Saint Anne’s Golf Club North Bull Island
St. Annes Golf Club and Nature Reserve is situated on the North Bull Island 4 miles from the centre of Dublin City. The Island has evolved over the past 200 years due to engineering works carried out in Dublin Bay in the 18th and 19th centuries by the building of the Great South Wall in 1790 and the Great North Wall in 1825 to improve access to the Port of Dublin. North Bull Island was deginated as a Biosphere by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisations) in 1981 and is the only Biosphere in the world entirely situated in a capital city.
Golf was introduced to the island in 1889 when The Royal Dublin Golf Club obtained permission from Colonel E. Vernon of Clontarf Castle and from Dublin Port and Docks Board to lay out a course and erect a clubhouse on the North Bull Island.
Near the end of the First World War three young friends, Marmaduke Montgomery Devitt, Tussy Murray and Dudley Stuart who enjoyed sailing and fishing from their boat called “Idle Hours” in Dublin Bay, developed an interest in playing the game of golf. They were facilitated in their interest by moonlighting on The Royal Dublin golf links which was situated near the North Bull Wall end of the island, the British Army had commanderd the island to train troops for the First World War and the three enthusiasts were moved on by the army for their own safety. After the the war they proceeded to develop a nine hole golf course further down the island with the old Par 3, 2nd now the 17th hole being the first hole to be built in a natural dune setting. Some difficulty arose with The Royal Dublin Golf Club who had in May of 1904 been granted a lease for a period of 21 years by Sir Arthur Edward Guinness Lord Ardilaun (1840-1915) of nearby St. Anne’s Estate for exclusive rights of playing golf over most of the island.
Marmaduke Devitt and Tussy Murray were granted an audience with, Lady Olivia Charlotte Guinness (nee White) Lady Ardilaun, this was probably due to the fact that Marmaduke’s father Leopold Montgomery Devitt worked in St. Anne’s Estate. The two got permission to play golf, form a club and agreed on the name St. Anne’s after Lady Ardilaun’s estate. the club was inaugurated on the 1st of July 1921when Marmaduke Montgomery Devitt drove in as first Captain. Initially paying a nominal rent to The Royal Dublin Golf Club, a formal twenty year lease was later granted on the 1st November 1926.
Records show the outstanding contributions made by many members down the year’s, but nobody will deny that a special place in the club’s ‘order of merit’ is held by greenkeeper Micheal Collins who was a towering influence in the formative years. The quality of the greens he built –on beds of blood and soot, both of which were available free locally compared more than favorably with the very best championship links greens of the time.
Golf in the early years of St. Anne’s was played in a certain anonymity. Motor cars were few and far between and transport on the island was, of necessity, by bicycle or shanks mare. The difficult access for the members, who could be marooned by high tides, and the remoteness of the club helped forge the friendly atmosphere and club spirit that has endured to this day. The first club house was a corrugated iron pavilion, which was typical at the time, that was something of a landmark for those who ventured far enough down Dollymont beach on sunny summer days.
This, after all, was the ‘early home’ of Paddy Skerritt, St. Anne’s genial professional for thirty eight years whose achievements brought great honour to the club: he rarely left the golfing headlines in a career that spanned over three decades. Eventually the building of the causeway in 1964, divided the nine-hole course. The old clubhouse was left marooned across the road from the first hole. It fell into ruin and was replaced by a new bantile prefabricated concrete club house further down the course.
This move spurred on probaly the most intensive period in St. Anne’s history. An 18-hole course became the determined focus of the club for the following decade. This was an enormous task as it entailed reclamation of land on the lagoon side of the course and involved protracted and sensitive negotaiations on exchange of lands and other issues with Dublin City Council and environmental groups. However the 18- holes were developed and opened to much celebration in 1989.
The new 18-hole course was responsible for one great immediate achievement – a dramatic improvement in the standard of play. St. Anne’s was always a hard nut to crack in golfing competitions, but in the mid-nineties the club became a formidable force and won its first all Ireland pennant – the Pierce Purell Shield at Rosses Point in 1994. This was followed by the club’s- ‘triple crown’ year in 1995 when it retained the Pierce Purcell, and also won the Barton Cup and Best Cup.
These sucesses, and the onset of the Celtic Tiger, once again fuelled ambition in the club. A new era of development and achievement was about to dawn. And it wasn’t long before a total course re-design and a new state –of-the-art clubhouse were on the agenda. Minds – and committees – were working overtime.
The year 2003 was a landmark in the club’s history it saw the club’s dual dream come true. The course professionally redesigned to the most exacting standards while the better elements of the old course remained intact. On the 29th November 2003 a new superbly designed clubhouse was opened with specticular views of surrounding Dublin Bay including top class facilities for members and visitors alike. The following years saw the implementation of further improvements based on development plans which has brought the links to a very high standard.
There are over 40,000 golf courses in the world with an estimated 16 million people playing golf on a regular basis.
Of these a mere 150 are links courses, played on the natural sandy soil terrain between land and sea.
Of these 44 are in Ireland, the remainder being in Britain.
Although practically all of ireland’s links courses are in a areas of great natually beauty only the North Bull Island has being desinated by UNESCO as a Biosphere and is a unique place which is actively managed to promote a balanced relationship between people and nature.
In short, Saint Anne’s and our good neighbour The Royal Dublin are two extremely priveleged clubs in terms of conveinence facilities and environment. Even if the wind blows a bit stiffy at times.