Eddie Hackett is widely regarded as The “Father of Golf Course Design” in Ireland. Few, if any have had such an influence over the game of golf in Ireland and how we play it to- day. Already in his late fifties before designing his first 18 hole course, there is little doubt that his legacy lives with us today.
Eddie attended school in Dublin and went on to play his amateur golf at Hermitage GC. It was only after a number of years working as an assistant golf professional at Royal Dublin GC (Fred Smyth Head Professional), Waterloo GC, Belgium (Henry Cotton Head Professsional), Johannesburg CC (Sid Brews Head Professional), that Eddie took the position as Head Professional at Elm Park GC. He succeeded Willie Nolan at Portmarnock GC in 1939 as the head professional.
In 1950 he was reinstated as an amateur and played his golf at the Foxrock GC but re- joined the professional ranks again in 1963 offering his services to clubs for short periods under the GUI Temporary Professional Scheme.
It was not until the mid 1960s that he commenced with a career in golf course design, where he showed an obvious skill for routing golf courses, particularly links courses. In his formative years he worked closely with Fred Hawtree on the second course at Killarney GC and the new course at Westport GC. He would have learned much from Fred Hawtree.
It is recorded that he was involved in 35 new golf course designs in Ireland and that he remodelled 75 others. That is quite a workload for a one man operation and I have no doubt that he contributed design solutions to many other clubs that is not recorded.
People say that the greatest legacy that an architect may leave is the golf courses that are built in the ground. That is an admirable thing to say and based on conversations I have had, there is little doubt that Eddie Hackett would be quite humbled and might offer… “arragh…not at all”. He was, after all, very gracious when Ballybunion GC employed the services of Trent Jones Jnr and Tralee engaged the services of Arnold Palmer, both clubs where he previously had an association…
But I believe his greatest legacy is not only in the ground that he modelled and worked “alongside Mother Nature” but also the manner in which he went about his work. I have spoken to many golfers who encountered Eddie Hackett or have heard stories about the time he visited their club. Without exception they remember the man with great fondness. He left an impact not only on their golf courses but on the people he engaged with along the way. They loved his simplicity and his passion for the great game we all enjoy.
There is not sufficient room in this piece to explore Eddie Hackett’s design characteristics but suffice to say that he will be remembered for laying his hand at Carne Links, Waterville Links, Ballybunion GC, Connemara Links, Murvagh GC, Enniscrone GC, Ceann Sibeal Links, North West Links, The Island and Tralee GC to mention only a few.
But is it not a greater legacy to be remembered for the manner in which one went about their business and the impact one left on those you met along the road… I think so… Eddie Hackett has quite a legacy in the kingdom of golf.
Ar dheis De go raibh a anam.
Ken Kearney is a former Irish international golfer and golf course designer. He won the Irish Amateur Close Championship in 1997, the East of Ireland Championship in 1999 and 2001 and the West of Ireland title in 1992. He established Ken Kearney Golf Design in 2005. Read his latest newsletter here.