Woodenbridge Golf Club, Vale of Avoca, Arklow, Co. Wicklow
Woodenbridge Golf Club was described as " Ireland's Augusta" by the legendary Joe Carr, who added that "Woodenbridge is the most scenic golf course in Ireland, a hidden gem".
In a country which abounds with scenic courses set in areas of outstanding natural beauty, this is no small claim to make. And there's hardly a more authoritative source than Carr, who played the great golf courses of the world with such distinction. And on a summer's day, when members find themselves at the place where the Avoca and the Aughrim rivers meet, they are indeed inclined to think that Woodenbridge may be Ireland's Augusta, but they also wonder if a case can be made that in fact Augusta is America's Woodenbridge !
After all, they've been playing golf here in the mystical Vale of Avoca since 1884, when the club was founded by the Bayly family on whose lands the course is located. The original 9 holes were played for a century until Woodenbridge GC was eventually transformed in 1994 into the present Patrick Merrigan-designed 18 holes.
On the walls of the club-house there are many extraordinary sepia-tinged pictures of men such as John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, seeking respite from the struggle for Home Rule by struggling with his game at Woodenbridge. He is also remembered at Redmond's Tree, a magnificent evergreen oak, which stands on the left of the fairway on today's 9th, a par-5.
There is even local speculation that the meeting of the waters on the golf-course is the actual Meeting Of The Waters immortalised in the ballad by Thomas Moore. But perhaps what impresses most, is the way that the timeless qualities of the course are enhanced by the most modern features -- in 2008, in "Backspin" magazine, Woodenbridge was voted into the top 30 of Ireland's leading parkland courses, by a panel which comprised 52 of Ireland's touring and PGA professionals, top amateurs, and the Irish golfing media.
The par-71 course (72 for Ladies) can provide a challenge for the J B Carr's of this world, but it is such a pleasure to play, it will not break the heart of the high-handicapper having an off day.
All who cross the bridge into this magical place, will fall under its spell.
The layout makes the best possible use of the course's stunning natural features, with the Avoca and Aughrim rivers coming into play on at least 10 holes. The most notable of these are the spectacular, but dangerous par 3 holes -- the 8th, the 11th and the 17th -- and on the magnificent par-5 18 th, which begs the brave to flirt with danger from the tee by demanding a nerve-ripping drive across the water. The scorecard can truly take shape over the closing holes! Some of the finer holes also include a 448-yard dog-leg par 4 at the 6th, the toughest hole on the course. Every hole provides unique challenges for players of all handicaps.
Documents regarding the origins of Woodenbridge Golf Club are hard to come by. This is no surprise, considering the first officially documented game of golf in Woodenbridge took place way back in 1884. It was in that year that Col. E.A.R. Bayly offered an invitation to Sir Stanley Cochran of Woodbrook House to field a team of gentlemen for a round in what has become one of Ireland's most beautiful courses.
It is understood, however that golf was being played in Woodenbridge prior to this date, but this is the official date of the birth of our club. In 1894, the club was opened to all who wished to play. The first committee was formed in 1897 and with the course now fully commissioned, Woodenbridge joined the Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) in 1899. This was also the year of our first inter-club competition where we played against Bray Golf Club. Interestingly, the result of that match was never recorded!
The course enjoyed many trials and tribulations between that time and now with significant redesigning taking place in 1915 under the eye of Tom Travers, the then renowned Dun Laoghaire professional.
It remained a nine-hole course until 1994 when Paddy Merrigan was commissioned to design the additional nine hole layout and extend Woodenbridge to a Par 71, 18-hole course. The new holes were blended seamlessly and agelessly into the fabled original nine holes. He subsequently upgraded the old nine holes in a most sensitive manner so that strong, entertaining golf is provided to balance modern technology with the essence of this historic and beautiful place. J.B. Carr, almost certainly Ireland's most successful amateur golfer, once described the 18-hole course as " Ireland's Augusta and probably the most scenic course in Ireland". Woodenbridge Golf Club is truly steeped in history and can only really be appreciated by visiting the clubhouse to view the many photographs and paintings that adorn the walls.