Dublin Series 3, History of early Golf Clubs

Golf History in Dublin and County Dublin

Introduction: The first organised golf played in Ireland was on heathland at Curragh about 30 miles West of Dublin. Royal Curragh claims to be the oldest club in Ireland dating to 1852. The early golfers were from the Curragh Army camp and learnt the game in Scotland. In 1881 a Scottish schoolteacher George Baillie laid out the next oldest club, which is now Royal Belfast. Some of Dublin’s golf course history below also involved Scottish founders.

Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links opened in 1995 as a golf resort. The course was designed by Bernhard Langer. However, it was built in the grounds of the old Jameson estate of St Marnocks. In 1858 the famous Whiskey family developed a private 12 hole course on the estate. This stretched as far as the well-known 15th at Portmarnock Golf Club.

The Royal Dublin Golf Club was formed in May 1885, founded by a Scot John Lumsden. It moved to Bull Island in1889. The links was designed by Harry Colt, the world famous golf architect and received Royal designation in 1891. In the 1914/18 World War the course was used by the military. Afterwards it was redesigned by Colt. Major extensions were carried out in 1962, 1983, 1993 and 2007.

Portmarnock Golf Club - W. Pickeman, another Scot visited the peninsula by boat from Sutton in 1893 and recognised Portmarnock’s golfing potential. Nine holes were designed by Mungo Park from Scotland and opened in 1894. In 1971 it became 18 holes with the course further lengthened over time. Portmarnock has built a superb reputation and hosted numerous significant tournaments. It has welcomed golfing greats and super stars including Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.

The Island – In 1887 four members of Royal Dublin rowed across from Malahide to explore some promising linksland. They founded ‘The Island’ club with ten members. It was initially strictly for the Protestant community in Malahide. The members included a brewery proprietor, a solicitor and two bankers. This reveals much about the socio-economic backgrounds of those who pioneered golf in Victorian Ireland.

Malahide Golf Club was founded in 1892, originally a links course on the coast. However eventually it suffered from erosion and had to relocate inland. The club gained some notoriety in 1947 because, in common with several other golf clubs, it recognised ladies as full members. Among their famous players is Philip Walton who sank the winning putt in the Ryder Cup at Oakhill in the U.S. in 1995.

Sutton Golf Club was founded in 1890 although golf was played over Cush Point links land before then. The popularity of golf at Sutton led to “The Golfers Hotel” opening at Sutton Cross in1897. The course required accuracy as the complete course was between the sea and the railway line. This helped to develop several fine male and female golfers who represented Ireland. There was a period when the Sutton dominated Irish golf over two decades, remarkable for a 9 hole club.

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