Dublin is blessed with many city clubs, but Elm Park Golf and Sports Club in the heart of Dublin 4 has become a welcoming hub not just for golfers and tennis players but many others in its catchment area.
he club is very much a social honeypot for people from all walks of life and of all ages looking for a place to chat and make friends without the need to swing club or racquet.
Of course, Elm Park has been a welcoming social oasis for Dubliners for well over a century as the man who owned the original estate, Lord Ffrench, an aristocratic Anglo-Irishman, supported Home Rule and was a great supporter of the fledgling GAA.
Many of the early hurling and football matches and athletic events were held on his lands in Elm Park, which was approached by an avenue from pillared entrance gates on Merrion Road.
After Lord Ffrench died, the land at Elm Park was unoccupied for some time, and by 1913 the GAA was now a flourishing sporting organization and was seeking a new HQ. After a prolonged search in the greater Dublin area, the final site options were the bigger (and more expensive) Elm Park or Jones’ Rd.
At the GAA Central Council meeting in September 1913, a proposal was made to purchase Elm Park for £ 5,000. In the meantime, the owner of Jones’ Road, then a racecourse, eventually dropped his asking price from £ 4,000 to £ 3,500 and his offer of him was accepted by the Council by eight votes to seven.
That was not the end of Elm Park’s sporting association, however, and on 29 October 1924, the sports club was officially established.
A nine hole golf course (1925), followed by tennis courts (grass and hard), and in 1941, the course was extended to 18 holes.
Nutley House, the present clubhouse, retains many of its original features from the grand old days, including the statuary and the magnificent balustrade surrounding the putting green, not to mention the big sequoia tree beside the first green, which was planted when the house was built in the early 1800s.
The club has grown inexorably over the past century, and today it is a bustling, friendly and inclusive place boasting some 2,300 members, between golf, tennis and social.
The popular Elm Park Open Mixed Foursomes will be revived after a six-year absence from May 25-28 and competition should be fierce following a memorable 2021 for the Dublin club.
Thanks to the club’s enterprising and hugely energetic PGA professional, Peter Morgan, a new generation of top-class women and girls has emerged to follow in the footsteps of such luminaries of the amateur game as Ita Butler and Nano Brennan.
Anna Foster, now a top player for Auburn University in the US, became the club’s first national champion last year when she beat the leading qualifier, Beth Coulter, in the AIG Irish Women’s Close final at Ballybunion.
Anna was coached from an early age by Morgan, who played a significant role in the emergence of Elm Park as AIG Women’s Senior Cup champions for the first time.
With Foster leading the way alongside Mary Frances McKenna, Leah Temple Lang, Louise Mernagh, Rachel McDonnell, Emma Fleming, Kate Fleming and Emma Thorne, the Elm Park ladies defeated the reigning champions Lahinch 3-2 at Castle.
For team captain Mary Frances McKenna, the win was a reward for 25 years of investment by Elm Park in junior golf.
“We have a lot of depth in the team, so while we lost our top player in Anna Foster to college golf, we were still able to win an All Ireland,” she said.
“The club has also produced Charlie Denvir, who is on a scholarship in the US, but this doesn’t happen overnight. A considerable number of people have worked very hard to support junior golf for many years. “
That wasn’t the club’s only success last year as the men would win the AIG Barton Shield for the first time, beating Moate by 10 holes to add another green pennant to their 1985 Junior Cup win as Denvir, Aidan Claffey, John Cleary, James Kelly, Cian Poland, Richie Tighe and Morgan Crowe played magnificently throughout the campaign.
There was also Leinster South glory in the AIG Pierce Purcell Shield and while they fell to Nenagh in the All-Ireland final, the club is looking forward to adding more silverware to the trophy cabinet as the club counts down to its centenary in 2025.