Parkland gem celebrates 40th anniversary next year
Combine a beautiful location with an inspired designer and you have a match made in heaven.
In this case, the great Eddie Hackett allowed the golf holes to emerge from the great Johnstown Kennedy Estate, where centuries-old beech trees give Beech Park Golf Club its name.
The 382-acre estate was sold off in 1976 for £500,000 and in 1982 that historic sale provided an opportunity for the ambitious and enterprising committee to build the course that thrives today.
The club, which began with a tenancy at Bodenstown in 1972, will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its establishment at its Rathcoole home next year and there is much to celebrate.
The old Georgian mansion on the estate is no more, but interesting remnants of the estate remain, such as the three old stone French drains carrying water off the course and the “Ha Ha” – a sunken feature used in the gardens of many stately homes – at the 14th.
Much credit must go to Course Manager and General Manager David Callanan, who has nurtured the course for the past 16 years and overseen many changes, including the redesign of the 17th and the recent construction of a beautiful short game area in front of the clubhouse.
Like many clubs, Beech Park suffered during the economic crash a decade ago, but the recent pandemic proved a huge boon, and it now boasts 800 members in all categories.
“We are almost full,” club captain John Keogh explained this week. “We have a few vacancies for seven-day members and capacity at five-day, but in our under 30, under 35 and intermediate category of 18 to 25, we’re not taking new members right now.
“The rationale is they pay a reduced fee and hold seven-
day rights, so we have self-
imposed a cap on those categories. But the ladies section has grown, and we have 150 ladies and some 65 junior members with many grandchildren of older members joining the club now.”
Quite apart from the burgeoning membership, the biggest positive at Beech Park these days is the magnificently manicured golf course.
Thanks to a Sports Capital grant of €120,000 in 2019, the club moved its putting green and developed a new chipping and practice area that has proved an enormous success.
“It has totally changed the dynamic in the club,” John explained. “And we also have a putting green near the first tee. Not only that, we have been allocated a further €112,000 in the last round of Sports Capital grants which will be used to re-develop some of our tee boxes next winter and buy course equipment.”
Beech Park has just five full-time course staff and two summer staff this year, but it relies on a team of volunteers to help the Course Manager with small jobs on Tuesdays.
“We are stretched a bit because getting golf course staff is very difficult these days, but David Callanan and his team have the course in tip-top condition. We just had a very successful Open Week, and our visitors were very pleased.
“The club is doing well because we took in many new members after the first lockdown, so the numbers are up and the club’s finances are in a very healthy position, which is great to see.
“We don’t have an entrance fee and the annual subscription comes out at €1,100. So while some join for two or three years and move on, we are replacing them every year and we have a waiting list of people who want to join.”
The new short game area, which was designed by Eddie Connaughton and built by DAR Golf has proved a big success, while the creation of a meandering stream at the 17th is another popular improvement to a course that is now fully mature.
“When we moved in 40 years ago, Rathcoole was a small village. It is now growing immensely with the population increasing by 46% between the last two censuses. We want to go into the schools in the area to get the next generation to come along and our PGA professional Mark Murphy will be key to that.
“Mark came to us from Mount Wolseley Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort just before the first lockdown. He’s now in his third year and he’s been brilliant, especially as a teacher. So there is a lot of praise for Mark and his assistant Colin O’Gorman, who also teaches.”
Murphy and O’Gorman are heavily involved in the third year of the club’s Get Into Golf programme for ladies, with Lady Vice-Captain Trisha Nolan instrumental in driving that forward.
Thanks to the coaching provided, the club hopes to enjoy more success on the golf course, having won the Leinster South Jimmy Bruen title last year – its first success in the event since winning Leinster in 2000.
“There’s a great team spirit at the club,” explained John, who with Lady Captain Tara Keane is getting an extra year in office this year due to last year’s Covid restrictions.
As for playing the course, it’s a beautiful walk. But given the number of wonderful trees, wild-hitting, especially around the club’s Amen Corner run from the ninth to the 13th, is almost always punished.
While the 448-metre, par-five ninth is reachable in two for the longer hitters, it still requires the right-hander to hit a little fade through a chute of trees to find the fairway and leave a downhill shot to the green.
The 10th might be a short par-four, but it is also lined by trees and rhododendrons and while there is some respite at the water-protected, 282-metre 11th, you then face an intimidating par-three over water at the 171-metre 12th.
Water is also a threat all the way along the right side of the feature hole, the short but treacherous par-five 13th.
Choose your tees wisely, and stay out of the trees, and you might just have the most pleasurable golfing walk you’ve had all year.
Green fees: From €25-€35 midweek
Society rates: From €25-€35 midweek
Buggy hire: Yes, €25 for visitors 18 holes
Club hire: No
Electric trolleys: Yes, €10 for visitors
Range Balls: No
Signature hole: Hole No 13, 473 yards, Index 3, Par 5.
Professional’s tip: A dogleg par-five with a tight tee shot to a narrow fairway that has water down the entire right-hand side.
The lay-up shot has to be well positioned around the corner to leave an open approach shot to the green.
Errant shots will end up in the water so your approach shot needs to favour the left-hand side of the green.
Full membership, €1,100; 6-Day, €950; 5-Day, €795.
Nearby clubs: Slade Valley, Naas, Castlewarden, Palmerstown House, Newlands, Craddockstown