|D. G. Gardiner
|Margaret E. Boomer
ON 3rd April, 1905 a meeting was held in Lisburn Courthouse at which the decision was taken to form a local golf club, and the lovely grounds, known as The Manor Lands, some 40 acres, were secured on a lease for 20 years.
It was not, however, the first attempt to introduce golf to Lisburn, for in 1890 a club was inaugurated, playing over almost the identical course occupied again in 1905. Apparently the time was not ripe for such an enterprise, but it proved the precursor of greater things.
For some five years the club maintained a precarious and uncertain existence, and finally passed peacefully away in the year 189596.
The old Lisburn Club had not lived in vain, for it paved the way for its vigorous and robust successor on a nine hole course with several natural advantages. Majestic trees abounded, the turf was as fine as was to be found in Ireland, and the sub soil was sand, giving excellent playing conditions in winter as well as summer.
The Club is exceedingly fortunate in that its records in the form of minute books are complete and in excellent condition from the inaugural meeting in the Courthouse right up to the present day.
In 1905 the founder members published the first book of rules and regulations. The entrance fee was fixed at �1s 0d, with the annual subscription a similar amount. Apparently the early members were reasonably broad minded for, while they prohibited the playing of golf on Sunday, they agreed to the sale of excisable liquors, though legal advantage was not taken of this provision until 19 years later.
The office bearers in the first year were:
President Mr. Harold A.M. Barbour, MA; vice presidents Sir Samuel R. Keightley, LLD, Mr. Thomas R. Stannus, JP, Mr. Ogilvie B. Graham, JP; Captain Mr. George H. Clarke, JP, (Chairman of Lisburn Urban District Council; Hon. secretaries Mr. J.H.E. Griffith, CE, and Mr. Thomas Sinclair; Hon. treasurer Mr. Thomas Malcomson. Council Dr. Henry S. Murphy, Messrs. John Hale, George Sands, CE, Alfred Stevenson, Thomas J. English (Clerk of Petty Sessions), John Preston, Robert Pedlow, John Stalker, Joseph Alien, James B. Campbell, Hugh Mulholland, Edwin A. Sinton.
A greenkeeper, Hugh Rush, from Ormeau Golf Club, was appointed in January, 1906. He was also permitted to give lessons to members, so he could be regarded as the first professional. The first person to be appointed to the sole post of professional was Alexander Guthrie Day in 1911.
The introduction of caddies took place in 1907, when some boys were appointed to carry bags at threepence per 'round, "all others started at - two pence per round, afterwards ' being promoted on merit and good conduct to threepenny caddies".
Ladies were permitted to join the Club from its inception and the Ladies' Branch was formed in 1906, so a year hence it, too, will be celebrating its 75th anniversary. In 1907 the Ladies' Branch was granted permission to affiliate to the Irish Ladies' Golfing Union at a fee of one guinea, being one of the first clubs to do so.
Down the years the Club has increasing popularity, but perhaps the first 25 years were noteworthy in attracted many members from outside the town, particularly from Belfast, so much so that the Great Northern Railway introduced a golfers' excursion fare from the city on Saturdays. It was a common sight to see players, with their bags of clubs slung over shoulders, winding their way from the railway station along Bachelors' Walk, Antrim Street, Bow Street and Chapel Hill to the course.
The return journey in the evening was made with equally steady gait, for it was not until January 1924, that a certificate of registration was obtained, enabling a bar to be established as an amenity.
In 1956 the Council decided to try to purchase the lands and negotiations were commenced on that basis by the Club's solicitor, Mr. R.J. Kirk, who at that time was also Captain.
Eventually a purchase price for the lands, comprising 40 acres approximately, was agreed at £7,500, plus vendor's costs and stamp duty of £300. The deal was completed in 1957, the members at a special general meeting empowering the trustees to negotiate a loan of £7,500 with the Belfast Banking Co. Ltd., on the security of the lands. At the same meeting increased subscriptions, effective from 1958, were agreed as follows: Ordinary members, £7 7s 0d; ordinary associates £3 3s 0d; country members, £2 12s 6d; country associates, £1 I Is 6d; juvenile members and associates £1 1s 0d
Due to housing and other development on its boundaries, the Clubs property at Longstone Street became completely encircled and subject to continuous trespass by children and adults alike, with the result that in 1964 serious consideration was given to finding another site to accommodate an 18 hole course.
The Borough Council opened negotiations to buy the property for £110,000 and this was accepted by the Club, the contract of sale being signed on 3rd March, 1970, and completed on 1st January, 1971, a condition being that the Club remain in possession until 1st May, 1973, at a rent of £2,250 per annum, plus rates.
The Club had entered into negotiations with Messrs. Samuel McCausland, Ltd., for the purchase of land and premises known as Blaris Lodge, Magherageery, Lisburn, comprising 124 acres approximately, as a site for a new course, clubhouse, locker rooms and equipment stores, the purchase being effected for the sum of £67,500, with completion on 1st January, 1971.
Mr. F.W. Hawtree, was appointed architect to design the course and supervise its construction, and Messrs. Hobart & Heron, Belfast, were selected as architects for the clubhouse.
In February, 1971, a tender was accepted for the construction of the and in March, 1972, a contract was entered into at �59,700 for the erection of the clubhouse.
The course at Blaris Lodge was opened for play on 6th June, 1973, when the Captain, Mr. W.N. McNally, performed the inaugural ceremony by driving from the first tee, and the official opening of the course and clubhouse was performed on Saturday, 1st September, 1973, by Mr. P.J. McPolin, President of the Golfing Union of Ireland. Mr. McNally unfurled the Club flag on the flagstaff bequeathed by the late Mr. J.N. Brodie, who also donated funds for the provision of seats.
The project at Blaris Lodge cost in excess of £215,000 and since 1973 considerable expenditure has been incurred in carrying out further developments. Utilising an abundant supply of water from a well adjacent to the clubhouse, an automatic sprinkling system has been laid on to all the greens and the putting green. The clubhouse was extended, the car park and entrance drive surfaced and an area in the vicinity of the first tee tastefully laid out.
The equipment shed was doubled in size to compensate for the demolition of an old farm building, originally used to house machinery; a vast programme of tree planting was embarked upon, involving approximately 1,000 trees.
In laying out the course at Blaris Lodge, Mr. Hawtree made full use of the existing natural features such as ground undulations mature trees and water courses, achieving the ideal arrangement of four par 3, four par 5 and ten par 4 holes making up two loops of nine holes with the clubhouse in the central area, The 18th hole is a testing par 3 at 217 yards which gives a dramatic downhill finish. The whole area from the tee to green is visible from the clubhouse.
Over the last 30 years the course has developed into one of the best inland courses in Ireland. Nearly 1,000 trees have now matured and supplement the old oak trees. In spring the course is a mass colour with pink cherry blossom lining the driveway and azaleas and rhododendrons in full bloom dotted throughout the course. To make the course playable despite inclement weather, extensive drainage work has been carried out. The fifth green has been redesigned this year and plans have been drawn up for further alterations in the near future.
The two thousand square foot professional's shop, adjacent to the first tee was completed in 1987. The original clubhouse at Blaris has been extended and extensive renovations, which included new locker rooms, were carried out in 1998. The facility was officially opened by Billy Black, Chairman of the Golfing Union of Ireland (Ulster Branch). Many glowing compliments about the excellent state of the Lisburn course were given by the GUI officials at the recent Centenary dinner.
The President of the GUI, Lindsay Shanks, mentioned the generosity of the club in allowing the use of the course and clubhouse for major competitions.