Image by Kevin Murray.
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To view some of Kevin’s work from around the world [CLICK]
Ten Irishmen, known as the “Syndicate”, founded the Island golf club in 1890 and they needed a ferryman to take them from Malahide across the estuary to play golf. When they were set to return to the mainland, they would hang a large red and white disc from the clubhouse wall to signal that they were ready for pickup by the water taxi. It was a very exclusive affair, albeit the ten custodians consented to the award of annual tickets to non-members but otherwise maintained their rigid membership rules for decades
The modern era of The Island Golf Club was shaped in 1952 when the “Syndicate” of the day handed over its entire interest in the club to the existing annual ticket holders who now became the new members of The Island Golf Club.
It is unclear who originally laid out the course, but the Island has been revised by Fred W. Hawtree, Eddie Hackett and more recently by Martin Hawtree. The challenge invariably comes from the wind and the ability to find the greens; these putting surfaces are some of the very best around.
|Yardage||Championship tees 6903 yds|
|Handicap Restrictions||No handicap restrictions apply|
The Island Golf Club
The Course itself
This is a no-frills golf course. There is nothing artificial, it’s simply harmonious and in tune with its surroundings. Some of the most shaggy, rugged and looming sand dunes imaginable provide natural and distinct amphitheatres for many of the holes.
The first four holes head in four different compass directions (ESNW) which will test the player from the off. The opener is an extremely tough assignment playing almost due east in direction. Best to play down the left half as missing the fairway on either side considerably increases the difficulty of the approach shot to a raised green which slopes from back to front. The third is perhaps the toughest of the par fours and requires the utmost accuracy for the approach shot with wood or long iron to two-tier green. Accuracy is vital on second shot because approach and green throws the ball to the right. One hidden green-side bunker on the left
The fifth being the only blind driving hole on the course to an undulating fairway. Holes 6 and 7 are especially memorable, both nestled jointly in their own warm amphitheatre. Indeed, the sequence of eight consecutive eight par fours is worthy of comment.
At face value you feel no round should really feature eight par-fours in a row. One might imagine that sort of opening to become boring and dreary pretty quickly … but not here. The strong variety of holes, both in length and design keeps you honest as the challenge remains the same. A well struck tee-shot, a considered approach, before two putts. It’s basically the essence of golf. The opening string of par 4s are strong, traditional holes played along dune valleys into excellent green complexes with run offs allowing creativity in one’s recovery shots.
The sequence is eventually broken at the ninth with what appears to be a relatively straight forward tee shot but the Biarritz-like green site and bunkering is outstanding and will punish the wayward liberty taker
The back nine is even more enjoyable starting with a spacious beautiful par five. The flatter 10th and 11th momentarily break the run of dunes however. The former is a Dog-leg right off the tee to fairway which throws the ball right as you approach the green. Many brave golfers drive as close to the out of bounds as possible. Tempting two-shotter for long hitters but beware of the valley on the right. The story runs that the eleventh was once a cricket pitch on which WG Grace was played and was bowled for a duck (without scoring). Despite being the first ‘superstar’ of the game, Grace seems to have made a remarkable run of low scores according to local legends.
Visitors will do well to manage a good score around the triangle of holes 12th, 13th and 14th known as ‘The Ship Sinker’ (a reference to a ship that sank on The Island in 1881). The 12th par 4 is aptly named Valhalla, a challenging dog-leg left played over a valley to an elevated green. Play your tee shot as close as possible to the hill on the left. Any tee shot played too far right usually runs off the fairway and into the right rough leaving a difficult approach shot.
The 13th is the Island’s signature hole, a par 3 of 230 yards which looks out high over the estuary like a hawk . It’s a classic short hole. If you clear the large grass bunker which guards the front of the green you may be rewarded with a birdie. Out of bounds on the right. There is a bail-out option short of the green to the left, but the brave will take on the beach, hoping that they strike the ball cleanly and that they have the right club in their hand.
When members used to arrive by boat from across the river in Malahide, they started on the current 14th, which was then a par 3, and finished on the current 13th, also a par 3. With the relocation of the clubhouse, the course had consecutive par 3s and that didn’t sit well. So the 14th was lengthened into a par 4. Unfortunately, with the river on the right and high grass on the left, this new hole only had room for a narrow fairway.
The short 14th par 4 boasts the ‘narrowest fairway’ on the planet. Many don’t like the pencil thin, short two-shot 14th and whereas as the emaciated fairway might indeed push over the boundary of what is fair on a golf course most golfers seem to accept it as a character. So long as it’s confined to just the one hole you sense they’ll grant it a pardon for its quirkiness and its beachside setting.—the width varies, reports reach us to suggest it could be as narrow as 12 feet in places. That the hole is best played with two middle irons gives a sense of its dubious quality.
Navigating through ‘The Ship Sinker’ with a good score is a test in itself and will set you up for four memorable finishing holes. The 15th set in an amphitheatre of sand-hills will delight most keen golfers and lead them to the spectacular finishing stretch which is set in some of the most spectacular sand dunes anywhere and culminates on the longest and hardest par-4 on the property.
One leading UK golf magazine once commented: “The best course in Ireland you have never heard of. Play it and tell no-one.” Dublin is certainly awash with outstanding links golf courses and the Island is right up there with the very best. No trip to Dublin would be complete without a pint or two of the black stuff and a round at the Island.
Buggy hire, Trolleys, Caddies and Clubs
|Driving Range Available||Yes|
|Rental Carts Available||Yes with medical certificate|
|Rental Clubs Available||Yes|