Clontarf Golf Club is one of the oldest established golf clubs to be found around Dublin. It was founded in 1912, on the lands of nearby Mount Temple, thanks mainly to the contribution and influence of Dr. John Love Morrow. It is also significant that at the time of the founding of the Club, as many as 90 per cent of golf courses throughout Ireland were limited to nine holes.
The Club flourished for eight years at Mount Temple until 1920 when several problems arose over the leasing of the land. Finally in August 1921, a lease was secured from Dublin Corporation on the land attached to Donnycarney House and, under the guidance of Dr. Morrow, work started immediately on laying out a new golf course there, designed by Harry Colt, the famous golf-course architect of international repute.
Colt was responsible for the famous West Course at Wentworth and the re-designing of Royal Dublin after the departure of the military from Dollymount in 1919; he later designed Royal Portrush (Dunluce course), Castle, the old Dun Laoghaire at Tivoli Road and carried out extensive work on the County Sligo course at Rosses Point and at Rosapenna, Co Donegal.
THE EARLY YEARS
Morrow, who was born in County Antrim in 1860, was a Presbyterian Minister who moved to the Clontarf area in 1890. As a young man he enjoyed fishing and shooting, but was soon to develop a passionate interest in golf. He became a player of the highest standard, reaching the status of a plus handicapper. He was later to become a member of Royal Dublin, Portmarnock, Royal Portrush, Lahinch and Knock.
Morrow’s commitment to the game continued to grow and in 1898 he became the Irish golf correspondent of Golf Illustrated. By the year 1900 he had become involved in the administration of the game, and six years later he was appointed Hon. Secretary of the Golfing Union of Ireland. It became generally accepted, in those early years, that he had done more than anyone else to popularise the game of golf in Ireland. His talents also led him into course design and he was the architect behind the Rossmore course in Monaghan.
His dream to set up Clontarf Golf Club became a reality in 1912 when he successfully negotiated with the owner, Picton Bradshaw, for leases of land at Mount Temple. He called and chaired a General Meeting in January 1912 to form the Club, and it was agreed that the entrance fee for Clontarf residents would be two guineas and three guineas for those living outside the area.
At the time of its foundation the total membership numbered 280 of which 70 were Lady Associates and 20 were Five-Day Members. Clontarf Golf Club was to become the first Irish Club to have Five-Day Members and, at the time, no golf was played on Sundays.
The Clontarf Members, however, were confronted with the problem of whether they should content themselves with another nine-hole course with the move to its present site, which would leave them with considerable land to spare, or utilise the land to its full capacity by going for a larger layout. It was finally decided that they should opt for 12 holes, comprising outer and inner loops of six. With the loops being played in opposite directions, the result was an ingenious method of completing 18 holes.
Meanwhile, a crucial move towards achieving an 18-hole layout was the purchase, in January 1927, of the interest in McCullagh’s Field (the present 16th and 17th holes) for a sum of £20. An option was also obtained on Corbett’s land (quarry holes) at that time and all details were finalised with Dublin Corporation and those particular individuals in February 1927. So it was that at the Club’s annual dinner later that month, Dr. Morrow informed the Members of the deal, emphasising that Clontarf would now be the only Club in the country to boast an 18-hole course within a city boundary.
While the entrance to the original nine-hole course on the Mount Temple lands was on the Howth Road the postal address was Clontarf, whereas today the entrance is on the Malahide Road with a postal address of Donnycarney.
WALTER HAGEN AT CLONTARF GOLF CLUB
On May 28th, 1928 Walter Hagen played an exhibition match over the new 18-hole course. Hagen partnered Club professional Jack Quinn against Willie Holley and Willie Nolan who won on the 15th. There is some great video footage available on the British Pathe website – click here to view. The photo opposite shows Walter in action that day.
THE LORD MAYOR’S CUP
Since its inception in 1951 the Lord Mayor’s Cup has been synonymous with Clontarf Golf Club. The brainchild of Jack Belton, the then Lord Mayor of Dublin and former Captain of Clontarf Golf Club, the Lord Mayor’s Cup has been competed for by golfers of distinction for over 70 years. Players such as Ryder Cup star Philip Walton, Martin Sludds and David Kinsella, who won in 1964, have all been entrants. The 1989 winner, Robbie Moore from Howth Golf Club competed in the 1999 Canadian Open at Glen Abbey Golf Club.
IRISH PGA ORDER OF MERIT
Our Club Professional, Eamonn Brady won the PGA Irish Region Order of Merit in 2015 and as a result won a place in the European Tour’s flagship event in 2016 – the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Golf Club. As an amateur Eamonn won the West of Ireland Championship on two occasions (1995 and 2000) and also represented Ireland in international events.
The original entrance to the course and clubhouse was on Howth Road, just 200 yards from the old Clontarf railway station. The Club became affiliated to the Golfing Union of Ireland on May 13, 1912, and the course was officially opened by The Earl of Aberdeen, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, on May 25, 1912. Due to problems over the leasing of the land, the Club was left with no option but to move and in August 1921, after much negotiation, secured the lease from Dublin Corporation on the land attached to Donnycarney House.
The Club’s new home was officially opened on June 6th, 1923 by the Governor General, Tim Healy, who was presented with an inscribed putter which is today on display in the Club lounge.
Apart from the addition or removal of hazards and re-siting the positions of the 12th, 13th and 15th greens the course remains very much the same as the original 18 holes layout completed in 1927.
The Clubhouse was originally built in 1781 as a private residence by Robert Carroll, and was known as Donnycarney House. Carroll was the proprietor of Donnycarney Quarries, the stone from which was used in the 18th and 19th centuries to pave many of the streets of Dublin.
The house was later to be sold several times and in 1853, it became the home of Alex Thom, the famous Scottish-born printer who had launched Thom’s Irish Almanac and Official Directory in 1844. Thom died in Donnycarney House in 1879, and when his widow, Sarah, passed away in 1903 the house became the property of Sir Andrew M. Porter, Master of the Rolls. He died in 1919. In August 1921, Dr Morrow, President of Clontarf Golf Club, received a letter from Porter’s widow, Helen, informing him of her intentions to move out.
In November of the same year, after the terms set out by Dublin Corporation were accepted, Donnycarney House became the splendid new home of Clontarf Golf Club.
Our refurbished top quality Clubhouse, completed during 2011, in preparation for the Club’s Centenary in 2012, provides a fine architectural blending of old and new. It offers convivial surroundings that can be enjoyed before and after a round of golf on our superbly manicured course.
Our Bowling Club was founded in 1925. On the 16th June 1928 the Bowling Club hosted the New Zealand v Free State League International, and the Home Internationals in 1952 with Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland participating. This event was also attended by the President of Ireland, Eamon de Valera who was presented with a silver Jack to mark the occasion.
Today the Club offers to golfers and bowlers of all generations, members and visitors, a warm welcome for membership and hospitality in very convivial surroundings.