Irish Golfer Magazine (Monthly Print)

December 2019

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82 / www.IrishGolfer.ie / December 2019 underpinned the viability of Lahinch Golf Club and village for many years. Shaw also managed to persuade Old Tom Morris, to come over from Scotland in 1894 to layout a new, first class, golf links with the staging of the first South of Ireland in 1895, in mind when the atmosphere was 'gala' - akin to the 2019 Irish Open at Lahinch. In attendance was the Chief Secretary of Ireland, John Balfour, an excellent player and Captain of the R&A the year previously. The Irish Times newspaper reported that the Chief Secretary (in effect the Prime Minister of Ireland) "had gone to the country to be amongst the people to ascertain for himself what they think to be best for their welfare". The irony was, of course, that the Chief Secretary would not have ascertained an awful lot about his subjects welfare or otherwise at a golf meeting, as it was called back then. The "people" were not so much in the field for The South that year as in their own fields tending to their animals and crops blissfully unaware of the existence of the sport and Balfour's presence nearby. Lord Balfour and his wife, Elizabeth, had arrived at the front door of Sherry's Hotel on Main Street, Lahinch in their horse-drawn carriage, creating huge excitement for the curious inhabitants watching in awe thanks to the efforts of four horses covered in foam and froth after the 200-mile journey from Dublin that took several days to complete. Mr. Balfour was not a popular figure in Ireland at the time but he can't have been all bad. It was he who once wrote: "A tolerable day, a tolerable green and a tolerable opponent supply all that any reasonably constituted human being should require in the way of entertainment. With a fine sea view in front of him, the golfer may be excused if he regards golf, even though it be indifferent golf, as the true and adequate end of man's existence". Blackwatch Regiment from Scotland was dispatched to Ireland to perform routine garrison duties. Although the political climate in Ireland was far from calm the men had plenty of leisure time available. Many of them were good golfers and good organisers. Every town in which they were based for only the briefest time, golf erupted. Very soon, the Curragh had many companions and golf which had been extremely slow to cross the border from Scotland into England, now much more easily found its way there via Ireland, through returning military personnel and civil servants who had come in contact with the game while in the emerald isle. In practically no time at all the game was on its way to the USA too and spreading like wildfire! Americans began inviting Scottish and Irish professionals (in their droves) to come to the new country to lay out courses and to teach. In 1891, the first national golf association in the world was founded in Ireland as the Golfing Union of Ireland. At the date of its inception, twenty-eight "greens", as golf courses were called back then, were in play in various parts of the 32 counties of Ireland. Not surprisingly, due to its close Scottish affiliations, the major proportion of golfing activity took place in Ulster, where there were nine Greens but, golf was also played in Limerick, Kerry and Cork thanks to the presence of the Blackwatch Regiment. The South of Ireland Amateur Golf Championship is Ireland's oldest provincial championship and it reflects perfectly the way the social scene surrounding golf in Ireland has changed over the years. In 1895 golf balls cost two shillings each which, hard to believe, was the same price being paid for a much better quality ball after the Second World War, fifty years later. Two shillings was also the price of a five-course meal in a top class hotel. The wealth required to play golf in 1895 would be equivalent to what polo players need to pursue their sport these days. Apart from the odd exception, pre-WWI winners of the South of Ireland were overseas golfers. On the resumption after the war the Irish took over. Only one overseas player has been successful since 1920 in spite of many making the trip. Lahinch Golf Club was founded in 1892 with the almost inevitable assistance of the Blackwatch Regiment. At the 1894 annual general meeting of the members, club founder, president and prime mover of the project, the far seeing Alexander Shaw, head of a well-known bacon factory in Limerick city, proposed that the members should consider financing the building of a top class hotel to attract visiting golfers to the tiny, remote west Clare village. Shaw got his way. The new hotel – a stunning example of nineteenth century luxury was built in Norwegian style and it featured hot seawater baths as one of its attractions. The seawater was pumped straight from the Atlantic, up and over the formidable cliff edge to be discharged into every bedroom, having been heated on the way. The presence of the Golf Links Hotel, as it was named, Apart from the odd exception, pre-WWI winners of the South of Ireland were overseas golfers. On the resumption after the war, the Irish took over. Only one overseas player has been successful since 1920 in spite of many making the trip Lahinch Golf Club BACK 9: COMING TO AMERICA

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