Dooks is one of the oldest golf clubs in Ireland. It is also among the best. As you approach it down winding roads between large houses with well kept gardens, the message pumps in that these people connect to traditional family values and naturally revolve socially around golf. Discovering the clubhouse over run by about 50 juveniles competing in the Junior Championship well supported by parents and grandparents reinforced that impression. The Lady Captain, Kay Woods, later confirmed that it continues to be an important social hub.
When exactly golf was first played in Ireland is a little uncertain but the first clubs, among them Dooks, were established around 1883. It appears the British army and the Anglo Irish introduced golf. Various units were stationed in Glenbeigh for artillery practice on Rossbeigh dunes, they played golf on the broad flat areas between the dunes. and before long the Royal Ordnance Corps was ordered to lay out 9 holes across the dunes.
The club opened in 1889 for play and ten years later added another 9 holes. In 1921 Dooks made history again Lady Edith Gordon was elected as a Ladies Captain. Horrified, men in d exclaimed in anger but could not prevent women moving into their sporting bastion; especially not Lady Edith who was married to a famous cricketeer. She was one of the champions of the golf course, who invested her time and money making it a success. Many clubs banned women and the doors are still closed in some.
Recently the course was re-designed by Martin Hawtree. The club recently bought a large area of commonage land out on the end and that will soon be incorporated too. It will provide much needed practice grounds.
The club has had a chequered history. It has teetered on the brink of closure several times but it has been kept safe by those who live nearby or who have holiday homes in Kerry raising adequate funds. Ironically one of the biggest attractions of this links course is that it overlooks the sea in and around Rossbeigh Head. Today it is that sea which most threatens the course.
The Ladies Captain showed me where last year’s heavy storms breached the natural breakwater which protected the coastline. The sea flows in fast across the flatlands and heavy seas threaten to engulf the course. In the last year the club has fortified the beach with rock armour; vast boulders heaped one upon another the length of the course.
Kilorglin- Glenbeigh are settled communities and popular holiday destinations with a heavy proportion of famous musicians attracted by the musical traditions which jam its bars. It is an area where wild tales are told and retold and strange practices continue which are a little at odds with the staid, etiquette ridden world of golf.
Kilorglin Puck Fair
For the last 300 years the men of Kilorglin have disappeared into the mountains in early August to hunt and catch a wild goat. On the first day of the Puck Fair the goat is crowned King Puck with an iron crown and honoured for the next three days.
I felt slightly sorry for King Puck as he was hoisted on a scaffold platform above the town. He appeared well sedated and looked comfortable on a grassy bed. He was fed regularly and lowered for brief periods to be photographed with his loyal subjects. I paid E10 for my picture.
When his brief reign was over he was returned to the mountains apparently unharmed by his bizarre experience. The men of Kerry on the other hand who all seemed to consume a vast amount of Guinness and whisky looked in need of some downtime.
Stalls selling everything from power drills to seaweed appeared in the streets. All day buskers played on street corners and every bar had a group of traditional musicians. Children had their faces painted and watched street entertainers.
There was a horse fair outside the village but the cattle were sold in the streets. I watched a bunch of cows being separated at the end of the sale. As the truck carrying the first group disappeared down the road, two cows ran as far as they could after the truck bellowing heart rending cries. Moisture ran out of their eyes in long dark runnels on their cheeks. They looked so distressed. I believe those cows were crying. I had never thought of cows as emotional beasts but on that day there was no denying what I saw.
King Puck is likely to continue every year unless Kerry men run out of Guinness and Irish whisky.