Founded in 1899 as the Leinster Golf Club, it’s first course of 9 holes was at Gotham in Co. Kildare, five miles from Carlow. The Bray Professional, R. Larkin, was the designer and thirteen members played in the first competition in July 1899.
The name was changed to the Carlow Golf Club on 27th June 1901 and the Club was affiliated to the Golfing Union in 1903.
Captain of 1922, Rev. Michael H. Bolger, a Roman Catholic, army chaplain, having seen service in France in the 1914/18 war, obtained a lease on 165 acres of the Deerpark, part of the Bruen family estate at Oak Park. Cecil Barcroft (1871-1924), a Portrush Barrister and designer, was engaged to plan the first course. So successful were his efforts that it was not until 1937 that any changes were deemed necessary. That famous Scot, Tom Simpson, was commissioned and assisted by Molly Gourlary, a lady international scratch player, they changed 10 greens and re designed many of the bunkers, both sand and grass. What a tribute it is to the work of Barcroft and Simpson that no alterations have taken place to this day other than the cosmetic adding of yards, tees and bunkers.
The first major exhibition was staged in 1934 between U.S. Professional Gene Sarazen, who won the British Open in 1932 and Joe Kirkwood, the Australian trick shot specialist. Sarazen was high in his praise of the course and enjoys his Honorary Life Membership to this day.
The natural terrain remains unchanged and the fine draining soil gives rise to a superb springy turf which earns for Carlow the reputation of inland links.
The four par 3’s are excellent, the best being the 6th which can vary from a seven iron to a long iron or even a wood for the shorter player. Christy O’Connor snr. selected the 16th to feature as one of his “best 18 Holes”. Joe Car who won six Midland Scratch Cups here, maintains the 7th is a superb two shotter, calling for a long well placed drive, to be followed by a perfect iron to hold the “away sloping” green. Peter McEvoy, three time winner of the Midland Scratch Cup, favours the 12th, where after a perfectly placed drive, you must hit a delicate pitch across a deep ravine to the fastest green on the course.
The most pleasant and picturesque hole is the 8th where the tee shot is played to the West into the setting sun from the highest point on the course down to a sloping fairway below. To left and right of the drive are located two stone faced raths, overgrown with adult beech. Many tee shots have been lost here and some say they are taken by the “little people” from the raths or fairy rings.
The legends of golf, professional and amateur, national and international have trod these hallowed fairways with success and failure and always with some pleasure.
It’s your turn now. To the first tee please, and the honour is yours.