The final chapter of The Open could resemble the opening scene of The Tempest, in which a fierce storm causes a royal shipwreck
The Open braced for royal storm
Portrush was a fishing village before its Victorian heyday as seaside resort, and the heart of the town lies on a mile-long peninsula, Ramore Head, which outstretches into the brooding North Atlantic.
Stoic Portrush withstands the prevailing south-westerly winds that whip in off the ocean. They regularly cause consternation on the links and it is little solace to golfers that the same winds render Portrush a haven for surfing.
Heavy bursts of rain are expected to be blown in by gusts of wind that could top 35 mph. Okay, it won’t be a tempest by Shakespearean standards and the locals might wonder at all the fuss, but it’s enough to chill the bones and toy with a golf swing.
“A 20 mile-an-hour wind is normal here,” warns Chris Gaile Jnr, one of the local caddies at Royal Portrush, who has grown up on the links.
Eamon Hughes has caddied at Royal Portrush for 25 years. He says: “When we have a really cold, wet day, visitors from warmer climates say, ‘I suppose you guys are used to this’, but the truth is that how can anyone get used to that kind of weather on the golf course?
“We live here, sure, but no-one likes the cold, wet weather. Golf is best in sunshine and shorts.
“One day last year my woolly hat blew away. It took off in the wind, probably ended up in Scotland.
“We were walking up the 12th hole, straight into the wind, we could hardly walk into it, and this gust took my hat and off it went like a bullet. Never saw it again. It was absolutely freezing.
“That had to have been the single windiest day I have ever had on the golf course. We were talking about 80 mile-an-hour winds. One guy only played two holes, another played six, but my guy was very dogged and he was determined to finish, and he did.”
“You do get the odd day without wind,” offers fellow local caddie John McIntyre.
“Any day that the sun shines is a good day. Last year was the hottest summer we can remember. People were going on holiday and coming back to find everyone at Portrush as brown as berries. It was crazy.”
Warns caddie Gary Stevenson: “On a really windy day, what looks like a right-to-left putt could be left-to-right.”
This explains why some Portrush B&Bs leave a bottle of local Bushmills Irish whiskey next to the porridge pot at breakfast, and why the traditional halfway drink in the Tavern on the Dunluce Links is hot Bushmills.