The European is like no other Golf Club in Ireland. It was located, purchased, designed, and constructed by one man Pat Ruddy with a dream to own his own golf course, supported by his family.
It is a modern, true seaside links golf course that he opened for play in 1993. He has stayed involved with the course and can be found out on the links overseeing changes and improvements.
The European was immediately given recognition as ‘World Class’ and has been consistently in the World's Top 100 Golf Courses lists each year since opening.
The European is perhaps the total opposite of the other modern course that opened in 1997. Old Head was built to be private, extremely exclusive and attractive to International golfers. The European was summed up by Tom Coyne in his book ”A Course Called Ireland”.
After playing the course and talking with fellow writer Pat Ruddy he wrote. Ruddy built his club as a place where “Golf is played for its own sake rather than as an adornment of modern business and social life”.
In the one storey clubhouse, there was a simple pro shop, an unfussy restaurant, a utilitarian locker room and a kitchen. Not a sniff of pretention, the brick and mortar kept plain to let the golf course speak.
Pat Ruddy was born in Ballina in 1945 but was raised in the small townland of Ballymote in County Sligo.
His father an avid golfer and reader was the resident postmaster. Ruddy played some of his early golf at County Sligo which had been remodelled by Harry Colt in 1927.
He has been consumed by golf all of his life and was a good amateur player. He initially worked as a golf writer and was involved in publishing and editing magazines, writing numerous articles and books about golf.
However, he had always been interested in golf architecture. Ruddy aspired to have a golf course of his own since learning that Jimmy Demaret and Jack Burke two famous US golfers were founding a golf course of their own.
In 1958 they opened The Champions Club in Texas. Ruddy had to wait some time before he could pursue his dream.
In 1969 he was engaged by Castlecomer Golf Club in the Irish Midlands to redesign their nine-hole parkland course for a nominal fee. It was a start as a Golf Architect.
In the meantime he made a name for himself, particularly designing or updating true links golf 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).
Famous inland courses he designed include Druids Glen with Tom Craddock and Druids Heath.
By the mid 1980’s he was looking for suitable linksland. He surveyed the East coast by helicopter in a search for a classic golf location.
He identified it at lovely Brittas Bay just 40 miles south of Dublin the capital city. In 1986 the main site for The European Club came on the market about two years after it had been noted as a potential site.
Dunes encroached inland for half-a-mile reaching a height of eighty feet and a depth of forty. Having bought the land 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 per cent of the golf course themselves.
It opened in December 1992 after naming the club and patenting the unusual logo design. The original cost to play was £10 at the gate. It opened initially on a three-day week basis and for seven days from May 1993.
( 7490 yards, par 71 )
The links of The European Club is located in magnificent tumbling sand dunes on the Irish Sea about 40 miles south of Dublin. It is at Brittas Bay between Wicklow and Arklow.
There are sweeping sea views from nineteen of the twenty holes. There are two extra par three’s and they can be in play or allowing work on other holes.
Five holes run so close to the sea that golfers may be seen retrieving their golf balls from the beach. This proximity to the beach is unusual resulting in a very special seaside links golf course.
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 and gives the golf that extra dimension. Year after year the work goes on with Ruddy directing design improvements.
The links benefited from Ruddy’s experience in terms of writing about golf and playing the game. His experience gained at designing or amending previous courses was invaluable and he was ready to meet the challenge of the modern player with modern equipment.
Starting from picking the land he had full control over the design and was on the spot tweaking and improving as the course developed.
It is a long tough links at 7,490-yards from the tips but each golfer can choose a set of tees that fits his game and tee off from 6,795-yards, 6,194-yards or 5,434-yards.
The construction is good, particularly the bunkers and greens, The bunkers have their walls lined with railway sleepers. They are quite remarkable and give a brilliantly stark definition to the links and fair warning to the players regarding hazard locations.
The sleeper has, of course, been a part of links design in Britain and Ireland ever since the time that train was the best way to travel to many courses.
The railway companies donated old sleepers to the golf clubs. Railway companies were closely linked to many early clubs in Ireland.
The course was designed to test the leading professional of today and onwards. It has a flexible routing that can cope in the future as the game continues to develop.
Its reputation has encouraged many leading golfers to play the course:
This does not mean that the course is too tough for the average player. It will be a thorough examination for them.
Low or medium trajectory shots will do well on the fast running fairways and fifteen of the greens suit a running shot.
Shorter hitters need to play off suitable tees and play strategic golf with good control to enjoy the course.
This is also a course that can be quirky with many unique designs and not least the longest green in the world at hole twelve that is 127-yards from front to back, all good fun as golf is meant to be.
The European is extraordinary in certain places, notably on the back nine where a succession of dramatic holes run parallel to the ocean. The fundamental nature of playing here is that the course maintains a wild, untamed charm.
Having said that Pat Ruddy believes in healthy grass presented in a way that allows the ball to run fast on landing. He stresses the importance of presenting nice golfing conditions.
At the European, the greens and lush fairways are equal or superior to any seaside venue.
Everyone will enjoy the many unique designs and not least the longest green in the world at hole twelve.
470 yards, par 4, index 1
This long par four is set on a sandbank that runs through a bed of reeds.
A burn runs along the right hand side. On the left are towering dunes, a marsh filled with reeds and more sand dunes by the green.
There is a possibility of being out of bounds or your ball in deep rough on each side of the fairway. Brittas Bay can be viewed beyond the green
459 yards, par 4, index 6
This hole plays along the bay with the beach to the right. The view from the elevated tee is stunning.
It is a slight dogleg left. There is a carry that must be made which is not too long unless it’s into the wind.
There is good bunkering throughout.
The green is a unique somewhat quirky design being 125 yards long with some undulations. It is said to be the longest green in the world.
566 yards, par 5, index 15
An excellent par five along the water. It has four severe bunkers on the left hand side and trouble in general on both sides including fine bunkering through to the green.
The Irish Sea and beach is on the right
195 yards, par 3, index 17
An amazing par three that plays uphill through a valley with heavy rough on both sides.
The plateau green is shielded by huge dunes and slopes back to front.
415 yards, par 4, index 15
A short dogleg left par four. The last hole with the coast and beach to the right.
There are five bunkers to the left deterring players who would like to shorten the hole.
You play uphill to a well-contoured green with a fall off to the right.
In the Mountains and the peaceful township of Glencullen is the highest pub in the country.
Established in 1798 Johnnie Fox’s is just a 20-minute drive from Bray.
Great food comes from great ingredients. The menu offers classic Irish dishes along with impressive seafood platters and a few modern favourites. Breads from the bakery and desserts are baked daily.
You could be tempted with the secret recipe whiskey pudding.
There is Live Music seven nights a week.
A mile from Brittas Bay beach there is an archaeologically rich area with evidence of habitation since the Bronze Age.
Features of historical significance include:
This dates back to 3,500 BC and pre-dates the great pyramid of Giza, Newgrange and Stonehenge.
Local people say that there was originally two stones and one is in a ditch nearby.
It is also thought that the missing stone is a female and the other a male, in the past cattle and horses were passed between them the stones to make them fertile.
Ogham is the oldest form of writing in Ireland and is a mixture of old Irish & Norse.
The translation is Neta Cari Neta Cagi which is thought to mean the nephew of Cagi whose land this was.
There is only one other Ogham stone in County Wicklow.
This stone dates from the fourth century and many unlikely legends have been passed down about the Stone.
The church dates from the 12th century. It was partly ruined during the reformation and was used for secret catholic worship after this time.
The graveyard contains the graves of many of the Byrne family and the oldest headstone that can be read is from 1720.
Also buried here is William Duffy who died at 95years in 1741 making his birth date 1646.
He would have seen Oliver Cromwell’s army marching through this area.
The ruined church has no designated saint but as part of recent research, it has been discovered that there is a St. Kevin’s well in the area which would identify this Church as his.
Also, the holy water font of this church can be seen outside Brittas Bay Church.
The Chocolate Garden is found in beautiful South West Wicklow, between Tullow and Shillelagh.
Connoisseurs of coffee travel to enjoy the award-winning coffee and enthusiasts of quality ice cream and chocolate love the delicious sundaes.
Any trip to the Chocolate Garden is guaranteed to please.
They serve luxury handmade chocolates, chocolate spreads, biscuits, gift hampers and hot chocolate.
Here the Avonmore and Avonbeg rivers come together to form the Avoca River.
The ‘Meetings’ is known locally as the location where the famous Irish Poet Thomas Moore created his famous Irish Melody, “The Meeting of the Waters”.
You can follow the Avoca Valley to reach the scenic village of Avoca that was made famous by the TV Series Ballykissangel in the 1990s.
The Meeting of the Waters:
“There is not in this wide world a valley so sweet
As that vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet!
Oh the last rays of feeling and life must depart
Ere the bloom of that valley shall fade from my heart”
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