Ballyheigue Castle Golf Course was officially opened on Saturday May 18th, 1996 by An Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. Dick Spring T.D. The golf course is a 9-hole Woodland course built on 90 acres of land on the grounds of Ballyheigue Castle. The course is located on the Wild Atlantic Way with panoramic views over Tralee Bay, Banna Strand and Slieve Mish mountains. Playing the course you can be pleasurably distracted by the immense beauty of the surrounding landscapes of North Kerry.
The History of the Castle
The earliest known building on the Castle site was the dwelling of the Norman settlers the Cantillions. Tadhg Cantillon owned the first Castle on the site. It was from his name that ‘Baile Ui Thadgh, Ballyheigue, got its name.
After the Cantillons were dispossessed in the late 17th century, the Crosbie family came to own the land in Ballyheigue. A new house replaced a long low thatched mansion around 1758 and then Colonel James Crosbie built the castle around 1810. The well-known architect Richard Morrison (1767-1849) and his son William were commissioned to design a new mansion in the Castle style incorporating the existing house.
The Castle was burnt on two occasions, first in 1840 and again in 1921. The Castle was restored after the fire in 1840 under the tenure of the landlord, James who passed it to his son, James Dayrolles in 1890.
J.D. Crosbie decided to sell the Castle to Jeremiah Leen for £5,500.00 but later withdrew from the sale. He subsequently sold it to his sister Kathleen in 1912 for £7,700.00, who wished to keep it in the family. She married Thomas Erskine in 1913, but by 1921, she too decided to sell. It must be assumed that the events since 1916 were the main reason for the sale.
The Castle was bought by Jeremiah Leen for £4000.00. On the night of the 27th of May 1921, the Castle was burned for the second time, just after the completion of the sale. At this stage during the War of Independence, there was a policy of burning buildings which were seen as a symbol of British rule in Ireland.
The land stayed in the Leen and O’Halloran family. The castle ruin was partially restored by Donal Mulvihill on the west side, where the façade was retained, with modern accommodation being built behind. The buildings to the right of the main castle have been in continuous use by the Leen and O’Halloran families.
The Golf Course
The first idea for the golf course came after a few holes of golf in Tralee Golf Club. Anton Casey approached Michael Dowling and Brendan Moriarty with the idea of opening a golf course in Ballyheigue. After some consideration over a cup of coffee it was decided the Castle grounds would be ideal to build the course. Jerry O Halloran was approached, and he agreed to lease the land for a golf course.
A management committee was set up to bring the plan to fruition.
The Committee included:
Chairman- Teddy Healy.
Secretary and legal advisor- Michael Dowling.
Treasurer- Brendan Moriarty.
Committee members: John Casey, Anton Casey, Eugene O’ Sullivan.
Meetings were held every Friday night at Teddy's Healy’s house, and eventually work
started on the course in May 1994.
A course architect Roger Jones, who also designed and built the Gap of Dunloe Golf course, was appointed.
A builder originally from Moyvane, Frank O’ Dowd of Intergolf Ltd, Killarney and US was hired due to his work with Robert Trent Jones when building the new course for Ballybunion. Local man John Hare (RIP) also worked on the course with his JCB. Jack Lucid was appointed the first green keeper.
The Office staff were Secretary/Manager James Broderick assisted by Patrick Dillane.
To finance the project a Government Grant was secured with the help of Jimmy Deenihan who was Junior Minister for Agriculture. Additional finance was secured from the sale of life membership.
The club grew with new membership and the inaugural General Meeting was held on 1st December 1995. The first committee of the club was :
President: Teddy Healy.
Captain: Michael Dowling.
Vice-Captain: Eugene O’Sullivan.
Secretary/Treasurer: Brendan Moriarty.
Handicap Secretary: Anton Casey.
Trustees: John Casey, Eugene O’Sullivan.
Voting committee members: John M Canty, Brendan Healy, Liam Hussey.
President: Mary Flahive.
Captain: Ann Leahy.
Vice-Captain: Ber Collins.
Treasurer: Margaret Moriarty.