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Carlow Golf Club,
Founded: 1899 (Present Course 1922)
Designer: Cecil Barcroft, Tom Simpson
Championship Length: 6,571 yards
SSS (Course Rating): 71
Like Cork Golf Club, Carlow Golf Club is one of those rare parkland species with roots in the 19th century. And like almost all golf courses of a mature age, Carlow is a really superb test of golfing prowess and certainly rates as one of the finest parkland courses in Ireland. Founded as a nine hole course in 1899 as the Leinster Golf Club, the name was changed to Carlow Golf Club in 1901. Following the First World War, the club prospered and membership grew rapidly, resulting in a transfer to a 164 acre portion of the Bruen family estate in 1922.
Cecil Barcroft designed an excellent 18 hole layout over a magnificent piece of wooded terrain and so successful were his efforts that it was not until 1937 that changes to the course were deemed necessary. The legendary Scottish architect, Tom Simpson was engaged to redesign some ten greens and many of the bunkers and it remains a tribute to the combined efforts of Barcroft and Simpson that no further alterations have taken place to this day, other than the cosmetic addition of yards, tees and bunkers.
Carlow was the scene of a rather special exhibition match in July 1934, involving Australian trick shot specialist Joe Kirkwood and no less a figure in the game than Gene Sarazen, winner of the British Open just two years previous. Sarazen was high in his praise for the course and its superb springy turf, which remains today and earns Carlow the reputation as being as close to an inland links as possible.
The four par 3's at Carlow are truly excellent, probably the best being the 180 yard sixth hole, while Christy O' Connor Sr. has selected the difficult par 4 sixteenth as one of his "best 18 holes" anywhere. The most pleasant and picturesque hole is the eighth, where the tee shot is played from the highest point on the course down to a sloping fairway below. To the left and right of the fairway lie two stone faced raths overgrown with adult beech trees. Many tee shots have been lost here, while local legend has it that the balls are taken by the "little people" of the raths or fairy rings.