of the links and the environment as extremely important.
“We also want to host future Open Championships and become a regular venue for that major sporting event. This drive and ambition comes not just from our council but also from the membership of our club.
“We believe we can deliver on our plan and help make the Causeway coast in golf tourism terms the St Andrews of Ireland.”
Dr Kerr and a delegation from Royal Portrush attended a special council meeting in the Cloonavin, Coleraine where Mayor, Alderman Mark Fielding conferred the Freedom of the Borough saying: “It gives me great pleasure on behalf of Council to present to Dr Ian Kerr with the Freedom certificate.
“We are here in recognition of the club’s successful hosting of the 148th Open. This momentous event in 2019 will live long in all our memories.
“Today, we are formally acknowledging the role played by Royal Portrush Golf Club in its resounding success.
“The Freedom of the Borough is Council’s highest civic accolade, it is reserved for the most eminent in our communities who have made an exceptional contribution.”
Dr Ian Kerr spoke of his “great honour” to accept the award on behalf of Royal Portrush Golf Club.
He said: “From the formation of the club we have seen ourselves firmly embedded in the local community and this ethos has been carried over the last 130 years.
“Royal Portrush is now one of the largest employers in the area. Conservatively estimate our annual economic contribution into the local community through our staff employment and golfing tourists is in excess of £15 to £20m a year.
“A survey commissioned by Tourism Northern Ireland and published in 2020 indicated that Royal Portrush was the preferred destination for the majority of golf tourists visiting Northern Ireland. This was way ahead of the second ranked golf course, Royal County Down, which was the chosen destination for less than one third of golf tourists.
“The Open Championship in 2019 took the economic impact of Royal Portrush to a new level. According to a study by the University of Sheffield, the Open Championship added a £106m boost to the Northern Ireland economy of which £26m was in this area alone.
“The close cooperation between the club and the council ensured the 2019 Open was a great success and presented a positive image of the Causeway coast. The wonderful images of our iconic 5th and 6th holes and the views stretching out along the coast were beamed into over 600 million homes worldwide. Those images will attract visitors to the area for years to come.
“In 2020 Golf Digest rated the Dunluce course as the eighth greatest course in the world and in 2021 we were honoured when the course was rated number one in Ireland by Irish Golfer magazine.
“However, with such accolades we are determined not to sit on our laurels but instead we aspire to continually improve.
“The Council of Royal Portrush are very aware that we are fortunate to be custodians of the club and its links at a moment in time and so we wish to leave them in a better and stronger position for the next generation.
“I would like to thank Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council for bestowing this great honour on our club.”