Killiney proud to safeguard a family jewel. By Brian Keogh. Originally published in Irish Independent Thursday 15 March 2018.
Home and away - Places to play - Killiney Golf Club
Killiney’s ambitious masterplan will ensure the club can continue to thrive for years to come
Some golf clubs are revered for their magnificent championship courses and the great names who have left their mark there.
But most are defined by the character of the membership and if there’s a word that sums up nine-hole Killiney on Dublin’s leafy southside it’s ‘family’.
It’s been that way since the club was founded in 1903 and as Easter Monday will mark the 115th anniversary of the official opening, generations of Killiney golfers and the extended golfing family that makes up the membership will pack the fine clubhouse to drink in those views of the verdant fairways and greens and the Dublin mountains beyond.
The family ethos, taken in its broadest sense, has always been strong, so much so that it was remarked upon by The Irish Field when an extension to the clubhouse was opened in 1926, as Dermot Gilleece and John Redmond related in the club’s superb, illustrated centenary history.
With a membership of 400 at the time, including 150 lady associates, the magazine was “prompted to remark that they functioned as ‘a big, happy family, among the most enthusiastic of the huge fraternity of golfers who have sprung up all around the county since the name was first given to this club by its founders’.”
There are now some 850 members at Killiney and thanks to a club masterplan, drawn up with the help of consulting architects (re)Golf, a blueprint has been put in place to guide the club’s officers for the next decade and beyond.
Coupled with the formulation of a strategic plan designed to look at the challenges that may lie ahead, the club feels it is well placed to flourish for decades to come.
Keen financial planning is paramount when it comes to making enhancements to the course, which measures 6,248 yards for 18 holes – 3,136 yards playing the first nine and 3,112 yards from different tees the second time around – for a par of 70.
The club recently spent €300,000 over almost three years, upgrading its irrigation plan, meaning it is now virtually self-sufficient in the likely event of future water shortages.
Thanks to drainage work carried out on the second and third holes, water is harvested from that part of the course and fed into a reservoir that has doubled the club’s water capacity from 1.5 to 3 million litres.
“Our clubhouse alone generates half a million litres a year, depending on rainfall,” General Manager Niall Keyes reported, explaining that new drainage channels feed a new pond on the left of the ninth.
Having had to ration water in the past, Killiney is now set fair to manage challenges that may arise when the next scorching summer arrives and tees come under duress at one of Dublin’s most popular parkland venues.
“We really want to be self-sufficient in water in years to come,” explained former captain and president Ken McCullagh, the current chairman of the club council.
“It meant an investment of around €300,000 but we are also harvesting from the car park too, making sure we are taking full advantage of all our resources.”
Killiney’s lack of huge length might suggest an easy ride but sub-par rounds are rare and it remains a fine test. While the greens are as true as a billiard table, their slopes and contours provide a great defence, not to mention myriad pin positions that give even the big hitters food for thought.
Making sure the course is in immaculate condition is key and the PGA professionals who teed it up in last year’s Pro-Am were hugely complimentary of the quality of the layout, especially its greens, which are double hollow- tined every January.
The club’s ethos is very much oriented towards families, as the chairman explained.
“It’s probably one of the best family clubs in Dublin and while it’s a problem holding on to people between the ages of 20 and 50, we encourage as many as we can to stay,” he said. “But we are also finding that people like to join from the age of 50 because it’s the kind of course they know the can play for the next 25 years.
“We have families with three generations playing at Killiney and long may that continue.”
The masterplan, which was approved by members in 2016 and was drawn up by (re)Golf, was designed with a two-fold purpose – to look at course improvements, prioritise the things that were considered critical.
But it was also done as a guide to future course convenors so that at any given time, the club can use that masterplan as a basis for decisions going forward.
No doubt the club would seem as charming today as it did to the founding members, who sculpted it from furze, gorse, heather, hedges and rock at the start of the 20th century.
First laid out by James McKenna, believed by historians to have left his mark on Ballybunion as well as Lahinch, where he was the professional, the course underwent major reconstruction in 1931 when the club acquired an additional 12 acres.
It has continued to evolve over the decades and produced many fine players including two-time South of Ireland champion Rory Saunders and Leonard Owens, who would go on to
serve as professional at Royal Dublin.
Professionals such as Willie Holley, Tom Gaffney and his son Willie, Danny O’Brien and the long-serving Paddy O’Boyle all left an indelible mark on the club.
Many distinguished rugby internationals have been members of the years, including Jack Arigho, who was capped 16 times, as well as Jamie Clinch and former Lions Fergus Slattery and Ray McLoughlin.
There are too many distinguished men and women associated with the cub to mention in these lines but they remain one big, happy, close-knit family, rightly proud of a little gem of a course, high above Killiney.
True as a billiard table, the green at the 6th
3rd, 388/377 Yards (index 3); 268 yards for ladies (Index 12) A scenic, uphill par-four played through a chute of trees to a fairway protected on the right by trees and out of bounds.
The approach must clear a drain which crosses the fairway some 90 yards short of a two- tiered green protected by a pot bunker at the front left.
Head Professional, Leo Hynes says: “As ever in Killiney, a good tee shot is required and a fade for the right-hander will open up the green. Miss the green short and right and you are left with a straightforward, uphill pitch, which is preferable to being in the pothole bunker front left.
“Beware the back left pin po- sition on this two-tiered green as it requires perfect distance control. Shots coming up short are bunker-bound while going long leaves a devilishly fast chip. Getting your ball on the right level makes a two-putt a lot easier.”
Prospective members must be nominated by two existing members.