North Cork’s Golfing History

Mitchelstown Golf Club with the scenic Galtee Mountains in the backround.
Picture: Niall O’Shea

Golf in North Cork can be traced back to 1892, and almost 130 years later it’s still thriving.  While the rise of the sport exploded in the early part of the 19th century, it’s popularity remained strong right up to today.  It’s a testament to the North Cork clubs that they have withstood several challenges and remain popular destinations for both members and guests.  Fermoy holds the honour of hosting the earliest recorded golf match in 1892 when the locally based British army officers took on the neighbouring garrison in Lismore.  Fermoy Golf Clubs traces it’s history back to 1893, and like many other clubs they had several homes including the racecourse, the Aerodrome, and the Duntaheen Rd.  It was just over 40 years ago that the club moved to it’s present home at the foothills of Corrin Hill.  The 18 layout measures over 6,000 yards and provides a great test of golf.  Like many other country club, Fermoy suffered over the past 12 years but the membership is growing again.  A great feature of the club is the volunteer spirit, many members are involved in course maintenance on a regular basis and the efforts after the big storms over the past four years in particular.  Just north of Fermoy is Mitchelstown Golf Club has enjoyed over 100 years at it’s present location in Gurrane on the northern end of the town.  Originally formed in 1910, the clubs first years were spent in the town before they moved to the present location.  The original nine hole course remained in place for over 70 years before the club embarked on an expansion in 1994.  Six new  holes were opened that year and six more were opened in 2003 which marked the completion of Mitchelstown’s 18 hole course.  Like many other clubs, Mitchelstown proved popular with city based golfers, and competitive membership and green fee rates ensured the club remains a popular destination.

Fermoy Golf Cub will host Munster finals at the end of September.

Doneraile was the first club in the north west of the county, predating Charleville, Mallow and Kanturk by some time.  The first course in Doneraile was based within the Doneraile Park Estate and in 1927 the move to the current location.   Doneraile is known for the first staging steeplechase and the finish line was very near the current location of the first fairway.  The club is the last remaining nine hole course in north Cork, and in terms of playing results the club continues to excel.  The club secured three Munster pennants in the last decade, they won the Barton Shield in 2012, the Mixed Foursomes in 2016 and the Ladies Challenge Cup in 2017.  Their very active junior section won the North Cork League in 2017 and 2018.  Individuals too have excelled, Michael Quirke won the Spanish Amateur back in 1987 but as a senior he has excelled with multiple wins including the 2013 Irish Seniors title.  Paula Walsh won the Munster Senior Ladies title in Cork Golf Club in 2017.  Charleville Golf Club is perched right on the Cork Limerick border and attracts a large number of golfers from both counties.  The course started with just six holes back in 1944, and worked hard to grow the course and the membership.  At one stage the club boasted 27 holes, and all three loops were in constant use with the large membership.  The course is now back to 18 holes on a challenging but playable layout.  Recent investment in course has improved the playability, especially in the winter months.

Kanturk is a relative newcomer in terms of when the club was founded.  While there are records of golf in Kanturk in the early parts of the last century, the current club was founded in 1972 and this is another great example of a tough but fair parkland course that maximises the land available.  While Macroom is probably described as Mid Cork more than North Cork, the Castle Demense has been the home of the golf club when it was founded in 1925.  The nine hole course was just one of a number of sports that held leases in the castle grounds.  As a large market town, Macroom Golf Club was a busy place, but their existence came under threat in the 1950’s when it looked as if a lack of money would force the closure of the club.  The membership came to rescue to keep the club on track, and the support of the membership was again needed in the 80’s when the course was extended to 18 holes.  Today the course represents a good test of golf in superb surroundings.  The River Sullane borders several holes on the back nine while subtle changes in elevation force golfers to think their way around the course.

Mallow Golf Club has been in the news in recent times thanks to the exploits of James Sugrue, but the links to golf trace back over 130 years.  Early courses were laid out in Carrigeens and Scarteen, Annabella and the racecourse.  The club set down permanent roots in Ballyellis in 1947, and the JD Harris designed course is another great example of an Irish parkland layout.  The course has won several awards in the recent years, and the club has hosted several major competitions including the Munster Boys in 2016.  This year Mallow will host the Munster Seniors which will provide all entrants with a good test.  It’s important to include that all clubs in North Cork are open for membership, many with attractive and competitive offers for new joiners.