By December 31st, 1906, the membership of the club was 143 members and 75 lady associates.The Hermitage club continued to attract a wide range of members and the clubhouse, situated on the raised site at the present seventh tee, began to feel the strain. Transport to the club from the city was provided by the Lucan Electric Tramways, which passed close to the club. At night the tram driver rang the bell to indicate to the members, as it headed to a brief stop in Lucan, that the last tram would be returning in about ten minutes for the journey back to the city. It meant a major scramble for the members.
Drinks had to be quickly consumed, and golf clubs and wearing apparel had to be collected before the arrival of the tram. The tram drivers were not forgotten by the members however. At Christmas, those who were regular drivers, were given bottles of whiskey. (There were times when the service to the city was delayed a little longer as members polished off their last drinks.) It must be remembered that golf between the formation of the club and the first world war (1914) was strictly a middle class game and the social needs of a clubhouse were considerably less than would be expected 50 years later. But the club itself and the marvellous course continued to attract a wide range of members.
Some names of the time to conjure with were Sir C. and Lady Nixon, Lady Goulding, Lord Moyne, Justice Reddin, Hon. B. Plunkett, Sir G.A. Abercrombie, Hon. D.A. Forbes, Earl of Pembroke, Hon. Mrs. B. Dewhurst and Lord Milton.
Golf and the Golf Course – the old and the new
Over the years the course was subjected to some changes and alterations. Before the advent of par, the bogey was 76, and this is how our late great caddymaster, John Behan saw the layout then. “You must remember” he said “that with the equipment of the day the course presented many hazards which are not apparent today. There were some blind holes, internal out of bounds and strategically placed greens, and a number of holes that played very long in adverse conditions.” And he added. “The old gutty ball did not travel as far, and the hickory shafted clubs did not unleash the same power as present day equipment.” Paddy Gunning, the club professional agreed with John.
The Front 9
The present 7th hole was the 1st in those far off days, and the 8th was the second, a five bogey then, and many golfers of the time, played short of the cross bunkers placed strategically across the front of the green, to catch the wayward second shot. Our 9th was the 3rd and it was quite a bit shorter than it is now. The old 4th no longer exists, it was a short hole diagonally in front of the new clubhouse. The present 1st, 2nd, and 3rd were the 5th, 6th and 7th. Our present 5th was the 8th and the 6th was the 9th.
The Back 9
It was only a short walk from the 9th green over to the clubhouse. The back nine started with the present 17th which was then the 10th and our 18th was the 11th. The old 12th no longer exists, but it must have been a very interesting hole. The tee was near where the old farm yard is, and one played downhill towards the river. The green was in the vicinity of the back of the present 14th tee, but not visible from the tee.
Our present summer and winter 10th holes did not exist then. The 13th went parallel to the present 13th but it was longer and in the opposite direction. The tee was behind the trees at the top of the hill of our present 12th and the green was down in the corner where the present 11th tee is now. The present 11th was the 14th and it held all the same terrors for golfers then- just as the presence of the river Liffey does to this day. The 15th played up the hill of the present 12th across to where the present 13th is now. From here home the layout was much the same as today. The present 14th was the 16th, a five bogey; the long 17th (the present 15th); and the final hole, the 18th, was the present 16th. Undoubtedly three great finishing holes.
The length was 6,100 yards with the bogey at 76 as previously mentioned. This may have sounded over-generous, but do remember that clubs were wooden shafted with matching sets probably a luxury, and the bogeys were fixed according to the character of the hole rather than the actual yardage. Somehow the present system of measuring the difficulty of holes in metres/yards only did scant justice to courses designed by James McKenna, who created the Hermitage layout.