Club History

History of Athgarvan Pitch & Putt

Perhaps an interesting way to begin the history of the Athgarvan Pitch and Putt Club would be to acknowlege the existence of a 9 hole civilian golf club and course (1910-1922). This course stretched from the old Lumville barracks to where our 15th green now sits. (This being the 9th green of the old course).

The course was set up by ordinary civilians and businessmen who could not gain membership at the Royal Curragh Golf Club of the time. After the British army evacuated the Curragh in 1922 the old links gradually fell into disuse. Below is the layout of the old circa pointed out to Mr. Eric Wallace by Mr. Bill Price (Both of Newbridge). Eric drew the maps of the Athgarvan and Royal Curragh Golf Courses as described to him by Bill who began golfing the Curragh circa in 1913.

As the years passed, the land where this old golf links once flourished began to be used for local sports. Various portions of it were used as a cricket ground, hurling and football pitches, camogie pitches and even a portion was used as a motor-cycle scramble track. Pitch and Putt at this time had not even been invented as a sport.

Many people may not be aware that the sport of Pitch and Putt originated in Ireland and is as native a sport as the game of hurling. Around the mid 1930s the game first came to be in the seaside resort of Fountainstown, Co Cork. It was the brainchild of a Mr W.A Collins, a bank official in Cork city at the time with the help of a colleague M J (Toey) Hunt (pictured). Both men were founding members of a leisure club called The Fountainstown Development Association. This club was home to tennis courts, croquet, archery and most importantly an 18 hole putting green. Mr Collins derived the idea for pitch and putt from this putting green and set about developing a course. In 1937 a nine hole course was built and became the first Pitch and Putt course in the country.

The game was met with much interest and more courses sprang up, not only around Cork county but in surrounding Munster counties. In 1944 the Irish Amateur Pitch and Putt Union (IAPPU) was established under the Presidency of Mr Collins and with the sport growing rapidly sights were being set on courses throughout the country and to develop the sport to a professional level. When Mr Collins left Cork and moved to Dublin his influence led to many courses and clubs being set up in Leinster. The first of these was at Ferrard, near Baltray Golf Club in Co. Louth. It wasn't long before Leinster caught the bug for this great sport and courses/clubs were established throughout the province.

However, troubled times lay ahead. Although invited to affiliate to the IAPPU, the Leinster and eastern clubs felt they would lose their identity and possibly fall under 'Cork Rule' as it was put. They moved to set up their own organisation and in 1954 the 'National Pitch and Putt Association' (NPPA) was formed. With both organisations adopting slight differences in rules, distance to greens and the use of two clubs rather than three, it eventually became obvious that a unified agreement needed to be addressed in order for the sport to progress and move forward. Delegates from the IAPPU and the NPPA met on several occasions in an attempt to achieve agreement. Their proposals were put forward to officials from both sides in 1960 and talks ended with the formation of the 'PITCH AND PUTT UNION OF IRELAND' (PPUI) as we know it today.

The first convention of the PPUI was held on the 9th of October 1960 at Hillview in Clonmel, Co.Tipperary. Rules were drafted and structures for today's game were put in place. At that time there were 42 affiliated clubs (28 in Leinster, 14 in Munster). Today there are 125 affiliated Clubs with 12,000 Members in 19 Counties.

ATHGARVAN PITCH AND PUTT CLUB - THE BEGINNING

In 1949, while the sport of Pitch and Putt was still relatively in its infant years and Leinster Clubs were beginning to appear, even in Co Kildare, a small group of pioneering enthusiasts, local to the village of Athgarvan, saw the potential for a Pitch and Putt course in the area where the old golf links had once been. They set about structuring a 9 hole course, possibly unaware of the role this club would play in the future within the Pitch and Putt community.

With no official records or documentation stating the names of our founding members, we relied on the kind recollections and memories of various people who held an association with the club in the early days of its establishment. One such person who came to speak to us was Mr Jim (the Boiler) Conway. Jim played on the course as a teenager when it initially opened and recalls William H Smith or 'Busty' Smith as he was more known, charging him two shillings to play the course for two months. Jim also recalls Mr Tony Brady and Mr Jackie O'Brien discussing developments to the course with help from another local resident Mr Herbie Hewitt. These four men, we believe, were the founders of the Athgarvan Pitch and Putt Club.

As the course began to take shape and locals took an interest in this new sport, the founders began to run competitions within its numbers. The games brought many spectators from surrounding areas. During these times, greens were allocated to individuals to maintain, mow and water (Later in years a full time greenkeeper would take on the role). As no clubhouse existed at the time, the members made use of the local Gaelic hall which at the time was situated to the back left of where our 18th tee box is in place today. Referred to as 'The Black Hut' or 'The Goathouse', as many people knew it, the organisers/founders would regularly meet at this hall (until later, 1960, when the present clubhouse was built) to discuss further developments to the course and upcoming events. Incidentally, this community hall saw some of the earlier gigs of the 'Gallowglass Band'. On speaking to Mr Sean Keogh, the last remaining member of the band, he graciously recalled some of the names mentioned earlier and the humble beginnings of Pitch and Putt in Athgarvan.

The first established record we have been able to find of an event/competition at the course comes from an article published in the sports page of the Leinster Leader, 20th June 1953. It mentions the clubs 'CAPTAIN'S PRIZE', which we believe was the first of this event. The winner with a score of 56 was Mr P. Brady who beat Mr. W. Smith by one stroke. Also mentioned was the upcoming 'LADIES DAY' to be held on the 29th of June 1953.

Winners of 'Ladies Day' were announced as Mrs. J. Mahoney, Mrs. J. O'Brien and Mrs. M. White

Top scorers on the day were:
Mrs. J. O Brien
Mrs. M Mullaly
Mrs. M Brady
Mrs. K Doyle
Mrs. A.J Reeves

Prizes were presented by Mrs. A.J Reeves and refreshments were served.

The following month Athgarvan was well represented with 16 players from the club competing in the Leinster Pitch and Putt Championships to be held at Kimmage in Dublin, 18th to the 23rd of July 1953. Five players qualified.

W.Smith (114)
J.Malone (118)
P.McEvoy (119)
P.Brady (120)
S.Byrne (120)

In a gripping final round P. Brady lost out to J. Dempsey from Glennane with a score of 116, narrowly beaten by one shot.

On Sunday 13th Septetember 1953 the Athgarvan course played host to the Co. Kildare Pitch and Putt Championships. In perfect weather, 60 competitors took part. Playing in parties of 3, they set off from the 1st tee box with clockwork regularity. With huge crowds of spectators along to watch, they would give a fine display of skill and determination. As the day progressed and competitors dwindled to the remaining few, it was set to be a gripping finale. At the three quarter stage mark the leading positions were Stephen Byrne (Athgarvan), P. Brady (Athgarvan) and Corporal Maguire (Plunkett). The first of this trio to falter was P. Brady. The remaining two set off for their final round and after a fierce battle of wits S. Byrne was the the triumphant finalist who beat his opponent comfortably in the end. A proud day for the Athgarvan Club.

Later that evening in a short speech, the then President of the Athgarvan Club, Mr. J Cardiff, presented the prizes, thanked Mr P. Cox, the donor of the championship cup and also thanked the Athgarvan Football Club for the use of the social hall (the black hut).

Mr Cardiff was to play a pivotal role in the year to come, leading into 1954 when the Athgarvan Club would face a battle with the Dept. of Defence and the Board of Works to secure the future of the course.

The club continued to hold competitions throughout 1953 and into the following year with many new members joining and taking up the game. An unusual event was held on Sunday 25th of April 1954. 'THE SCURRIES' competition as it was known involved the old golf course (of which only five of the old greens were still evident and playable). Starting at the 1st tee box at the old Lumville Barracks, competitors set off on a distance of 6 furlongs and 63 yards of the old circa and the final was played out on the pitch and putt course to finish. Players were permitted only one club until reaching the pitch and putt course itself. Mick Geraghty (Renowned Kildare Footballer) triumphed and took first prize on the day, narrowly beating his two final opponents Steve Byrne and Sean Byrne with a score of 41.

THE STAND OFF

Shortly after this event a correspondence from the Department of Defence to the trustees and founders of the Club, stated a formal objection to the use of the land at the Curragh Edge for the purpose of Pitch and Putt. All events and competitions ceased and a stand off between the club and the Department hung in the balance. Mr J Cardiff (President APPC and head Bailliff, Blackrath, Co. Kildare) entered into negotiations with the Department and the Board of Works in an attempt to gain permission and allow the club the right to continue their activities.

Mr Cardiff enlisted the assistance of the then Tanaiste Mr William P Norton (Labour, pictured) to liase on behalf of the club for a change of descision. A correspondence was sent to the Department informing them that a Committee for the Club was being contemplated. Many uncertain months in limbo lay ahead for the trustees / founders and members. No competitions were held and the course was left more or less deserted.

Finally, in early October 1954, a letter from Mr Norton informs the club that the Department had withdrawn the objection and would allow activities to continue. A tremendous victory after many months of uncertainty for the trustees who stood their ground and refused to give up the course without a fight. Shortly afterwards, an agreement between the appointed Committee, the Board of Works and the Dept. of Defence was drawn up and Pitch and Putt finally took its official place in Athgarvan. In many ways this victory can be regarded as the official beginning of Athgarvan Pitch and Putt Club itself.

With this weight lifted from their shoulders, the club founders and members resumed all activities, competitions were organised and once again Athgarvan Pitch and Putt Club set out on the path of sharing their course. Many talented players began to emerge within the Club's membership and Athgarvan was establishing itself as a major contender at competition level and was producing some of the best players in Leinster. In 1957 the then committee discussed extending the course and once again permission to do so was requested from the Department of Defence. This time around, no objection was made.

Work commenced on a further nine holes and in late 1958 the new layout was complete. The front nine as we know it today became the completion of the 18 hole course. The entire course measured 11.5 acres and apart from the addition of the banks that exist today, the course structure remains generally the same as originally developed. The 18 hole course was officially opened and a blessing by the local priest Fr J O Gorman with a strong attendance of spectators launched the new course. The 1958 Committee were Mr. P Brady (Chairman), Mr. J O Brien (Secretary), Mr. T Brady (Treasurer) and Mr.S Byrne (Club Captain).

Greens maintenance was handled by Mr. Ollie Lambe who took care of the course superbly for many years thereafter. In 1960, around the time the P.P.U.I was being formed, the building of the present day clubhouse began. Committee officers, members and even the local residents of Athgarvan village gave assistance. Captain Larry Furlong (Lumville) was of great help to the club negotiating with the Dept of Defence for construction of the building. Captain Furlong was also present at the first Convention of the P.P.U.I as a delegate on behalf of Co. Kildare.

Athgarvan was one of the 42 clubs affiliated to the P.P.U.I at the time of its formation and remains today one of the 20 clubs still affiliated from the original 42.

Throughout the years Athgarvan has played host to many major competitions.

1961 - NATIONAL STROKEPLAY
1982 - JUVENILE STROKEPLAY AND INTER-COUNTY
1987 - NATIONAL LADIES STROKEPLAY
1990 - NATIONAL LADIES MATCHPLAY
1994 - NATIONAL MIXED FOURSOMES
2013 - LEINSTER LADIES STROKEPLAY CHAMPIONSHIP
2014 - LEINSTER JUVENILE MATCHPLAY

Athgarvan has also hosted many provincial competitions and have been well represented by players of the highest standard. Within the Pitch and Putt Community, many names associated with the club were regularly seen competing at various competitions throughout the country.

Apart from closure of the course in March of 2001 due to the Foot and Mouth outbreak, Athgarvan has remained accessible to all throughout its years in existence and it is presently a thriving and active club and course.

From the Club's establishment in 1949, a multitude of Names who either excelled at the Sport and represented Athgarvan at National and Provincial level or contributed by way of Committee service going over and above expectations are echoed time and time again. Their association with the Club paved the way for all of us who are presently involved.

Busty Smith
Jackie O Brien
Herbie Hewitt
Tony Brady

Paddy (the Barber) Brady
Jimmy Connolly
Sean Byrne
Stephen Byrne
Mick Geraghty
Kathleen Hewitt
Dick Grainger
Phil Lawlor
Capt. Larry Furlong
John O Brien
Paddy Sludds
Sean Coogan
Frank Dempsey
Owen Cummiskey
Tracey Noone
Bobby O Neill
John Redmond
Jimmy Williams
Tony O Donoghue
Pat Doyle
Eddie Carey
Bridie Kelly
John O Neill
Frank Ryan
James Dunne

are to name but a few whose influence, skill of the game, hard work and determination brings the Athgarvan Pitch and Putt Club to where it stands today.

"AS YOU STEP ONTO THE FIRST TEE-BOX, PUT YOUR TEE IN THE MAT, PLACE YOUR BALL AND STAND UP TO ADDRESS YOUR PITCH, TAKE A MOMENT......TAKE A MOMENT TO ENJOY YOUR SURROUNDINGS AND REMEMBER THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO GAVE THEIR ALL TO ENSURE THE ENJOYMENT OF THIS WONDERFUL SPORT"

(It is the intention of the writer and Club to mark our 70th year, 2019, with a printed version (Book) of the Club's History for the local History archives. We will also feature items of interest regarding the Village of Athgarvan itself. We appeal to all members of the public to provide us with any relevant information/pictures they might have that would be of value during this endeavour. Please contact Declan at 0862250049)

Written by Declan Power (on behalf of Athgarvan P & P Committee) with the assistance of Colonel William H Gibson (Ret'd) (Royal Curragh Golf Club/Historian and Author)

Click here for more information on Bill Gibson

The Athgarvan Pitch and Putt Club history page

This page is dedicated to the memory of our clubs founding members, committee and officers, friends and loved ones who have left us through the years but without whom, our great club would not be where it is today. Their dedication and loyalty can be felt throughout the course and they will never be forgotten.

While we have taken every care to ensure accurate information, a lack of records and documentation in regard to the club's initial origins have been lost through the years and it was with the kind recollections of various associates and members of Athgarvan P & P that enabled us to piece together the early stages of this great club. It is not our intention to omit any person(s) of importance during the club's early establishment. We have exhausted every avenue in the search for our history. From time to time, new information may become available to us and we will include this accordingly.

A number of people came to our assistance with information and we would like to take this oppurtunity to thank them for all that they provided.

Mr Bill Gibson (Royal Curragh Golf Club/Historian), whose assistance with our research was of major importance
Mr John Manning (whose wealth of knowlege was of major importance)
Mr Jim (the Boiler) Conway (Former Member/Athgarvan P & P)
Mr Jimmy Williams (Former Chairman/Athgarvan P & P)
James Durney (Newbridge Library/Historian)
Josephine Holden (Dept of Defence/Archives)
Mr. Greg Duffy (Royal Curragh Golf Club)
Deirdre Twomey
Gerry Doyle
Pat Doyle
Alfie Fanning
David Sludds

Our sincerest thanks