Clontarf Golf Club is one of the oldest established golf clubs to be found around Dublin. Founded in 1912, on the lands of nearby Mount Temple, thanks mainly to the contribution and influence of Dr. John Love Morrow.
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, Pickton 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.
On May 28th, 1928 Walter Hagen played an exhibition match over the new 18-hole course. Hagan 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 Britsh Pathe website - click here to view. The photo opposite shows Walter in action that day.
The original entrance to the course and clubhouse was on the Howth Road, just 200 yards from the now defunct Clontarf railway station. The Club 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 then well known course architect, Harry Colt, who was associated with many other courses in Ireland including the re-designing of both Royal Portrush and Royal Dublin, was commissioned to lay out a twelve hole course, comprising outer and inner loops of six holes. The Club’s new home was officially opened in June 6, 1923 by the Governor General, Tim Healy, who was presented with an inscribed putter which is today on display in the club lounge.
The course was extended to eighteen holes and the new six holes were opened for play on June 4, 1927 although the course was not officially opened until May 9,1928. The extended course was achieved through the acquisition of additional land which today gives us our famous quarry holes-plus the 15th to the 17th holes. 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, the Rev. John Love 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 in mid 2011, 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.
Since its foundation the membership of the Club has continued to rise and now stands at 1350. To finish on a historical note, at an S.G.M. on September 5, 2001, the members voted to facilitate the progression of Lady Members to Ordinary Membership.