Great Irish Golf Course Architects No. 2 - Pat Ruddy & Patrick Merrigan
Pat Ruddy comes from the small townland of Ballymote in County Sligo, North West Ireland. He has been consumed by golf all of his life. He was a good amateur player; he then became one of Ireland’s most prolific golf writers and publishers, editing magazines, writing numerous articles and books about golf. Moving on, he became a golf course architect. He has been called world's leading architect for links golf courses which are his speciality. Finally he designed and built his own course the European, just 30 miles south of Dublin, now a world ranked course.
Ruddy has designed or re-modelled many of Ireland’s top courses. His complete designs include: The European Club, Ballyliffin Glashedy and Rosapenna Sandy Hills. He has carried out substantial work at Portsalon (13 holes), Rosapenna Old (12 holes) Donegal (11 holes), and Ballyliffin Old (7-holes). Another fine links is the ‘little gem’ at Connemara Isles. Famous inland courses he designed are Druids Glen with Tom Craddock and Druids Heath.
For years Pat Ruddy dreamed of having his own course. Very few golf course architects have achieved this. He searched for some suitable linksland and located it at Brittas Bay. He then negotiated with a farmer for the land and put together the purchase price. Pat and his son Gerald spent five years building the golf course with their own labour. They drove front loaders and backhoes, laid irrigation pipes and overall completed about 90 percent of the golf course themselves.
The amazing result is a very special seaside links. There is great routing through towering dunes, plenty of gorse, high rough, numerous deep bunkers and some blind shots. The sea is very visible and the salty wind blows across this dramatic piece of linksland. Ruddy has been tinkering and improving or updating the course over the years. The course record of 67 is held by Tiger Woods and it is admired by many famous tour professionals. It is constantly ranked in the World top 100.
Patrick Merrigan (1942 to 2016)
Patrick Merrigan came from Woodenbridge, County Wicklow and had a farming background. He graduated in agricultural science from University College, Dublin and then worked as a soil scientist. He emigrated to Australia in 1969 and lectured for three years at an agricultural college before returning to Ireland. His first job was as project manager for development of the links at Waterville to a design by Eddie Hackett. Later Merrigan became known for being meticulous with his attention to detail and for having had splendid ideas. His work at Waterville led to his career as a golf course architect.
Courses built or re-modelled
He was involved with the design or re-modelling of some 20 courses in Ireland. The highly ranked courses include Old Head of Kinsale with Joe Carr, Slieve Russell, Tullamore, Royal Curragh, Tulfarris House, Grange Castle and Woodenbridge.
Other historic courses re-modelled included Elm Park, Delgany and Sutton Golf Links.
His Greatest Achievement
Patrick Merrigan was part of a team that designed the unique golf course at Old Head. Eddie Hackett was a golf professional who later became Ireland’s leading golf architect of his day. Joe Carr was the leading Irish Amateur golfer of his generation. Ron Kirby was an experienced American golf architect and qualified agronomist. Patrick Merrigan was also a renowned golf architect and an agronomist.
This was a difficult project which was unpopular with the local population. The magnificent Old Head of Kinsale stretched 2 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean. The first nine holes are much admired as they unfold along scary 250-foot cliffs, a terrifying form of water hazard. The sea is with you all the way surf crashing on the rocks below. Throughout the whole course even as it turns inland there are vistas of the Atlantic.
Merrigan was passionate about his work full of ideas, very thorough and there were no half-measures. He was artistic in temperament and independent of mind which did not appeal to some golf course owners. The team overcame severe difficulties presented by this project and created a World Class course which is often termed a links but purists would probably suggest that clifftop is a better description.