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Kildare Observer September/October 1932
The County of Kildare has an almost indisputable claim to be considered the cradle of golf in Ireland. Golf is not an English game. Played in ancient times amid the sand dunes of Holland it was transmitted to Scotland where it became the favourite sport of the Scottish kings, hence its appellation “the Royal and ancient game.” Its popularity in England dates back to the time of James 1, son of Mary Queen of Scots, but, while in England until quite recently the game was to a certain extent exclusive and undemocratic, it has always been democratic in Scotland, and may with some justice be termed the national pastime. The presence of highland regiments at the Curragh naturally led to golf playing there many years ago, and there’s little doubt that the Curragh Golf Club is the oldest golf club in Ireland, though it has changed considerably since it started. In a letter to the Editor of the “Irish Field” dated October 3rd, 1908, the late Mr. E.S.Gray states that he had authentic proof of there being a golf course on the Curragh, near Donnelly’s Hollow in 1857, and that he had a golf ball which was used there at that time, presented to him by a member of the Mussellburgh Club, Edinburgh, Mr. David Ritchie.
The next oldest golf club in the county – there are four altogether – is the Co. Kildare, which has now been in existence for 36 years. It was founded in 1896 by the late Mr. G. Mansfield, D.L.: J.S. Shannon, the late Mr. E.J. Gray, and Mr P.J. McCann. Of these Mr. McCann who has been so closely connected with the life of the club, is still an active member. Few clubs indeed there are which with as long a life as that of County Kildare possess a member who has been its guiding spirit since its inception.
Fewer still the clubs which possess members of more that 25 years standing, capable of meeting even professionals on their own terms and beating them. These four gentlemen got together a very small club on Mr. McCormack’s land at Halverstown, which existed only on sufferance and despite the fact that the rent was about £6 a year; it was with great difficulty raised. The course was a short iron one. As a green keeper was impossible, Mr. Shannon, who acted as hon. secretary, used to cut and roll the green himself. In January, 1899, on Mr. Shannon being promoted to a post in Loughrea as manager of the Hibernian Bank, Mr. E. Gray was elected hon. secretary, which position he held until 1902, when Mr McCann took over the reins of office; he was destined to hold them for twenty-six years.
Twelve months later negotiations were entered into for the lands of the Decoy Farm about a mile from Naas, quite near the Osberstown covert which is well known to all followers of the Kildare hounds. The club moved thither, the membership greatly increased, and the rent sevenfold. A club house was provided and the services of a professional, McGlue of Portmarnock, were secured. The land itself was somewhat poorer than the rest of the district and lent itself to the making of a course, a difficult business in Co. Kildare owing to the richness of the soil. The course was laid out by George Coburn. The hazards were all natural and consisted of sand pits, drains, furze and hedges. It was 3170 yards in length, a long course, the bogey being 42. Let not present day players imagine that this was a soft thing. There is a vast difference between a questionably spherical “gutty” and a glistening recessed Dunlop, Bromford or Silver King. During a match, believe it or not, between two inveterate players of this links, Col. Moore and Col. Wogan Browne, a crow flew off with Col. Wogan Browne’s ball. It alighted somewhere near the hole, to the joy of the Colonel, but, alas, it flew off again with the ball still a prisoner. The deluded bird owing presumably to the elliptical shape of the ball concluded it was an egg. Its efforts in digesting it are not recorded.
The original amateur record for the course, 42, held by Capt. J. H. Greer, was lowered to 38 by Mr. J. Gorry, who was captain of the club in 1908. Each of the nine holes had a name, viz, Hill of Allen (375 yards), Liffey (204), Mount Leinster (387), Lodge (283), Boreen (343), The Well (345), Decoy (186), Fox Culvert (358), Saucer (415).
The first tee was faced by two fences, one close and the other offering trouble to a moderate drive. Once over these hazards there was little difficulty. The second was a short hole easily done in bogey. At the third a drive, sliced or pulled found a ditch on one side and a fence on the other; the green was fairly well guarded by a sunken ditch, which must have caught a great number of balls. The fourth was a drive and an approach with no trouble in the way except two deep drains. The fifth was a good hole with a fence close in front of the tee and an ugly ditch running parallel with the line of the hole on the left, but straightness and a good drive made the hole an easy 5. A blind ditch threatened the tee shot for the sixth, and a difficult second was offered as the green lay under the protection of a high fence. The next was the most difficult hole, but a good iron shot landed one clear of all trouble: shortness was badly punished by a quarry. The eight was a flat hole with a fence running parallel and close to the line on the right. The last hole was made interesting by a fence or two, but rendered easy by being bogey 6.
(To be continued)

This is the first of four articles taken from the Kildare Observer of September/October 1932, on the history of the County Kildare Golf Club.The rest of the articles will appear on our e-history site over the coming weeks.

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