Royal Meath, Ireland
The county of Meath is called Ireland's Royal County because the ancient kings of Ireland lived within its confines at Tara.
To Paddy Fox goes to the credit for the establishment of Royal Meath Pitch and Putt club in 1962. Paddy and local publican Sean McWilliam negotiated the rent of five acres of land behind a shop in the centre of Clonee in south Co. Meath from its owner Harry Kenny. The rent was set at £80 per year. The course was designed by then PPUI President Jimmy Vaughan, assisted by Paddy Fox and Ciaran Kelly. There was much debate about the club's name with many favouring the more prosaic Clonee Pitch and Putt club. Thankfully, the idealists prevailed and one of Ireland's most distinctive club names was born.
The original clubhouse was formerly the local cinema. Voluntary work was very much the theme of the early years. The land was poorly drained in places (that's long since been rectified) and the members travelled every Easter Monday to Portmarnock beach for a lorry load of sand to maintain the bunkers. Royal Meath purchased the land from Harry Kenny in 1971 and the spacious clubhouse was completed in 1975.
Very few courses in Ireland boast the distinction of having hosted all of the PPUI national majors. The National Gent's Strokeplay championships of 2005 completed the set for Royal Meath, the climax of a journey that commenced with the Inter-County championships of 1969. Royal Meath was also the venue for the 1995 renewal of the Ireland v. Australia international series of the 1990s. The course has long been recognised as one of the best in Europe.
The Royal Meath course, the original layout having changed little down the decades, boasts many wonderful holes. The fifth presents a tough pitching examination with Out of Bounds lurking just a few metres behind the green. The sixth is the longest hole at Royal Meath and plays almost to the maximum distance. A ditch behind the green is but one of the posers that this hole presents.
The tiny seventh green has broken many hearts over the years. With a raised green (originally built from the rubble from founder member Paddy Phelan's new house!) this 25 metre teaser has delivered many a card wrecking double bogey!
On the homeward run players must run the gauntlet of the narrow 13th green ringed by sand before facing one of Royal Meath's signature holes - the 51 metre downhill 15th, which is played from the clubhouse area. Another beautiful hole is the uphill 18th where a teeshot over the gaping front bunker will leave a putt across the sloping green.
One of the most influential of the P.P.U.I.'s Presidents, Billy Lynch is perhaps Royal Meath's most famous member. An avowed supporter of latter day international Pitch and Putt, Billy is devoted to Royal Meath (Ireland's eighth largest club in membership terms) and is regularly to be seen there tending to the fairways and greens that have seen much drama in their time.
Modern Clonee is nothing like the sleepy village of Paddy Fox's heyday. Now almost a suburb of Ireland's capital, Dublin, the construction boom of contemporary Ireland has changed the skyline forever. The busy, bustling N3 highway lies but a hundred metres to the east. Royal Meath Pitch and Putt club remains a constant and the membership will, in four short years, hail half a century of our sport in Clonee.