The Open has returned to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years. Royal Portrush in County Antrim will host the 148th edition of the event. They requested Toro to assist them in producing a lasting experience.
Preparations for The Open take years hence it shouldn’t come as a surprise when Royal Portrush and Toro found each other soon after it was announced that Royal Portrush would host the 2019 event. That was in 2015. As course manager, Graeme Beatt, describes it: “The relationship between Royal Portrush and Toro is a quarter of century old and for us there is no better machinery partner to ensure the optimum conditions for the players as well as the eyes of the sporting world.”
Since than a variety of machines have been used to prepare the course. This included the Toro Flex 2120 pedestrian mower for the greens, the Reelmaster 3550-D and 3555-D mowers for the fairways, approaches and surrounds as well as the Greensmaster 1000 and TriFlex 3400 on the tees. The also used the Reelmaster 3100-D with Sidewinder system on semi-roughs and the Groundsmaster 4500-D on the roughs.
In addition, the team will use the Greensmaster 3250-D and GR1000 on the practice area and the ProCore 648 for aerating the courses.
Toro’s involvement at the Royal Portrush is not limited to just machinery. When the irrigation system was upgraded in 2017, a Lynx central control system and Toro Infinity, Flex and B-Series sprinklers were added to the mix to irrigate the rugged links course situated on the Atlantic coast.
“The location of the club is generally something of a challenge for an irrigation system, especially for the sprinklers,” says Graeme. “It’s quite a feat to deliver accurate spray in our unpredictable, windy and exposed conditions, but this has been no problem for Toro. We’ve been really impressed with the overall performance of the control system and sprinklers, but worthy of note are the B-Series sprinkler heads on the tees. They’ve really been put to the test and withstand all sorts.”
Of course, it’s not just an irrigation system that’s new for The Open. The world-famous Dunluce course has been extended from 6,867 meters to just over 6,583 meters and every hole has had some work in varying degrees, none so much as the 17th and 18th holes which have become the tented village areas and two new holes created at seventh and eighth.
22 miles of fibre optic cable has been installed with 19 kilometre of fibre ducts, 2,200 artic lorries-worth of equipment will have been used for the build and de-rig, 24 greenkeeping volunteers have been selected and a record-breaking number of tickets have been sold.
In fact, it’s this last fact that’s caused the only hiccup in the journey to being tournament-ready Graeme explains: “No Open Championship has ever sold out and when this one did, and in record time, the decision was made to release a further 15,000 tickets – that means we could have up to 230,000 spectators come through our gates!” All that is left is for weather to provide good playing conditions. Everything else to make that possible has already been sourced from Toro.