Dun Laoghaire eases into its elegant new clothes

Dun Laoghaire eases into its elegant new clothes
Dun Laoghaire Golf Club

Dun Laoghaire Golf Club

Sit in a comfortable armchair overlooking the magnificent views of the Wicklow Mountains from the high perch of Dun Laoghaire Golf Club and you could be quickly forgiven for drifting off into dreams of golfing derring-do.

The vistas are so pleasing and the surroundings so painstakingly appointed that even the golfer who has failed to produce Championship winning form on whatever combination of nines were in play on the 27 hole course that particular day will soon find themselves at ease with the world.

Many of modern golf’s larger complexes are commercial affairs that lack the warmth and homely atmosphere of the traditional club.

But Dun Laoghaire, which gave up its modest 78-acre site on the Tivoli Road after more than 90 years and voted overwhelmingly to accept a generous offer from property developers to move to a spectacular, 320-acre home in Ballyman Glen in 2007, is not one of those.

It is owned and run by its 1,500 members who enjoy 27 magnificent holes offering sweeping views dominated by the Sugarloaf and the Irish Sea.

It’s a special site and it turned out to be an inspired move by the members, who also got a multi-million euro cash bonus from the developers to give up their old Harry Colt course for a state-of-the-art facility constructed to the highest possible specification by architect, Marc Westenborg of the Hawtree company.

The club celebrated the tenth anniversary of its move to its new home last year and having hosted the Curtis Cup in 2016, it has embarked on the next phase of its development with no little enthusiasm and club spirit.

Dun Laoghaire

Dun Laoghaire

"Ten years on, the course has really matured very well," said General Manager, Justin Lowry, who has been in situ for the past five years.

"A lot of trees that were planted are starting to mature and the course is really coming on. In fact, we are redesigning one of our holes right now - the par-three seventh on the Middle Nine.”

Once a ferocious beast measuring 229 metres from the back tee and a forbidding 205 metres from the tees used for medal play by the men, the new hole will be open for play in mid-May, and it promises to be something special.

A series of ponds will cascade down the right-hand side of the hole and run across the front, forcing golfers to carry H20 for some of the 150-metre journey to the new green.

“We don’t have a signature It will be a real feature hole in a run of great finishing holes on that Middle Nine,” Justin explained. “Our architect Marc Westenborg is carrying out the work, and it is very exciting to see it all come together. The original hole, the members felt, was perhaps a little too long.”

Keeping the course in tip-top shape is paramount and many noticed that while play was suspended for a few hours during the Curtis Cup and it was feared that it might be abandoned for the day, the course was playable again 20 minutes later.

"All three nines are designed and maintained to the same specifications so while some 27 hole clubs have a preferred 18, we don’t,” added the man tasked with keeping the ship sailing smoothly along. “We alternate them for many reasons.

"But we are in the fortunate position that we can improve where we can, and we feel it is the right thing to do. Maintenance never suffers here and our superintendent Des McGann has a great team of up to 16 staff at the height of the season.”

Dun Laoghaire is not sand and grass, bricks and mortar but its members and the spirit of the club’s 108-year history has not been lost in the move. 

"This is a members club, member-owned and member run and the social aspect of the club is huge. We have the biggest book club in the country, a vibrant bridge club, a bowling rink, an art club and a darts and solo club. All told we have over 1,500 members, including 300 juniors in a vibrant junior scene.”

With more than 17,000 spectators attending the Curtis Cup, the club new has attracted many new admirers and membership continues to grow.

With Kevin Kelliher, a former club junior, installed as head professional since the new course opened in 2007, the members enjoy what is arguably the most impressive facility in the country.

“What a fabulous place,” then Taoiseach, Enda Kenny enthused when the Curtis Cup contract between the LGU and Dun Laoghaire was signed in late 2014.

“This is not a golf course at all, this is sublimely imaginative.

“In your choice of Dun Laoghaire, you have come here not just because of the fabulous facilities but because the ambience and the environment and the people.  This club and everyone behind it will row in behind this to make the Curtis Cup in 2016 a really phenomenal success.”

Great Britain and Ireland went on to win that week with Ireland's Leona Maguire, Olivia Mehaffey and Maria Dunne all playing key roles.

No doubt the Kingstown residents who met at the Royal Marine Hotel for the inaugural meeting of Kingstown Golf Club in December 1909 would have been highly impressed..

Several hundred Men and Lady Associates were elected that evening and 36 acres of land were leased at Eglinton Park and Highthorn, a nine-hole course was designed; and a clubhouse was built for the princely sum of £1,265.

November 1910 witnessed the extension of the course to 18 holes before Harry Colt designed a new layout after World War I that was to remain almost unchanged for another eighty-odd years.

As the club grew, it became clear that it had outgrown its original home and in 2002, the members once again convened in the Royal Marine Hotel.

After a long and sometimes heated debate, the offer to relocate was accepted by 79 percent of the members.

While losing an old friend can be traumatic, the move has turned out to be a great success.

It’s not that the 27 holes - complete with five sets of tees - give the humble rabbit as much pleasure as they do the tiger but that the club has retained the vibrancy that made it such a success in the first place.

If your golf fails you, the views are worth the trip alone.

Factfile Dun Laoghaire Golf Club

Ballyman Road, Enniskerry, Co. Dublin



+353 1 2721866

Green feess

See website

Society Rates

Contact club. Not available Sat/Sun

Buggy hire

Yes, €35

Club hire

Yes, €50

Pull trolleys

Yes, €3

Electric trolleys

Yes, €10

Range Balls

Yes, €2

Feature hole

7th Middle – A spectacular hole that requires a very accurate tee shot in order to avoid a number of hazards. The lay out of the hole challenges golfers to make a carry of 150 metres from the championship tee to a narrow 2-tiered green. The green is protected by a large bunker to the left and a cascading water feature to the right.

Membership rates

Annual Subscription Full Member €2,410

Nearby clubs

Old Conna
Druids Glen

This feature first appeared in the Irish Independent’s weekly golf supplement, Tee to Green on 15 February 2018