The first golf course was opened in Portrush in 1888 on the land bounded by Causeway Street, Crocnamac Road, Eglinton Street and Dunluce Avenue. It was a nine-hole course abounding “in hazards of the bunker type. The greens are clear and springy and completely free from brackens and whins” (Belfast Newsletter 2 April 1888). The club was then named the County Golf Club. By October 1890 the Club had a membership of 250 and had two 18 hole courses, land having been acquired and developed on the Eastern side of the Bushmills Road (Causeway Street). In June 1892 a prestigious new Clubhouse was opened (now the British Legion Clubrooms). With the opening of this new Clubhouse the earlier Salisbury Terrace Clubhouse became vacant and use was granted to Lady members together with use of the shorter 18 hole course.
In 1892 the club became the Royal County Golf Club, Prince George, Duke Of York having consented to become Patron. In 1895 the Royal County Club became the “Royal Portrush Golf Club”, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) kindly consenting to become its Patron.
Harry S. Colt, a well known golf architect and a close personal friend of Sir Anthony Babington, a stalwart member of the Club’s governing Council, later Club Captain and President, in 1923 prepared a comprehensive lay-out for two new courses taking in lands as far East as The White Rocks. In 1928 a new Ladies Clubhouse was built on its present site and the layout of the Ladies Course (Valley Course) centred on it. Plans for a new Clubhouse adjacent to the Ladies Clubhouse were prepared but had to be abandoned due to the outbreak of the Second World War 1939. In 1946 a proposal to purchase and convert the Holyrood House Hotel adjacent to the Dunluce Course was approved by the members and the new Clubhouse opened in June 1947. In 1950 the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (Golf’s governing Body) asked Royal Portrush to take the 1951 Open Golf Championship. Major changes were made to the internal layout of the new Clubhouse and completed in good time. The Championship was a great success and won by Max Faulkner. The Open Championship returned to Royal Portrush Golf Club in 2019 being played to sell-out crowds and broadcast to 600 million households worldwide. The 2019 tournament was won by Irishman Shane Lowry to great local acclaim.
Golf has been a major attraction in Portrush since its inception with the Railway Companies running special trains to accommodate golfers and many local hotels featuring golf as part of their appeal. Royal Portrush Golf Club has been home to more than 50 national championships and has hosted many famous golfers over the years and producing its own local heroes in May Hezlett, Rhona Adair, Fred Daly, Zara Bolton, Maureen Madill and Graeme McDowell.