History of Elm Park Golf & Sports Club

Club motto:        "Possunt Quia Posse Videntur"
                               (Virgil's Aeneid, Book V line 231)

  They are able because they seem to be able        (literal translation)
  They can because they think they can                  (usual translation)

The club motto of Elm Park is certainly a very apt and appropriate motto considering the achievements and endeavours of our founding members in overcoming the many setbacks in the early decades of the Club. The details that follow describe the founding of our Club and its development into the sporting complex which it is today.

Elm Park Golf & Sports Club owes its name to its place of origin, Elm Park House and lands, now the site of St. Vincent's University Hospital.

Elm Park House was an early 19th century mansion with twenty two acres of parkland, approached by an avenue from pillared entrance gates on Merrion Road. The property was in the ownership of the aristocratic French family until purchased by Mr. Louis McMullen in 1924. The land had some strange and varied uses over the last 150 years, including being used as a Command Grenade School by the War Office during the 1914-1918 War. The outlines of the trenches used in grenade training are still visible on sections of the course. Before they purchased Jones Road for the building of Croke Park, the G.A.A. played matches on the land courtesy of Lord Ffrench, and in the early days of golf, 75 to 100 sheep were grazed on the course from April to November each year!

McMullen set about pursuing his dream of establishing a Golf & Sports Club on the land. He formed the nucleus of his new club by calling on members of the then defunct Stillorgan Park Golf Club which had been wound up due to the advent of World War I and the relative inaccessability of that club. The prospect of a new golf and sporting venue beside the tram-lines on Merrion Road and within a shot of Sydney Parade Railway station was very attractive to Stillorgan's former members and so, at a meeting on October 29th 1924 the new club was established.

The task of designing the new course was given to Fred Davies, a founder member and first captain of Milltown Golf Club, a prominent member of the G.U.I and a scratch golfer. Davies presented a his design for a 9 Hole, 3000 yard course to committee in November 1924. The construction of the course was to be supervised by the newly-appointed Professional and Green Keeper, Daniel Mahony who was to be paid £3 per week with accommodation, one of his many duties being the making of golf "sticks" as they were generally known at the time. Among initial expenses connected with the maintenance of the course were the hiring and subsequently the purchase of a horse and cart and also the hiring of two women whose job it was to weed the greens at 4 shillings per day! The annual subscription was 5 guineas p.a. for gentlemen and 3 guineas for ladies. 1926 saw the construction of tennis courts and a badminton hall.

All was not well however. Only 2 years after he had launched his dream project it was announced that the Elm Park property, due to financial problems, was now vested in the Official Assignee. McMullen asked the committee to take over the running of the club, leasing the club and premises back to its members. A receiver was appointed by the bank and a five year lease was agreed, beginning in 1929. Membership at this time consisted of 145 gentlemen and 204 ladies; ladies at one stage, being banned from wearing their high heels due to damage to the greens!

A special General Meeting of members was held in September 1933 to consider purchasing the property for the club. The bank was approached on 3 different occasions with regard to price but failed to get any definite response. In November of the same year, the club received formal notice to relinquish possession. The house and lands had been sold for development to the Irish Sisters of Charity for a new hospital. Thus after the New Year's Eve Ball of 1933, the gates of Elm Park House closed and the club which had been begun so optimistically 8 years before, ceased to exist. Tennis however continued on a private basis for some years after.

Some members regrouped at a meeting in The Dolphin Hotel in June 1934 where those present formed the Elm Park Golfing Society. The Society had well organised golf outings to other courses such as Greystones, Foxrock and Milltown, holding an annual Captain's Dinner and other social evenings. The committee continued their efforts to re-establish a club and managed to acquire a lease of Nutley House and lands adjacent to the relinquished Elm Park House from the Sisters of Charity from 1936 onwards. Retaining the old name, a new Elm Park Golf & Sports Club Ltd. rose like a phoenix from the ashes. The Club had come from the palatial Elm Park House to the no less palatial Nutley House. The new property contained space for tennis courts and the re-establishment of the Tennis Club as an integral part of the club.

Nutley House, a late neo-classical Georgian mansion was built c.1820 and is thought to have been designed and built by Richard Morrison of Cork, a prominent master-builder and architect of the period. The house had sixty five acres and its entrance was through an ornate gateway on Stillorgan Road, with an avenue running across our present first fairway. Until the turn of the 19th Century, the house was occupied by Alderman George Roe of Roe's Distillery, twice Lord Mayor of Dublin, who employed Ninian Niven, a noted botanist and Director of the Botanic Gardens to make a garden, park, lake and tall belvedere at Nutley. The redwood tree at the first hole and many other stately specimens and the Irish yews between the second fairway and the tennis courts date from that period. A small lake was created on the stream between the 16th and 17th fairways, but there is no evidence of where the tall belvedere was constructed. At the turn of the 19th century, Nutley House became the property of High Court Judge and Vice Chancellor of Trinity College, the Rt. Hon. Dodgson Hamilton Madden. In 1927, subsequent joint owners, Lillis and Thompson sold 13 acres including the gate lodge adjoining Stillorgan Road, and houses were built in what is now Nutley Park with further houses on the Stillorgan Road. The entrance to Nutley House was then changed to its present location off Nutley Lane, which was then called Beechmount Avenue after another large house, being then nothing more than a country lane.

J. McAllister, a Scot, prominent in golf course design in Ireland at the time, was appointed to design a new golf course. The official opening was performed on 13th June 1936. Four cement courts and five grass courts (front courts) were constructed for tennis that same year.

In 1941, the club had the opportunity of re-leasing the lands vacated in 1933. Elm Park House had been demolished but the hospital project had been deferred and this land permitted an extra 7 holes to be designed. Further land was leased from land abutting the nearby Bloomfield House so that in 1941, Elm Park became an 18 hole course. Later, in preparation for the building of the new hospital, Elm Park lost that part of its land as a result of which the club reverted to a 9 hole course. Meanwhile the Tennis Section was thriving and five extra grass courts (back courts) were constructed and these courts were used for the first time for a Triangular International tournament between Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

In 1960, the adjoining Bloomfield property was purchased and the present 18 hole course was opened in September 1960. In the same year, a bright new star arrived on the scene, the highly talented Ita Burke, (later Ita Butler). Ita was to become a source of pride and honour to the Club with her numerous Championship victories, her International appearances, and her selection on the Curtis Cup Team in 1966 in Hot Springs, U.S.A. She went on to captain the Curtis Cup Team in 1994 and was elected President of Elm Park in 2007.

The standard of tennis in Elm Park was rising quickly in the early 1960s so that the Ladies first team won the Class 1 Cup in 1965. The Men's teams followed with Class 1 wins in 1969, 1972 and 1973. By this time, Elm Park was the premier tennis club in the Dublin League.

In 1975 a building project got underway with a modern extension, which included a new dining room, locker rooms (refurbished in 1999), Professional Shop, office accommodation and function room. Another development of major importance was the purchase of the fee simple of the Bloomfield property from the Pembroke Estate in 1985. In 1994 an additional 2 acres were purchased in order to protect the club's boundaries. Three years work came to fruition in 2005 when 18 sand-based greens were officially opened, thereby enhancing winter golf for members. Elm Park Junior Cup Team were runners-up in the All Ireland final in 1975 and went on the win it in 1985. Our men's Senior Cup Team was runner-up in the final of 2000. Tennis facilities were further enhanced with the first introduction of savannah artificial grass courts to replace the back grass courts in 1991.

In 2002, Elm Park received the All Ireland Club of the Year Environment Award for best presented golf course and clubhouse in Ireland. It has also been the recipient of a number of awards in recognition of the facilities provided for junior members. In 2007 and again in 2011, Elm Park hosted the Irish Women's Open Strokeplay Championships. Over the years, Elm Park has been honoured by the visits of many golfing icons, such as Payne Stewart, Mark O'Meara, Scot McCarron, Fred Couples and Darren Clarke. The Club has also hosted tennis internationals, Mats Wilander, Joachin Nystrom, Sean Sorensen and Matt Doyle.

On 28th November 2005, a major restructuring of the Articles of Association took place. A Management Board, headed up by an Honorary Chairman would be responsible for the running of Elm Park Golf & Sports Club Limited. In recent years the bar and dining facilities have been modernised.

In 2011, it was decided to establish a group with a view to establishing a club archive, thereby ensuring that the rich history of Elm Park in all its facets will not be lost to future generations.

2018, the club completed a refurbishment of the Sports Reception and Professional shop area, which included remodelling of the men's and ladies locker rooms and a new golf bag store rooms for both our adult and junior golf members.