Cloghogue is one of the best courses in Ireland. It is also totemic and symbolic, sited as it is, less than ten kilometres across the border in the Northern Ireland. The club and course reinforce the Pitch and Putt Union of Ireland's claim to be a thirty-two county organisation, one of the few such sporting organisations in the Emerald Isle.
The year was 1967. The patch ofï¿½ land to the rear of the Sacred Heart Church and parochial house in Cloghogue was lying idle. Intrepid local curate, the late Rev. Henry Devlin, decided to put it to good use. The land was rough and hilly, covered with whins, bracken and stone, but it commanded magnificent views of the surrounding area, overlooking the town of Newry to the north, as far as the Mourne mountains to the east and the Cooley peninsula to the south.
Over the years, dedicated club members, volunteers all, transformed the barren land into a Pitch and Putt masterpiece, revered by all who are privileged to visit. Successive Cloghogue committees and loyal members have furthered the Pitch and Putt cause. This they royally achieved, in defiance of the twin difficult circumstances of the Northern Ireland Troubles of the modern era along with the huge distances they had to travel to compete at events in southern Ireland.
Perhaps the most famous Cloghogue member is Marina O'Rourke, Irish ladies champion in 1997 and 2000. Paul O'Hagan and Conor O'Hare have represented Ireland, Paul claiming the distinction of securing Ireland's winning point in the historic inaugural international challenge against Catalonia at Solius in 1997.
Cloghogue has six times hosted Irish championships - the Inter-County championships of 1970, 1982, 1992 and 2009, the National Matchplay in 1995 and the 1999 National Mixed Foursomes. Current Pitch and Putt Union of Ireland President Frank Smith helped Dublin to the 1970 Inter-County championship at Cloghogue.
Cloghogue boasts a Pitch and Putt rarity. There are some blind holes. Contoversial in some eyes they may be, but they definitely test the best. The 10th and 11th are completely blind from the tee. The first 40m of the 54 metre 11th fairway are flat, making it difficult to visualise the shot to the green and gauge the distance.ï¿½ At 40m the fairway drops into a ravine where the green lies at the bottom, 10m below.ï¿½ No other hazards surround the green other than the natural terrain of the banks.ï¿½ Picking the right line is essential.ï¿½
Index 1 hole is the 8th.ï¿½ Officially 68 metres it's he longest hole on the course and considered the longest in Irish Pitch and Putt, as this shot is all uphill and all carry.ï¿½ The green has been flattened over the years but is blind to the tee-shot.ï¿½ The only trouble is the large mound 3 metres short of the green on the left. That's apart from the length (and often the prevailing wind blows off Slieve Gullion into the player's face).
With a tee box view stretching over the town of Newry and the Mourne mountains, the 4th measures 51 metres and can be affected by the wind.ï¿½ However the trees on the bank well short of green make the distance deceptive.ï¿½ Recent changes have seen the green moved much closer to the bunker protecting its right hand side. In addition to the conventional hazards such as mounds, trees and bunkers, a graveyard could come into play on a couple of the back nine holes while the bell tower of the church is the line off the tee on another.
If you're ever in the north east of Ireland, do yourself a favour. Get along to play Cloghogue, at least once.