Royal Dublin Golf Club


Royal Dublin Golf Club is quite unusual in that it is only about 3 miles from the centre of Dublin the capital city. It is steeped in golfing history and claims to be the second oldest golf club in Ireland. This is based on the assumption that Royal Belfast is the oldest. However, Royal Curragh now claims to have evidence that it is the oldest. It makes you wonder if it matters and if so is there any adjudication system to resolve the question.


Historic Summary

The club was founded in 1885 by Mr. John Lumsden and called the Dublin Golf Club with a  nine hole course in Phoenix park. They then moved to Sutton in 1886 and finally to the North Bull Island in 1889, less than 20 minutes from Dublin’s busy city centre. It received its Royal designation in 1891 and was officially given the title of The Royal Dublin Golf Club. North Bull Island had only began to form in 1819.  Captain William Bligh of mutiny on the bounty fame suggested a wall be built to force the water between Poolbeg and North Bull lighthouses. This would allow bigger vessels access the Dublin Port. The result was that sand began to deposit and eventually North Bull Island was formed. The island is currently about 700 acres and continues to grow by 18 inches every year. In 1981 the island was made a UNSECO Biosphere site which offers a diverse ecological system including internationally important habitats and species of wildlife. 
After WW1 the leading golf architect Harry Colt designed a new 18 hole layout. The club received £10,000 compensation for war damage and the clubhouse was reconstructed. Among the many changes made was the decision to build up new tees at the 5th, 7th, 8th and 9th holes, offering a fine view of Dublin Bay, which had previously been hidden as the tees were below the level of the modest sand dunes. The original course was not too dissimilar to the to the current layout. It was modified by Martin Hawtree In 2006 resulting in a 7,267-yard, par-72 links of good quality.


Royal Dublin Golf Course (  7267 yards), par 72)

The course is relatively flat and is a classic out and back routing. This is fairly unusual in Ireland but necessary on a narrow island. The original routing by Harry Colt is perfect considering the terrain that he had available on Bull Island. It is quite narrow  and requires accurate driving with long stretches of out of bounds. This is a course with everything there before you. There are no tricks or surprises, you just need to hit good shots with a careful strategy. Tee shots are made difficult by careful placement of bunkers. The course is quite flat and the fairways generally reasonably wide. They are  well defended and ready to punish wayward shots. The depth of bunkers tends to offset the absence of significant dunes. There is little change in elevation and no rumpling of fairways. The low terrain is wide open to the wind which generally effects the back nine more than the front nine. There are some very beautiful green complexes. Overall the greens are outstanding with some brutally deep greenside bunkers and some on the fairways are not much easier. In the 1990’s golf courses were being challenged by the exceptional length of leading amateurs and professionals. Club and ball development meant that traditional lengths for par-4 golf holes were being overwhelmed. Having enjoyed the traditional Harry Colt design for 80 years, the members realised the links needed to be updated. Martin Hawtree, was engaged to review the links and make necessary improvements. He managed to keep the essence of Colt’s genius, while redesigning just three holes in full, the 6th, 7th and 8th. There were subtle alterations to other holes and the raising and contouring of all 18 greens adding run offs and undulations to some greens. Royal Dublin has to be one of the best true links golf courses within a city, in fact a capital city. It is only about three miles from the city centre.

Christy O’Connor Senior joined Royal Dublin in 1959 as club professional, and his association with the club continued for 57 years. Christy represented Great Britain and Ireland on ten consecutive occasions in the Ryder cup and played for Ireland in a remarkable 15 world cups, famously winning in 1958 with the great Harry Bradshaw who was professional at Portmarnock. Christy was a sporting hero to the Irish people through the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. On November 2nd 2009, Christy received one of the highest honours in golf when he was inducted into the World Golf Hall Of Fame. 


Royal Dublin Selected Championship History.

Irish Amateur Open

The Royal Dublin Golf Club has hosted many Irish championships, starting with the Irish Amateur Open Championship. The Championship is held annually in Ireland and organised by the Golfing Union of Ireland. In its early days it was rotated between four premier courses in Ireland, that is Royal County Down, Royal Portrush, Portmarnock and Royal Dublin. Initially it was played as a match-play tournament but since 1958 it has been played as a 72-hole stroke-play event. The Irish Amateur Open has been played 29 times in total on the challenging Royal Dublin links.

Renowned golfers John Ball and Harold Hilton won the Irish amateur at Royal Dublin. Ball and Hilton are two of only three men to have won the British open and British amateur, the third golfer to do so was the golfing great Bobby Jones when he won the grand slam of

major titles in 1930.  A famous winner of the Amateur Open at Royal Dublin was Louis Oosthuizen from South Africa who went on to win the 2010 Open Championship.


Irish Open Championship

The first tournament dates back to 1927 and there was no tournament from 1954 to 1974 because of the troubles. Royal Dublin has hosted the tournament six times (1931, 1936, 1950, 1983, 1984, 1985). In 1931 Bob Kenyon from England held off six runners-up to win by 2 strokes. In 1935 Reg Whitcombe from England  won by 2 strokes. In the previous year his brother Ernest had beaten him in a play off in this tournament at Royal County Down.

The Royal Dublin Golf Club hosted The Carrolls Irish Open from 1983-1985 with Seve Ballesteros winning in 1983 and 1985 and Bernhard Langer winning in 1984. The Irish open was the biggest event on the European tour held just after the British Open and  attracted many of the world’s leading players. In 1985 after 72 holes Ballesteros and Langer were tied which required a sudden death playoff. They tied the 17th, the 18th, the 17th again, and then Seve holed a fantastic putt of 40 feet across the 18th. The crowd around the green was huge and witnessed a memorable magic moment in sport.


Selected Golf Holes

Hole 4 – Feather Bed – 178 yards, par 3, Index 13  – An attractive and memorable hole that usually needs a mid-iron. The green is well protected by four bunkers and is slanting and  tricky to putt. If you do not find the green to be short is best.

Hole 5 – Ireland’s Eye – 488 yards, par 4, Index 2 - A long par four with narrow fairways. Left of centre is the best line from the tee. There are mounds either side of the fairway which complicate any wayward shot. The front of the long green is relatively open so land the second shot short and allow the ball to run in. Avoid the deep bunker left front.

Hole 10 - Marne – 462 yards, Par 4, Index 1 –  A long par four that plays even longer. From the tee aim for the left side of the fairway. A good firm strike is needed  for the approach shot to clear the burn in front of the green.

Hole 11 - Colt’s – 547 yards, par 5, index 11 – A long par five with six bunkers at the turn of the fairway. A challenging tee shot, bunkers on both sides of the fairway to be avoided on the second shot and the burn on the right is in play. The burn is also on the left near the green. The best opportunity for a birdie is to be on the same side as the flag. The green is heavily contoured in the centre.

Hole 18 - Garden – 483 yards, par 4, index 3 – This is a potential card wrecker with a severe dogleg right. There are bunkers, bushes and trees down the left and a burn and out of bounds on the right. The right side of the fairway sets up the possibility of carrying the out-of-bounds A dilemma for the short hitter is whether to fly the out of bounds or lay up well short of the green. There is a lateral water hazard before the green, which is the largest on the links.


Local Attractions

The National Gallery of Ireland houses the national collection of Irish and European art and is located in the centre of Dublin. It was founded in 1854 and opened  ten years later.[1] The gallery has an extensive, representative collection of Irish paintings and is also notable for its Italian Baroque and Dutch masters painting.

Pearse Lyons Distillery is a new craft distillery in the Liberties area of Dublin. A passion for brewing and distilling, family history and an entrepreneurial spirit inspired restoration of the former St. James’ Church site. Visitors can enjoy a story of local history, curious characters and signature Pearse Irish Whiskey. While small-batch copper pot stills are distilling the next batch, you can sample craft Irish Whiskeys in the nave of the church. Distillery tours are every hour on the hour and are small in size, making an enjoyable personal experience. Whether you are an intrepid whiskey enthusiast or culturally curious you are sure to enjoy a journey through 800 years of history at St. James with the local storytellers. The Distillery Tour gives an insight into the whiskey heritage and stories behind the iconic Dublin district known as The Liberties. Visitors can also touch, taste and smell every step of the distilling process, meet with the distillers and taste the signature Pearse Irish Whiskey.

Dublin Castle

The Castle is not very attractive from the front, but it covers a large area and most of it is free. It has been at the heart of the development and history of Dublin for over 800 years. The Castle contains the principal staterooms in the country, the State Apartments and Government buildings. There is a great deal to see, the Gardens, the gothic Chapel Royal, Great Courtyard, eccentric Revenue museum, and the captivating Chester Beatty Library with its remarkable collection of art and manuscripts.


Other attractions include Trinity College and College Green, Kilmainham Gaol, Kildare Street Museums and Houses of Parliament, Merrion Square, Mansion House, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral.

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