History of Rosslare Golf Club
Rosslare Golf Links, one of only 50 Irish links courses and the only true links course in the south east of Ireland, was established in 1905. Etymologically, Ros Láir (Rosslare) means ‘middle promontory’ and it is on this narrow peninsula of undulating sandy ridges separating the Irish Sea from Wexford Harbour that the golf links is situated.
The first course was situated on 58 acres 1 rood and 34 perches, sublet to proprietor James J. Farrall, M.R.I.A.I. at £30 per annum. It opened as an 18-hole course, an error of judgement given the limited playing area stretching from the original pavilion, south of the present 17th green to the current 14th green. Golf in Rosslare was up and running with the first committee meeting being held in White’s Hotel on 2 September 1905. In August of that year about 140 members had joined, many Dublin-based and professional contemporaries of Farrall.
Difficulties arose in 1906 with the declared bankruptcy of Farrall. It appears that he had overspent on his Rosslare venture and that cash had run out. Golf continued, if a little haphazardously. November 1906 witnessed the sale of the Boyd Estate, including the Golf Links, to a Mr. W.E Hewat of T. Heiton & Co. Dublin for £610. This sale presented a formidable and daunting challenge to the continuation of golf in Rosslare. It was a challenge that was met in a positive and emphatic fashion. A group of local interested parties involved themselves in lengthy lease negotiations with a reluctant Willie Hewat. In june 1908 agreement was reached and a lease was granted. No time was lost in re-establishing the club. At the first AGM held on 10 June 1908 a new committee, reflecting the old and new orders of contemporary society with a predominance of local membership, was elected. Rosslare Golf Club was now a members’ club, as it is to this day.
Membership in 1908 consisted of 124 men and 95 ladies with only 6 men and 1 lady associate from outside County Wexford – very local and reflecting a cross section of the upper echelons of Wexford society. The first Men’s Open week was held in 1913, followed by the first Ladies’ in 1921. All golf was now played on a more practical 9 hole layout.
The oft-stated ambition to extend the course to 18 holes was achieved in 1925 with Rosslare Golf Club becoming the new owners of Rosslare House and gardens, the existing 9 holes and the land necessary to extend the course to 18 holes – the total outlay being £2677-6-6. The famous English firm of Hawtree and Taylor, Golf Architects, was commissioned to design the layout and were used again in 1928 to design the layout of the bunkers. Local labour, strictly supervised by Rosslare greenkeeper Jimmy Ennis, completed the work on the layout, much to the satisfaction of Hawtree and Taylor, whose fee for the design work was £15.15s plus expenses. Play on the new links course commenced on 12 August 1926 with the official opening performed by Mr. L. J.Hewson, Editor of ‘Irish Golf’, taking place on 7 June 1928.
Tom Williams in his history of Rosslare Golf Club, ‘Fairways To The Sea’, refers to the years to the mid -40’s as The Golden Years. Rosslare Golf Links began to attract national attention. Visiting golfers and societies were flocking to play. One of the most notable societies to visit was the Garda Golfing Society with prizes being presented by General Eoin O’Duffy. Notable visitors included Arthur J. Havers (1923 Open Champion) and Percy Allis, father of Peter Allis, with both being lavish in their praise of the links. In 1934 Rosslare was chosen as the venue for the Irish Close Championship – the winner being Joe Brown, a member for many years. Winning the Junior Cup in 1940 was the club’s first national title – other successes were to follow. Willie Ffrench became our first international golfer. The demand to play Rosslare continued with Club Championship Finals (1934) and many prominent visiting national societies. On the negative side, erosion was beginning to rear its ugly head – a challenge thereafter that exercised the minds of many committees.
The next 20 years to the mid-60s represented a time of appraisal and consolidation. The demand for membership increased with new members being drawn from wider and more representative segments of society. 1948 and 1953 attracted the Irish Ladies Close Championship. A notable visitor (1953) was Henry Cotton, 3 times Open Champion. Cotton enjoyed his round on the links and was particularly taken by hole 13 which he described as one of the best par fours in Europe. He referred to it as an ’upturned saucer’. What might he say to-day? Coast erosion continued to be a matter of grave concern.
These were conservative times, financially and socially. Nevertheless, some clubhouse improvements were carried out and a more open attitude to lady members was emerging. Nowadays, the ladies are an active and integral part of Rosslare Golf Club. Golfing success came to the club in 1965, winning the South Leinster Trophy and the Provincial Towns Cup, the latter being repeated in 1968. Visitors were flocking to Rosslare Links to avail of its all-year round playability. Major clubhouse renovations were carried out during 1971/73 and again in 1998/99.
A very successful pro-am tournament was organised in 1969, historic in being the first in Ireland run by a club without commercial backing. In 1979 The All-Ireland Universities Championship was held and the club hosted The Carroll’s Irish Match Play Professional Golf Tournament in 1982. On the playing front the ladies were successful in the Finn Trophy (1984) and the Midland Shield (1994).
During the eighties the club invested heavily in a coastal erosion protection scheme. With the aid of The Board of Works and Wexford County Council major protection works were carried out to alleviate the situation, efforts that preserved the links for the future but always in need of constant monitoring. Adjoining land had been bought piecemeal over a number of years.
These purchases facilitated The Burrow Course project, a 9-hole bunkerless course designed by Christy O’Connor Jnr. The course was opened in 1992 and proved an immediate success with members and visitors alike. 3 further holes were added in 2000. An upgrading of the existing 18 holes was also completed, the current layout very reflective of that work.
Membership was now at a premium with a very long waiting list. The club approached its centenary years (2005) with confidence and pride and celebrated appropriately; the highlights being the publication of the club’s history ‘Fairways To The Sea’ (Tom Williams) and the hosting of the All-Ireland Club Championships. An outstanding feature was the success of our underage golfers winning numerous Boys Interprovincial Championships, with Chris Drumm, Gary Collins, Ross Young and John Brady to the fore, Gary Collins and John Brady both achieving All-Ireland success. This outstanding period in Junior Golf culminated in a double victory in The Fred Daly Trophy (2008, 2009). The adult players also experienced golfing successes. Notable were the ladies winning the Midland League (1969, 1971) and the Midland District Junior Foursomes (2006). Emma Murphy brought further success in winning the Midland Senior Cup (2011).The men were Leinster victors in Barton Shield (2013) and Senior Cup (2014), with Ian Lynch winning the North of Ireland Amateur Championship (2018). The outstanding achievement was All-Ireland victory in The Jimmy Bruen Shield (2006).
The final word goes to Tom Williams – ‘This coveted burrow land came from the sea and Neptune, now and again, makes a valiant effort to reclaim its own.
The battle continues, man versus nature, and man has done well. But let him never condescend to show arrogance or overconfidence in his dealings with these volatile, wilful, yet wonderful, old dunes.
For these truly are – THE FAIRWAYS OF THE SEA’.
On behalf of Rosslare Golf Club, we’d like to thank Mr. John Furlong for his time, dedication and diligence in summarizing over 115 years of club history.