History of Tuam Golf Club

In the beginning….

James McDonnell, Chairman Town Commissioners, was elected as first President of Tuam Golf Club at the inaugural meeting to establish the club which was held in the Town Hall, Tuam, on Monday, 17th. October 1904. James McDonnell was a prominent Tuam businessman whose business premises were situated at the corner of Dublin Road and Vicar Street which is now occupied by the Allied Irish Bank. He also had other business outlets in Milltown, Ballinafad, Dunmore and Mountbellew. As well as engaging in business in the town Mr. McDonnell was also very active in political, social and sporting activities in the life of Tuam and its surrounds towards the end of the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth.

New golf clubs were established in Athenry, Ballinasloe, Ballinrobe and Galwayduring the concluding decade of the nineteenth century. A meeting was advertised in the Tuam Herald for Monday 17th of October 1904 at 4pm. All who were interested in the new venture were invited to attend. The meeting was so enthusiastic it was unanimously decided to formally establish a golf club.  The annual subscription was fixed as follows: Gentlemen £1.00, Ladies 5 shillings, Family £2.00.

A further milestone in the development of the club occurred on the 3rd of May 1910 with the official opening of the new clubhouse which was built into the side of Cloonascragh sand hill and we are told it had a commanding view of the first and fourth greens. To mark the occasion a mens single v bogey, ladies single v bogey and mixed foursomes competitions were held. The entry fee for each was two shillings. The prizes were presented by Henry Concannon, Mrs Henry Concannon, Rev. Cannon Higgins and Patrick Murphy respectively. To help defray the cost of construction a concert was held on the previous Monday in the Town Hall. The first club dance was held in the Tuam Club on the Dublin Road in a further fundraising effort on Tuesday of the following week. There was an attendance of 82 ladies and gents and the catering was provided by the ladies committee and it was a resounding success.

The 1930’s were noted for the club’s very successful series of open meetings. Competitors for these occasions came from Castlerea, Ballyhaunis, Sligo, Galway, Athlone, Claremorris, Westport, Ballinrobe and Dublin. An interesting feature of these open days was the fact that competitors played in two competitions, singles and fourball v bogey. Some names of winners over the period may be of interest to the more senior members of the club: Dr T.Waldron, Dr Nohilly, Rev J.G.McGarry, Oswald Browne, H. Campion, D.D.Dennehy, B.S.Kenny, R.Leake, Dr T.Cunningham, J.P.Glynn amongst others.

In 1937 the Club took the decision to leave Cloonascragh and re-locate to the lands of the Kilgarriff family at Mayfield on the Dunmore Road and stretching over to the Tullinadaly Road, now the Milltown Road. It appears that the decision to leave was because of the state of the fairways at Cloonascragh which had deteriorated to a significant degree and it was considered that it would cost an amount way beyond the financial capability of the Club to remedy them. Also James McDonnell, the President, had left Tuam on his retirement some years previously and his interests in the town had been sold off.
In March of 1940 a new golf club called the Commercial Golf Club was formed and took over the old course at Cloonascragh which was renovated and made playable again. This club was affiliated to the Golfing Union of Ireland and golf was played on that course for many years afterwards. In 1942 they employed the services of a professional.

In 1948 Christy O Connor Senior came to the club as professional. While here he gave golf lessons not only to the members of Tuam but also in several of the surrounding clubs. In 1951 he was encouraged by his friends in Galway and Tuam to play in the British Open in Royal Portrush. He finished as leading Irishman in the championship and later that year he was invited to take up the position as professional at Bundoran Golf Club, then owned by the Great Northern Railway Company, from where he went on to even greater fame on the professional tour. Due to his expert tuition and the encouragement of the management committee of Tuam Golf Club in those years some very promising young golfers emerged in the club.

Tuam Golf Club members were becoming restless from the mid 1960’s on. They were playing on a 9- hole course, which they had to share with sheep and cattle as the land was rented. They were also hearing on the grapevine about other local clubs like Athenry and Loughrea which were extending their courses to 18 holes. While they had enjoyed their days in Mayfield they felt the time was ripe for them to buy their own property and develop an 18-hole course adjacent to the town of Tuam.

An extraordinary general meeting of the club members was held and it was agreed that the club purchase the lands, but as the club had no money and the members would only guarantee £5,000 it was decided to establish a company to purchase the property and develop the lands into an 18-holes golf course. Barnacurragh Development Company was set up.
The first priority of the company was to level and develop the land and drain it where necessary. A deal was done with a local land developer, Sean Ryan. He was given the land, rent free, for two years. He was to level it and sow two crops of barley and then hand it back under grass. This was duly done and some drainage work was carried out.

Some years ago, on being elected Vice-President, I decided to look into the history of the club in which I had been interested for some time. However it was not very long before I realised that there were very few records in existence which I believe is not unusual in many of the smaller clubs throughout the country. From its foundation up to the move to Barnacurragh our club was really among this category.
I sincerely hope that this resultant publication will not only be a record of the club’s past but will also be of interest to you its members.
Michael Moroney