Muskerry’s Golfing History

Muskerry’s 13th green. Pic: Niall O’Shea

Golf in Muskerry traces back to the late 1880’s but it wasn’t until 1907 that the current club was founded.  After just six weeks of work, the course designed and built by professional John McNamara was opened for play in May 1907.  Like many other clubs, proximity to a railway line was an essential prerequisite and the Coachford stop on the Muskerry tram line was close to the current 18th green.  The membership in Muskerry grew quickly and it was the quality of the course that attracted the growing membership.  The original course had five holes situated around the present front nine with another four holes across the road.  In fact anyone passing the entrance to Muskerry can still see where the old holes were situated.  Muskerry’s development to an 18 hole course came via the guidance of the famous Alister MacKenzie in 1925.

Muskerry was MacKenzie’s first design in the south of Ireland, and after just one walk through the land the architect of Augusta National sketched out a plan for eleven new holes.  Among other features, the 6th hole, stretching from the clubhouse across the river to an elevated green 180 yards away is from that original design, with much of the back nine reclaimed form overgrown gorse that was originally farmland.

Over the years there have been several changes to the routing and the holes in Muskerry, mainly to provide for improvements in equipment and distance, and much of the original land is still in use.  The holes across the road have been closed with the club now having a total of twenty holes in play on two layouts.  Cork’s most famous amateur Jimmy Bruen received his first handicap from Muskerry and proceeded to play in Muskerry colours in many of his singles successes.  At the age of 15, Bruen was given a handicap of six which allowed him to play in competitions.  Just one year later Bruen became the first Irish golfer to win the British Boys Championship in Royal Birkdale.  Irish Open and Irish Close titles would follow as would a win in the Walker Cup, and he led the British Open after the opening two rounds in his second year competing in the event.  Bruen was a member on both Muskerry and Cork, and in 1936 playing off plus six Bruen set course records in both Muskerry (63) and Cork (67).  Bruen’s greatest win came in 1946 when he won the British Amateur.

After a gap for the second world war the golfing calendar resumed.  It was another win for Bruen in Royal Birkdale which proved to be a happy hunting ground for the Corkman.   While Bruen was famous for his ability and his results, he was also known for his swing which generated so much power he was by far the longest player of the era.  A serious wrist injury and pressures from his job in Bruen Insurances limited his competitive golf in later years, and this meant he could not add to his legacy of top class performances through the thirties and forties.  One of the more famous Muskerry members was former Taoiseach Jack Lynch who was club President in 1970.  Lynch, a six time all Ireland winner joined Muskerry in 1950, but given his job as a Minister and later Taoiseach he was mainly based in Dublin and didn’t get to play in Muskerry too frequently.  In a quote given to Tim O’Brien he admitted that didn’t experience the success on the GAA field on the golf course.  “But this is not an excuse to admit that I won little, if anything, in the course of my membership of Muskerry.  Nor indeed, did I win anything in any other golf club either.  There was one exception, in the early fifties I think, when I won a rather remote competition in Muskerry. I suffered the usual loss of a stroke.  That brought my handicap to 17 at which it has remained ever since.  I should mention, though, that Máirín, my wife, did much better with fewer opportunities.  She won Jerry Ryan’s President’s Prize at Muskerry in 1954.”  Fred Twomey is the current club professional in Muskerry and follows in a long tradition of PGA Professionals working from Muskerry.  Fred is one of Munster’s leading coaches and has developed a state of the art academy at the range in Muskerry.  Two dedicated teaching bays and the latest technology provides members and clients with an ideal place to work on their game.   Twomey is one of a few Muskerry men who have worked to develop their junior golf programme.  The programme has been very successful, the club captured two Fred Daly Trophy Munster titles in the past three years, and with a large number of juvenile golfers further success is to be expected.  Fionn Hickey was a member of the Fred Daly team last year and he was capped by Ireland at the end of the Summer.  Muskerry is no stranger to winning interclub events with plenty of pennants hanging on the walls of the clubhouse.  Their biggest victory was in the year of their centenary in 2007.  The club went and won two national titles, the Irish Junior Cup and the Jimmy Bruen Shield.  Given Bruen’s links with the club it was a memorable occasion and a fitting way to mark their centenary.  Muskerry is currently open for new members, with a legacy that stretches back over 100 years, it’s a great place to golf.