Hermitage Golf Club – Our History in Snapshot
Situated on a unique piece of land within the Liffey Valley, Hermitage Golf Club was founded in 1905. As implied by its name, “Hermitage - the dwelling place of a hermit”, it is a spectacularly secluded and sylvan piece of land, despite being situated in a high density population area, less than 10 miles from the centre of the nation’s capital city. There are over 12,000 trees on, or bordering, this magnificent 120 acre property.
The founding members emerged from Lucan Golf Club with the zeal and ambition of emigrants, seeking to vindicate their decision to lease the Hermitage lands. Less than 10 years had passed when Hermitage Golf Club became the first ever parkland course to host the Irish Amateur Close Championship in 1914. History repeated itself in 1921 when Hermitage hosted the Irish Ladies Close Championship. Ambition and vision have been hallmarks of the Club since it’s foundation.
The Mens’ and Ladies’ sections of the Club have a long history of working together, dating back to 1940, when a social committee was formed, comprising six male members and six lady associates. This teamwork was instrumental in the running of the Irish (Hermitage) Amateur and Professional Scratch Foursomes which was held right through the war years from 1939 to 1950. Assuredly the national golfing highlight of that awful time.
Featuring all the great Irish players of that era, the competition was dominated by Joe Carr and Harry Bradshaw, whom it was generally accepted would have beaten all-comers in Britain and Ireland at the time. It was the first such Pro-Am event ever held in Ireland and turnstiles had to be erected to cater for the huge watching galleries. That such a major event was originated and sustained though this wartime period was testament once more to the ambition and drive within the Hermitage membership.
The top Irish professional golfers returned to Hermitage en masse in 1959 for the first of our four hostings of the Dunlop Irish Professional Golf Tournament. Norman Drew staged a wonderful final round comeback to defeat the great Harry Bradshaw by two strokes over 72 holes, 284 to 286. There were many distinguished visitors to Hermitage around this time, notably Prince Rainer and Princess Grace of Monaco who visited in 1963. Holidaying in Carton House at the time, they were entranced by the beauty and solitude of Hermitage.
In 1964, in another extraordinary display of vision and ambition at that time, the Club formed a Building Commission with the express intention of the construction of a new clubhouse. After an amazing collective effort on the part of the membership, a sum of £80,000 was raised to fund the building of a completely new clubhouse. Comprising 11,500 sq. feet of covered space and another 3,500 sq. feet of terraced space, the new clubhouse was opened on May 4th, 1969. The official opening was performed by the American Ambassador, Leo J. Sheridan and over 1,000 guests celebrated a monumental achievement in its environs that evening. It was an extraordinary collective achievement and I would encourage all members to read through the full account in our Centenary “Celebrating 100 Years”.
The press coverage in the Irish Independent bears repetition:
“Hermitage Golf Club are to be congratulated on their new clubhouse, which was officially opened last Saturday. A magnificent edifice, it is unique in both design and construction and certainly there is nothing approaching it in this country.
Indeed, I would go considerably further and say there is not a clubhouse superior to it in Britain or the Continent for that matter. I have travelled far and wide covering golf events in various parts of the globe, including France, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Atlantic City, Washington, Atlanta, Georgia, Portland, Oregon, San Francisco and Palm Springs.”
The article by noted sports journalist of the time, Barry Nolan, concluded “Hermitage have a clubhouse of which they can be extremely proud and those responsible for the project certainly showed foresight, taste and courage”
The new clubhouse proved to be the catalyst for a golden era for the Club. We hosted the Christy O’Connor International Pro-Am, one of the biggest tournaments of it’s kind in Europe at the time, on seven occasions between 1976 and 1986. All of the top international players of that era played Hermitage in those events, including Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman, Bob Charles, Ian Woosnam among innumerable others. Instrumental in this great chapter of our history was Cecil Whelan, a veritable doyen of Hermitage Golf Club, who received a “Lifetime Service to Irish Golf” award from the Irish Golf Writers in 2005.
Subsequent notable visitors have included Jose Maria Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington and 4-time Major winner, Rory McIlroy.
Possibly, the highlight of this golden era came in 1979 when the European Golf Association (EGA) chose Hermitage as the host venue for the European Ladies Team Championships which brings together all of Europe’s elite amateurs for a week of intense Nations Cup competition. This honour was further underlined when Hermitage was again chosen by the EGA to host the European Youths Team Championships in 1984. We must be a lucky venue as the Irish national team was triumphant on both occasions!
The hosting roll of honour for EGA Nations Cup events in Irish golf clubs is short and prestigious. Killarney Golf & Fishing Club (Mens,1975), Portmarnock (Mens,1997), The Island (Youths, 2004), Shannon (Seniors, 2008) and Dun Laoighre (Seniors, 2009). Hermitage is the only golf club in Ireland to have been honoured twice by the EGA.
It is fitting that Hermitage is the only golf club in Ireland to have hosted the European Ladies Team Championships. We have a proud history in Ladies Golf, soon to be highlighted by the 50th anniversary staging of the prestigious Hermitage Ladies Scratch Cup in 2022. Hermitage also hosted the Ladies Home International Matches in 1993 and the 2005 Irish Women’s Open Strokeplay, as one of the highlights of our Centenary Year.
On an individual level, a host of Hermitage members have represented Ireland at every level of the game covering Boys, Girls, Mens, Ladies and Seniors. The personal dedication required to wear the green blazer is immense. Recent representative highlights include Rowan Lester featuring on consecutive winning Irish teams in the 2015, 2016 & 2017 Mens’ Home Internationals. In 2017, Ciara Casey achieved the same feat on the Irish Women’s team. It is rare for both Irish senior teams to triumph in the same year, and, notably, Hermitage was the only club to be represented on both. Are we the rabbit’s foot of Irish golf?
The undoubted individual playing highlight, so far, has been Stephen Browne’s triumph in the 2001 European Amateur Championship in Odense, Denmark. Stephen went wire-to- wire to beat a stellar field by 5 strokes, joining an illustrious roll of honour that includes names like Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Victor Dubuisson.
The term “proud and storied history” is often overused but there is little doubt that it is a fair description of Hermitage’s 115 year journey, to date. Only a handful of Irish golf clubs could claim equivalence in terms of this rich tapestry of milestones, stories and achievements.
Donal Casey Club Chairman January 2021