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Oughterard Golf Club – The Formative Years


Golf 1906 – Oughterard

An entry in his recently published book “Early Irish Golf”, William H. Gibson tells us that golf was being played in Oughterard in 1906.  It is believed that the course was situated at nearby Killaguile (adjacent to where Ross Lake Hotel is now sited) and that golf continued to be played there up until 1940.

The story of our present course dates to 1967, when for £10,000, Miss Allica Willis sold her 140 acre estate, to Martin Faherty, Paddy Higgins, Sheila Egan, Annie Egan and Lily Willis herself, for development as a golf course.  Bobby Deacy and Frank Kyne joined the initial investors when they invested in the company in 1969.  The Company was incorporated on 3rd July 1969 (No.29243).  The development of the Club took place through 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1972 with many interruptions.  When the course development was nearing completion Tom Barry was invited to assist with the setting up of the Club structure.  He invited Pat Goggin who worked at Galway Golf Club to join him.   Tom Barry invested in the Club at this stage.


Course Location

The course is situated in un-spoilt countryside, in view of some of Connemara’s famous rugged mountains and adjacent to the rippling waters of Ireland’s second largest lake – Lough Corrib.  It is always a haven for members and visitors alike.  The neighbouring Aughnanure Castle (depicted on the club crest) watches silently over the course.  It is a reminder of by-gone struggles.  One wonders what the castle occupants would think of to-day’s activities with so many “toiling” over their once rich pastures.  The Oughterard Members are now Kings of the Castle, in control of their own realm and now one feels that their reign will be long and fruitful.


Foundation of the Course

Just like the struggles encountered by the occupants of Aughnanure the Club had a rocky start.  Members of the Land League Organisation objected to the estate being given to a private company for the development of a Golf Course.  Small farmers in the area had expected the land to be divided among them.  Several meetings and rallies took place objecting to the establishment of a Golf Course.  Damage was done to property and machinery on the estate.  Fortunately objections to the course development petered out when people saw the possibility that such a project could increase the numbers of visitors to the area and also be a major employer.

In1970 Bobby Deacy RIP and Frank Kyne went to London and met with the eminent Golf Architect, Commander John Harris.  He was employed to lay out the course.  He drew up sketch plans and later he came and surveyed the land. He did a final plan for an 18 hole course but was only paid half the fee as the company agreed to build only nine holes.

After many meetings and much discussion work commenced on 1971 and the first record of payments to course staff was for the week ending 26/06/71.  They had only spades, shovels and a wheelbarrow.  On July 17th, a tractor was hired.  There was a steady workforce during 1971 and 1972.   Intimidation of workers and machine providers still continued but this made people like Frank Kyne, Annie Egan, Maura Higgins, Sheila Egan and Lily Willis more determined to go on and succeed.

The first Club Meeting was held on 14th/12/1973.  Present at the Meeting were Paddy Higgins, Martin Faherty, Frank Kyne, Tom St.John Barry and Pat Goggin.  Tom St. John Barry was elected first Captain of the Club, Paddy Higgins as President and Pat Goggin as Secretary.  Mr Gus Murphy was appointed as Club Professional but did not remain long as there were few members at the time.   From 1973 Michael Ryan cycled out from Galway GC  to give lessons once a week.  He was appointed Club Professional in 1978 and after many years of dedicated service he retired in 2013.

The first Captain’s Prize was won by John Collins and among the prizewinners that day was Frank Kyne who later went on to be Captain and President of the Club and who in 1990 was awarded Honorary Life Membership for his vision, dedication, commitment and long years service since the foundation of the Club.

The first record of the Ladies Section is the AGM 1975.  Present at the meeting were Lady Captain Miss Annie Egan, Mrs M. O’Malley, Mrs. Sugrue, Mrs. M. Faherty, Mrs A. Joyce, Mrs. Higgins, Dr E. Arkins, Mrs R. Simmons, Mrs F Sheehan and Mrs M. Holland.

Up until 1982 the owners, Gortreevagh Golf Course Ltd. continued to manage the affairs of the Club.  The period 1982 -1986 saw the course and the Clubhouse facilities under the ownership and control of the members undergo a dramatic transformation.  A massive re-development programme was undertaken which saw the farm buildings converted into modern clubhouse facilities.  The work was carried out by the members themselves who freely and unselfishly gave of their energy and even money.   A special mention is needed here of the contribution of Tom Morley to both the clubhouse and course development.  The greatest achievement was the construction of a new nine holes, bringing the course to an eighteen hole 6040yard par 70.  All of the work and development was achieved without recourse to additional borrowing.    With members support the Club successfully 2,000 car draw tickets raising £140,000 in the process. 

Early in 1995 (7/1/1995) major changes were made to the constitution whereby equal rights to all club members were introduced.  Ladies were invited to join as ordinary members or remain as associates if they so wished.  A new constitution for the club was proposed and adopted on March 4th 1995.

Major developments took place again 1998/’99 with the construction of a new clubhouse and the construction of 18 new sand based greens and tees designed by Mr Patrick Merrigan at a total cost of  €1.8million.    The new development made Oughterard Golf Club a very attractive venue for both members and visitors alike.