The Island Golf Club
Designers: Fred Hawtree,
In 1887, the rule prohibiting golf at Royal Dublin on Sundays prompted four members to set off by rowboat in search of ground suitable for a new links. This group called themselves “The Syndicate” and soon discovered the ideal location in an area known locally as “The Island.” Three years later, a new club by the same name was officially formed, where golf would be happily played seven days a week. If the story sounds familiar, it should. The Island is just three miles as the crow flies from the storied links of Portmarnock, another club whose formation involved an exploration by rowboat.
The Island is not actually an island, but a peninsula that is separated from the greater Dublin area by the Malahide Inlet. In the early days, circling the inlet to reach The Island by land was a time-consuming affair, so the club employed a boat for the final leg of the journey. When golfers were ready to return to the “mainland,” they signaled the boatman with a large red and white disk that was hinged on the clubhouse wall. The automobile eventually made the boat obsolete, but up until 1973 it remained the primary means of reaching the links.
Unlike its more famous, albeit younger, neighbor, the terrain at The Island features some of the most spectacular dunes in Ireland. Without the aid of modern earthmoving equipment, The Syndicate weaved the holes through the valleys and positioned many of the greens in delightful natural amphitheaters. Although the original designer is still a mystery, the course has continued to evolve through the decades thanks to a number of revisions by Fred and Martin Hawtree as well as Eddie Hackett.
As with all links courses, the wind will dictate much of the play, perhaps even more so given the fully exposed links is surrounded by water on three sides. Like Portmarnock, the most memorable stretch of holes is found on The Island’s inward nine. The 13th is an all-world par-3 with its green pressed against the shore of Malahide Inlet. Ahead on the 14th we find a fairway that is said to be the narrowest in all of Ireland, while the 15th is a sporty 3-shotter featuring one of those stunning amphitheater greens.
The Island stands as a championship test, rightfully serving as a regional qualifying venue for The Open, however the rest of us mortals will simply see it as one of the most charming courses in golf. As you meander through the dunes and survey the club’s renowned flora and fauna, the sense that you’ve been let in on some sort of secret will be hard to escape. It’s that same feeling that likely inspired Bernard Darwin to capture the essence of The Island…
“The best course in Ireland you have never heard of…
Play it, and tell no one.”