By Kevin Markham
It was a long time ago when I first visited Enniscrone. I was 13 and I played a links that Eddie Hackett designed in 1970. The course had been here since the 1930s but now holes slipped into the big dunes that divided the links from Killala Bay. It was also in 1970 that Hackett extended Enniscrone to 18 holes. Such an expansion was a long-held dream of the golfers who called this club home… but in what has become a common theme of the past five decades, Enniscrone was never happy to rest. Instead, the push for improvement and expansion, be it to the course, the facilities or the clubhouse, continued year after year.
On Sunday last, Enniscrone launched its centenary book. And while most tomes that celebrate a club’s longevity are penned by the elderly club historian, Sand, Sea and Sunsets: 100 Years of Enniscrone Golf Club was written by Cathal Mullaney, a young man just 23 years old. He has played golf at Enniscrone since he started at the age of 10 and has a special tie to the place.
“I’m obviously biased,” says Cathal, who holds a degree in Journalism, Irish and Sociology and Politics from NUI Galway, and is halfway through a Masters in Government and Public Policy at UCC, “but Enniscrone is a special place. If I’m ever away from home, I always think of being on the golf course. My personal favourite place is strolling down the ninth fairway and looking out over the Moy Estuary. It’s also a really historic place - St Patrick is said to have travelled through the area the golf course now occupies and there are lots of myths and legends associated with the wider Bartragh/Scurmore area.
This beautiful hardback publication is packed with photographs of one of Ireland’s most photogenic courses and 150 pages of history. It captures the essence of a club that has gone from strength to strength.
Cathal, who wrote a book on politics in 2016 (‘How Connacht Voted in 2016’), was asked to help write the book by the Centenary Committee. “Albie O’Connor and Peter Murphy approached me with a view to getting involved,” Cathal says. “Albie and I worked very closely and he did hours upon hours of tedious research and filing, which was a huge help. He is an incredibly dedicated servant to the club. Peter, as convenor of the Centenary Committee, has done a remarkable job throughout the year with numerous events, including this launch.”
The book may celebrate 100 years of evolution (and three different course locations) but the last 30 have proved to be the most explosive, the most defining. Those three decades have put Enniscrone on the world stage. The American magazine, Golf Week, ranked it the 10th best modern golf course in Great Britain & Ireland, in 2010, but international plaudits are surprisingly scarce thereafter. I rate it in my top three courses on this island, alongside Carne and Royal Co Down. Played just once, Enniscrone is never forgotten, and I have been fortunate enough to play it many times in the past decade.
The club’s great leap forward came in 1999, when Donald Steel was asked to redesign the course and take it into the biggest dunes. Here, the ridges of sand rise 200 feet above the valleys and the hollows that are home to today’s holes. Steel achieved a great deal and, combined with Hackett’s earlier work, Enniscrone today boasts some of Ireland’s best holes. The quirky, short and rather terrifying 12th and 13th are two of Hackett’s best par fours, but the 10th and 11th are also his, with the latter proving to be the best of the course’s par threes. Steel removed the two flat par fives to start and threw golfers straight into the dunes to present an exhilarating opening. He also went further into the dunes than Hackett could go on the back nine with the result that Enniscrone now possesses one of the best closing stretches in Ireland.
All of these details can be found in the new book, written by Cathal but, as he acknowledges, very much a team effort.
“I hope this book helps members and anyone connected with Enniscrone Golf Club to take pride in how far the club has come in its first 100 years,” Cathal concludes. “There was definitely a sense of that on Sunday night at the launch. As a club, we’ve a lot to be proud of thanks to the trojan work of the various men and women involved since 1918.”
- Sand, Sea and Sunsets: 100 Years of Enniscrone Golf Club is available for purchase through the website (enniscronegolf.com) and in the Pro shop. The cost is €25.