The Royal & Ancient Golf Club (R&A), the organisers of the Open Championship, have said that the high demand for tickets for the July showpiece has been “phenomenal”.

The golf tournament, which is returning to Northern Ireland for the firm time in almost 70 years, shifted all its tickets and sold out in August.

Fans can now only buy passes for the practice days at Royal Portrush Golf Club.

Mike Woodcock, director of corporate communications at the R&A, said the pace of the ticket sales took them by surprise.

“We were confident there would be huge excitement here, but I think even we were staggered by just how much there was when the championship days sold out in two months,” he said, according to the BBC.

“It was phenomenal really and speaks volumes about the enthusiasm, not only for golf but for sport here in Northern Ireland. The Open is one of the world’s greatest sporting events, the world’s greatest golfers will be playing here, and I think it’s just fantastic.”

With large crowds expected at this year’s Open, it has become the first ever all-ticketed event in the major’s history, with more than 190,000 people to pass through the gates.

The R&A has predicted that the tournament will deliver an £80m boost to the local economy, through combined direct spend and the value of the media exposure of the destination.

Aine Kearney, from Tourism NI, is co-ordinating efforts to deliver Northern Ireland’s first Open in seven decades. She said: “This will be broadcast to 80 million homes across 150 countries around the world.

“And whilst the focus of the attention will be on the golf, what they will also get to see is the absolutely amazing landscape as well as a lot of the stories of the experiences that the players are having, the media are having – you can’t buy that level of exposure.”

Image: Scozzy