A number of members from nearby Lucan Golf Club formed The County Dublin Golf Club in 1905. Soon after, the club’s title was changed, with the new name coming from a local cave along the banks of the River Liffey where a hermit was meant to have lived many years before!
James McKenna was commissioned to design and build the golf course for the new Hermitage Golf Club. He was a reputable course architect, having already been involved in the construction of renowned courses such as Lahinch, Ballybunion and Waterville.
The Golfing Union of Ireland thought the new Hermitage course good enough to hold the 1914 Irish Close Championship here. This was the first occasion that a non links course had been chosen for the event as only Royal Dublin, Portmarnock, Royal County Down and Royal Portrush had been used before then.
Over the years, a number of Irish Presidents, based in Phoenix Park in Dublin, have been members of Hermitage and enjoyed the facilities and hospitality afforded to all members and visitors – it really has earned the reputation of being the club of choice for the rich and famous in Dublin society.
However, the club is not just well known for the number of upwardly mobile golfers who have been, and currently are, members. Hermitage offers a fine test of golf throughout its 6,651-yard length in a mature parkland setting that is so close to the city yet also far removed. Jeff Howes completed the phased replacement of greens on the course to sand-based USGA specification in 2002 so the club now boasts some of the finest putting surfaces in the Dublin area.
Two holes are worthy of closer scrutiny and they complete the front and back nine on the course. Firstly, the 9th, a 506-yard par five, is the only three shotter on the outward half. Two large oak trees on either side of the fairway dominate the hole 220 yards from the green. With out of bounds and a bunker on the right, the tee shot should be aimed at the oak tree on the left, as anything to the right of the fairway will be severely hampered by the tree on that side. A second shot should be played down the right side of the fairway to allow an approach that misses the large protecting bunker to the front left of a raised plateau green.
The 18th is a 415-yard par four that doglegs slightly to the right and it’s the longest par four on the course. The tee shot must find the fairway as bunkers lie either side to catch anything offline. With a large stand of trees down the right, the bail out is down the left but a brave shot down the right is rewarded with an easier approach to the putting surface. With out of bounds at the back of the green, an over clubbed approach shot spells disaster at this testing finish to a round of golf.
The front nine holes on the course were renovated during the first four months of 2018, when all the bunkers and green surrounds were rebuilt. The former large, American-style bunkers were set further back from putting surfaces and scaled back in size, with flat bases and lower front edges. The hazards were also reduced in number, from twenty-nine to twenty, and re-constructed with a SportBond liner and synthetic Durabunker edging, resulting in a fully sealed bunker system.
This course is a fine parkland which is pleasant to play with very good greens and a nice layout that winds its way round the top half of the course until you reach the 10th which is a cliff top par 3 needing a good stroke. The next hole par five index one follows the river Liffey upstream -- a left handed crescent shaped hole blocked by trouble on the left and requires some brave hitting to get to the green and avoid a watery end in ‘Abhainn Na Life’. There are a total of five bells/buzzers on the back nine. The next few holes can be a bit disconcerting to play the first time. The normal white stone or barbers pole to help on these blind does not exist so for first time visitors on holes 12, 14, 16 and 17 it is a lottery. A real test off the back/blue tees at 6069 meters plays longer as so many are uphill- hence a lot of climbing. Played it twice last week but best played from May to October. Might deserve # 63 ranking in Ireland but # 7 in Dublin is too high.