Some major improvements to the golf course in Bandon are underway with the first phase including major improvements to the practice areas and the first hole. With over 950 members, the 110 year old club is working hard to remain a driving force for golf in West Cork. Bandon President Donal O’Donovan has been involved with the club for several decades, having held the role of Captain in 2002, he has represented Bandon at the highest levels. That included being part of the Irish Senior Cup team that won the national title in 2010. As well as being a scratch golfer for most of his playing time, Donal has also served on many committees and as President this year he described the programme the club set out to implement the course improvements. “Two years ago, we felt that the course needed to be improved, so we set up a development committee that would be in place for five years” explained the Bandon President. “We contacted several construction companies and course designers and following on from this we felt that Ken Kearney was best suited for us. The committee looked at all aspects of the course and felt that drainage and the bunkers were the two priorities.” Ken Kearney set about his work, and with phase one of the project opened for play, the designer is a popular man in Bandon. Kearney is one of the busiest course designers in Ireland, and while the new course development opportunities are limited, he has an extensive portfolio of improvement plans in place with well over two dozen clubs all over Ireland. He was behind the recent works in Kinsale and has also worked with Monkstown and several other courses in Munster.
Building a multi-phase course improvement plan can be expensive so the Bandon committee decided to prioritise as Donal explained. “The decision was taken to start with the redesign of the bunkers on the first hole, and this was used to show the members what can be done. The existing design of the bunkers on the course mean that heavy rain washes through them and causes major maintenance issues. Also, at that time the club applied to the Sports Council for a grant, the project was a new practice area and we received a grant of €41k. Once a location for the new practice area was decided on, we decided that the drainage work was also to be done on the 1st hole. Ken Kearney was asked to produce designs for both projects. Four companies were asked to quote for the work and we employed Pro Golf Construction to do the work. Ken has been tremendous to work with. His knowledge and experience made our decisions easy. Any questions or changes were dealt with efficiently. During construction his attention to detail ensured the work was done to an exceptional standard.” With a total spend of over €100,000 for the first phase of the works, it needed to be a success. In addition to the sports council funding, the club also used its own funds and bank finance to cover the costs.
With a substantial capital spend in 2019, and further work planned for 2020, the support of the membership is essential to the success of the project. With phase one nearing the end, O’Donovan is happy to report that everything is currently on track. “The first green has re-opened and all the members are delighted with it” said a proud President. “The design of the bunkers means that heavy rain no longer affects the bunker. The bunkers are lined with rubber crumb and they have an artificial edges all around. The work on the practice green is also finished but due to bad weather it is not yet opened but the original practice area was also remodelled and that has opened. The next phase of the development is to get a cost to remodel the remaining bunkers on the course. The number of bunkers will also be reduced and Ken is currently working on this. Once we have the designs and cost the members will be asked at a special meeting if they are willing to fund the project. We have also applied to the Sports council for a grant to complete additional drainage work on the Castle holes (5th, 6th and 7th).”
Built on the Castle Bernard Estate to the west of the town, the rich history of Bandon Golf Club dates back to the early 1900’s. This was a boom time for the early development of the game, and the club was formed following the leasing of land from the fourth Earl of Bandon, Francis Bernard. The original nine hole course was extended to 18 holes in 1972 when the then Earl, Percy Bernard or ‘Paddy Bandon’ and he was popularly known, extended the lease allowing Bandon to become the first West Cork course to boast a full 18 hole layout. The most recent extension happened 2001 when Lady Jennifer Bernard further extended the lease to include lands facing the original castle. This now forms a dramatic backdrop to the 5th, 6th and 7th holes, giving golfers an appreciation of the scale original estate and castle. 110 years on, golf is still a popular pastime on the Castle Bernard Estate. Bandon currently has over 750 adult members, and a very positive juvenile membership which boasts close to 200 boys and girls. Bandon have an impressive name on the interclub scene with several local, provincial and national pennants hanging on the walls of the clubhouse. Recently the club juveniles won the West Cork Shield and there’s a strong possibility of more success according to Donal O’Donovan. “All the teams have performed well this year. The only team that have progressed to the Munster finals so for is the Jimmy Bruen team they beat a strong Mahon team in the area final in Lee Valley. The Cork area of the Senior Cup was held in the club two weeks ago. Unfortunately due to weather issues the play on Sunday had to be abandoned, but the positive comments from all the competitors on the course and facilities was fantastic to hear.”