Lee Valley is planning for a bumper 2018 as the friendly club on the western edge of the city celebrates 25 years of golf. Built in the 90’s the early phase of the first boom for golf, the course quickly developed a name as a championship level venue, known for it’s superior greens and friendly welcome. The Christy O’Connor designed course was started in 1990, and over the next three years the 150 acres of fields and woodlands were transformed into a championship golf course. O’Connor was a regular feature during the build phase, and instead of relying on maps and drawings he mainly worked from sight and the plan that he kept in his head. O’Connor died earlier this year, but Lee Valley remains a legacy to the Christy Jnr brand.
Jerry Keohane has been around for most of that journey, having been an investor in the original development. After the course opened in 1993, Jerry Keohane had sold of his share of the business, but in 1999 Jerry bought the course after it went on the market, and Lee Valley quickly became a family business with Peg, Paul and David all playing an active role in the business over the past two decades. Like all courses, it was by no means a finished product and Jerry started on a development that’s lasted the best part of 20 years. Over 18,000 trees were planted, vast areas of internal out of bounds were brought in to allow the new wooded areas to develop and this added to the challenge of Lee Valley. The greens were continually worked on to improve their speed and consistency and drainage work was also carried out to improve the year round playing conditions. Signature new tee complexes were built, including championship tee boxes on the 3rd, 10th and 12th holes. In addition to the major works, Jerry also had an unfaltering eye for detail and presentation and has been a regular on the course keeping a close watch on the condition of the course. The work in Lee Valley continues, now mid-way through its third decade the course has matured but the development is ongoing. This year saw a brand new tee complex being installed on the challenging par three 16th. A new raised tee box extends over 30 metres in length, giving a number of options in terms of course set up. Last year there was a major investment in machinery, and the programme of intensive sanding continued this year, improving the overall condition of the course. In addition to the 16th, work was also completed on the 1st, 6th and 12th tee boxes, and next year will see further developments on the ongoing masterplan. Off the course the family work hard to ensure the business remains strong. They have strong links with the local community and the bar and restaurant continue to be popular for both members are guests.
In 2017 the club again hosted a hugely successful Senior Scratch Cup. Sponsors Dell/EMC were on board again and this time there was a local winner when Cork’s Gary O’Flaherty led a final round charge that saw him claim his third title. Lee Valley also hosted the Munster Seniors in September, and this was the first time that a seniors championship was played on the Ovens course. After working with the GUI to plans tees pin positions, the course set up came in for great praise from all of the golfers who played. Although the course is often presented at its toughest for the top competitions, the set up last week was more balanced as David Keohane explained. “Munster Golf had instructed us to set up the course so as it didn’t play to its toughest. Pins were made accessible and we didn’t go back to the blue championship markers. All of this was very sensible as we would have had over ninety competitors and quite a lot of them would never have played Lee Valley before. We wanted golfers to enjoy their day whilst playing a course that was fair to their capabilities.” And the response was very positive as he continued: “Feedback from the players was great. Those who had never played Lee Valley before nearly all commented that they would love to come back and play the course again. We even got a booking of a Limerick society for 25 people so that was very positive.” The relationship between the owners and the club members have always been positive, and recently the club honoured Jerry by naming him as Honorary Life President. It was a fitting tribute and the club and the owner are set for a great year in 2018 as they celebrate the 25th year of golf in Clashnure.