Innovation and quality the hallmarks of Carton House
Director of Golf David Kearney has big plans for Carton House

Director of Golf David Kearney has big plans for Carton House

The Dukes of Leinster may not have thrown open the gates of Carton House to all and sundry, but the Mallaghan family are keen that everyone should enjoy one of Ireland’s great sporting and cultural venues.

The owners of the 1,000-acre estate near Maynooth in Co Kildare believe that it’s an amenity to be savoured by all.

True to their word — and to mark the arrival of prestigious PGA professional David Kearney as Director of Golf this year — there will be “Evening Golf at Carton” for families, or a group of mates, who fancy a quick five holes from June to mid-July this year.

It’s all part of Mayo-born Kearney’s plan to offer the 850 members innovative additions to one of Ireland’s most prestigious memberships.

"We want to invite members of other clubs in Ireland to come at half seven or eight o clock and bring their kid along too,” explained Kearney, who began his new role as Director of Golf in January, replacing new Portmarnock professional, Francis Howley.

The 18th green on the Montgomerie Course

The 18th green on the Montgomerie Course

“You might pay a tenner, but your kid pays nothing. Perhaps you are someone who has always wanted to play at Carton House and never got the chance.

“We will have it set up so that you come and play the first five holes. There is enough light in June and early July, and we are not selling tee times at that time of day anyway."

The idea is a no-brainer and just what Irish golf needs at a time when families are put off by a game that takes too long and costs too much. 

Kearney added: “The Mallaghans have always operated Carton House with the vision of saying, ‘Let’s share it with everybody.’ So this gives families and parents the chance to come and see what we are all about.

“It is a lovely thing to have your tea at home and then say, ‘We are all going to Carton for the evening,’” added Kearney, who is one of the most respected PGA coaches in Europe and the ILGU’s High-Performance Manager for the past 15 years.

“The mum or dad might not play, or the mum might not play, but they will all walk together and play together."

The Shell Cottage overlooks the 15th and 16th on the O'Meara Course

The Shell Cottage overlooks the 15th and 16th on the O'Meara Course

Considering the below cost selling that’s going in Irish golf — also known as the race to the bottom — Carton House wants to make its members feel that their €2,500 annual subscription is more than worth it.

The resort is eagerly counting down to the days to the World Amateur Team Championships for both men and women in September 2018.

In other words, it will be an even busier hive of activity than normal.

If a Premier League football club is not there for some pre-season training, it's the Irish rugby team going through its paces before the Six Nations or the Dublin Gaelic football team in pre-Championship camp.

Such a huge operation needs to work like clockwork and Kearney’s job is not only to make sure the 36-hole golf club generates solid business for the hotel.

He must also attend to the needs of the 850 members and be as innovative in his role as Director of Golf as he is when dealing with elite women golfers such as Leona Maguire, Olivia Mehaffey or Annabel Wilson, who won Ireland’s first bronze at last year’s World Amateur Team Championships in Mexico.

Coaching is Kearney’s strength, and he is using that expertise to help his members become even better golfers.

The par-three 16th on the O'Meara Course at Carton House

The par-three 16th on the O'Meara Course at Carton House

A series of four Wednesday Chats with the members began on February 15, each one designed not only to build awareness of what will be required to run a successful World Amateur Team Championship in 2018 but also to make the members better golfers.

“I did the first one - an hour chat about getting yourself ready for golf in 2017,” Kearney explained, adding that members can bring a guest to the forthcoming evenings on March 8 and March 15.

“Some of the coaches from the ILGU training ticket are coming along to explain how they do their work: Robbie Cannon will do strength and conditioning; Chris Jelly will talk about the benefits of Trackman; Donal Scott will do putting and performance analysis. The goal is to drive activity that isn’t there."

Inspiring the members to take ownership of the World Amateur Team Championships is another big goal. 

David Kearney

David Kearney

Developing potential is another, and that’s a remit that's as relevant to Kearney's work with the ILGU’s High-Performance squad as it is to the staff that works under him as Director of Golf at Carton House.

“They are all teams," he said. "They all need nurturing. They all need help. They all need direction. 

"I want to look the guys in the eye, see what's happening and how they feel about their work and it's the same with the ILGU."

With 600 men, 100 ladies and 140 junior members, Carton House is a big club that sits at the centre of Irish golf, given its proximity to GUI HQ.

“We are very keen for PGA pros to come here with their members to enjoy the place for the day,” Kearney said. “We'd like to have that kind of open shop, so people come and enjoy the place.”

As a major resort employing 300 staff, Carton House is primarily a big golf business that has to pay its way.

From May 22-24, Kearney and mental coach Dr Karl Morris will be running a three-day residential school that promises to be hugely successful.

“When you have a place that is operating at much lower than its capacity, you have to look at filling its capacity,” Kearney said. “If that capacity hasn't been filled over the last ten years, nothing I am going to do is going to work unless it is innovative.”

Innovation is the name of the game, and in Kearney, Carton House has found the man to make ideas — big and small— work.

Your chariot awaits at Carton House

Your chariot awaits at Carton House

Carton House Golf Club

Green fees

Midweek €50 - €90/Weekend €70 - €95. Winter midweek deal rates from €35 incl. breakfast

Society rates

€40 - €60 depending on size of group. Winter midweek deal rates from €29 (min 12 people). To enquire about group rates, contact: 

  • Buggy hire: Yes/ €40
  • Club hire: Yes/€40
  • Electric trolleys: Yes/€15
  • Range Balls: Yes/€5 

Signature holes

O’Meara: 15th O’Meara 557 yards (Blue), 528 yards (White), 465 yards (Green), 435 (Red): A beautiful par 5 that sweeps left to right, the approach is played over water, with the weir on the right and the spectacular shell cottage in view beyond the green.  

Tip: Only really long hitters will attempt this green in two shots so it is important to be to be sure of your distance and stay committed to the shot.

Montgomerie: 5th Montgomerie, 474 yards (Blue), 443 yards (White), 407 yards (Green), 372 yards (Red): A very tough par-four that requires a drive to be threaded through the bunkers left and right. The entrance to the green is very narrow for the approach shot with a run off into the three bunkers surrounding the green.

Tip: The 12 bunkers on this hole must be avoided at all costs if you wish to have a good score. The approach shot is deceiving and play is slightly up-hill. An extra club is recommended to assure your distance control.

Nearby clubs

  • Castleknock Golf Club
  • Castlewarden Golf & Country Club
  • Clane Golf Club
  • Grange Castle Golf Club
  • Hermitage Golf Club
  • Hollystown Golf Club
  • Lucan Golf Club
  • Luttrellstown Castle Golf & Country Club
  • Westmanstown Golf Club
This piece first appeared in the Irish Independent's weekly Tee to Green golf supplement on February 23.