Origins of Nine Hole Course
Clonmel Golf Club was founded in 1911 and the nine-hole course was laid out in the verdant valley, cutting its way into the foothills of the Comeragh Mountains. Founder members were the Earl of Donoughmore, the Duchess of St. Albans and Villiers Morton-Jackson of Powerstown Park. Its first professional and groundsman was a man named Marsh, who lived in the original Pavilion that was built in 1912. The clubs first President was the Duchess of St. Albans, and the following account of the official opening, which took place on Thursday, 11th July 1912, was recorded in ” The Nationalist ” newspaper issue dated Saturday, 13th July 1912:
“On Thursday afternoon the links of the newly-formed Clonmel Golf Club was opened by Her Grace, the Duchess of St. Albans. The Club was only established early this year, but under progressive management it has made rapid headway, and now includes nearly two hundred members. The links, which are charmingly situated at the head of Glenmorgan in the hills south of Clonmel, and about two and a half miles from town, have been much used by members for months past, but now the grounds are pretty fully equipped and in grand trim and a neat little Pavilion has been erected also, where tea and light refreshments are obtainable. A splendid commencement has been made and the club is bound to flourish, because golf in such delightful and healthy surroundings will have special attraction to votaries of the pastime.
The formal opening function was fixed for 3.30 p.m., and punctually to time, the Duchess of St. Albans, accompanied by her cousin, Mr. Phipps, arrived by motor from Newtown Anner. She was received by the Mayor, Councillor James Meehan; the Captain of the club, Mr. M.J. Murphy; Mr T. Murphy, vice-president; Mr T.W. Martin, secretary, and others, and escorted to a large marquee on the grounds.
In opening the proceedings, the Mayor said: ” On behalf of the Clonmel Golf Club, it is my pleasing duty and pleasure to bid Your Grace a hearty welcome amongst us. I thank you for the honour you conferred on us by coming here today to open the links. It is but another evidence of the deep interest Your Grace takes in the citizens of Clonmel. Golf is an ancient game, but it is only in the last twenty years that it has been known in Ireland. Our people have always shown a great aptitude for games of all kinds, and I am glad to know that in golf, as in other games that require skill and prowess, we are able to hold our own (hear, hear !). Golf is a manly game and will succeed, I have no doubt. It tends to improve health, and is so fascinating a game that I am told that wherever a golf club is formed it was never known to fail. I hope that this club, which Your Grace has so kindly consented to open today, will be a big success and will be a source of pleasure and healthy enjoyment to its members. I have pleasure in introducing to Your Grace the youngest member, Master Martin, who will ask Your Grace to accept the gift he will offer you on behalf of the members as a slight souvenir of the day’s proceedings”
Master Martin then handed Her Grace a handsome silver inkstand in the form of a golf-ball and clubs. The Duchess of St. Albans, who seemed much pleased, accepted the gift with thanks and proceeding, said: “Mr Mayor, ladies and gentlemen, I feel I am a very unsuitable person to be asked to open these links today, as I don’t play golf, though my daughters are devoted golfers, but I have never had a golf club in my hand. I am, nonetheless, pleased to show interest in the club. I am very fond of the country and anything that tends to bring people together in the open air especially, I am only too anxious to encourage. I hope to be a member of the club – an honorary member. Though I know you have been playing here for some time, so that the function here today is only a matter of form, I am delighted to be here and declare the new links open. I thank you also for the beautiful souvenir you have so kindly given me (applause).
Soon after, the company moved out to the first teeing ground, where the Duchess of St. Albans putt a ball and the Mayor putt another, thus formally opening the links. Mr. Tom Travers of Kingstown and Mr. E. Marsh, the Clonmel Golf Club professional, then played a game and gave a splendid and scientific exhibition of the fine old pastime. The proceedings were of the happiest and most successful kind and was only slightly marred by a sharp shower of rain just before the opening game.
The professional match played after the opening ceremonies of the Clonmel Golf Links between E.C. Marsh, the local professional, and Tom Travers of Kingstown Club, attracted much attention. The supporters of the local man were doomed to disappointment, as he was obviously nervous and although continually gaining an advantage in the long game, he was off-colour in the close work and was rather easily defeated, showing the truth of the old axiom ” the game of golf is not to be the longest driver “. But a little luck, or rather a little less hard luck on the greens at the start would probably have made a big difference in the result, as ill-luck at the start has anything but a steadying effect on the nerves.
One shot in the game appears to deserve special comments – Travers shot out of the thick bracken at the ninth hole. He could scarcely see his ball but it went out gradually about ninety yards and lay open to the pin. He expressed his astonishment repeatedly at the excellence of the greens in their first year. Both players were loudly cheered at the finish of the match and although the large majority of the spectators cannot have been well up on the game, yet consideration shown during the match would have taught a lesson to most golfing crowds who have far greater knowledge of golf. It is saying much to be able to state that neither player was once hindered or baulked in any stroke by a spectator.”
New 18 Hole Course
It is fair to say that it is the ambition of every 9-hole golf club is to expand to an 18-hole one. In this connection the dreams and aspirations of the Clonmel Club were realised on June 15th, 1973, when Mr. Paddy McPolin, President of the Golfing Union of Ireland, formally opened our new 18-Hole course.
Club House Gate
One of the principal obstacles to an earlier extension to 18 holes was the non-availability of suitable land adjoining the old course. It was not until 1969 that the vital six acres of link land adjoining the boundary fence at the old 8th hole became available and due to the initiative and drive of Dr. Jim Morrison the negotiations for the purchase of the land were successful. Further land was also purchased on the town side, adding 71 acres to the course. This land was subsequently surveyed by Mr. Eddie Hackett, the well know golf architect, and after several visits to Clonmel plans were drawn up for the new 18-hole course. These plans resulted in the remodelling of the old 4th, now the 13th, and the scrapping of the old 5th, 6th, and 8th, which were replaced by superior holes in the new 14th, 15th and 17th. Preliminary construction work commenced in April 1970. Gilbert Howley commenced construction work on holes 3, 8 and 9 in August 1970 and a considerable amount of drainage was involved.
Much of this preliminary work, which consisted of filling in drains and stone-picking, was undertaken by groups of members working three nights a week through Spring and Summer. They were aided by Brother Harry Johnson and a group of boys from Ferryhouse. These young lads, who became popularly known as “Johnsons Fusiliers”, trudged up the two miles from Ferryhouse night after night and did trojan work on the course, which was much appreciated by the club.
Early in May 1971, work commenced on the construction of the greens and tees. The seeding of the fairways and roughs was completed by late May and the seeding of all the greens was completed by September 1971. The entire project was most satisfactory.
The whole development was carried out under the supervision of Kevin Higgins and but for his dedication and hard work the members would not now be enjoying the benefits, golfing facilities and amenities offered by an 18-hole course.
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