Officially, The Golfing Union of Ireland was founded on 12th October 1891 and is the oldest Golfing Union in the world. Coincidentally, the Ladies Golfing Union of Ireland was later created in 1893 and is the oldest ladies golfing union in the world.
The history of Golf in Ireland dates back to the mid 1800’s. With the initial plans to build a course in 1852, the Royal Curragh, which was finally established in 1858 is Irelands oldest golf course and was built on the grounds on an army barracks.
A quick look at some of Irelands oldest golf courses:
- Waterville Golf Links: 1889
- Lahinch Golf Club: 1892
- Dooks Golf Club: 1889 (oldest in Kerry)
- Ballybunion Golf Club: 1893
- Tralee Golf Club: 1896
- Royal Curragh: 1858
- Royal Belfast Golf Club: 1881 (claims to be the oldest club in Ireland)
The Irish Golf Open
The first Irish Open took place in 1927 at Portmarnock Golf Club and since then, they have hosted the event 18 more times. The 1951/52 Open was cancelled due to the breakout of world war two.
Between 1963-74 it was not the Irish Open and was called the Carroll’s International Open. Since the reincarnation of The Irish Open in 1975, some of the best names in the sport have won this event such as Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam and Bernhard Langer just to name a few.
Golf was always a popular sport in Ireland and enjoyed steady growth from the late twenty’s to the early eighty’s. This was all about to change though….
Between the years of 1989 and 2007 Ireland saw a dramatic increase in the number of people playing the game. With this increase came the construction of almost ten new courses a year nationwide. One of the clubs that was built during this period, the K Club, went on to host the Ryder Cup in 2006.
Another club that was constructed during these “boom years” was Carton House who will host the 2013 Irish Open. Build on the grounds of one of Irelands greatest stately homes, both Mark O’Meara and Colin Montgomerie were chosen to design the featured courses. The Montgomerie course will host the Open this year and is described as an “inland links” which will no doubt set the stage for a challenging four days.
Both the K Club and Carton House show the blend of modern championship golf located in the surroundings of historical Irish estates.
Unfortunately, a lot of the courses that were constructed between 89 – 07 have since been forced to close. The main reason for this was the economic crisis that struck the county in 2008.
Members began to leave their club, which resulted in the clubs lowering their green fees in order to attract non-members (to compensate for the drop in subs). In return this has resulted in more people leaving their clubs and choosing to play in numerous clubs at lowered green fee rates. Where this has been an advantage to the casual golfer, the clubs are in a tough position moving forward.
All that being said, the fact remains that there has never been more people playing golf in Ireland as there is today. The sport has seen growth since its introduction in 1858 and has not yet shown signs of slowing. A lot of this popularity is no doubt due to the incredible success of Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and the next Ryder Cup captain, Paul McGinley.
No doubt there will be more names added to that list in the coming years and the game of golf will continue to prosper in Ireland.
This blog post was sponsored by South West Ireland Golf Ltd.