An informal meeting took place on 1st September 1902 in Elliotts’ Stores, Portaferry between 7 local men with the view to the formation of a golf club, following which a notice was issued to 24 local people.
Kirkistown Castle Golf Club, was subsequently formed on 3rd September 1902 at a meeting held in the Market House, Portaferry. Major General W E Montgomery, Rosemount, Greyabbey, had promised lease of the ground known as Sandgrass Farm at Cloughey for the purpose of a golf links course. Dr. M McDonald was elected as Secretary and Major General Montgomery was elected as the Club’s first President.
The legendary golf course designer James Braid (pictured, above left) consulted on the redesign of Kirkistown Castle Golf Club in September 1934. This included alterations to the tees and greens as well as the positioning and shaping of the bunkers. On seeing the location of the golf course for the first time he was heard to exclaim, “If only I had this within 50 miles of London”.
The subsequent work on the golf course was completed by the end of March 1935. The wooden hut erected in 1902 was finally replaced by a permanent structure in 1936.
This Clubhouse was used as a distribution centre for children evacuated from the greater Belfast area during the Second World War and as a kindergarten school.
In 1941 sand and gravel were excavated from the course for use in the construction of the airfields at Kirkistown and Ballyhalbert and this is how the depressions in the front of the 1st tee, (now known as “the Dip”), and behind the 3rd green came into being. These areas were designated ground under repair until 1945.
Other Key Milestones In Our Club's History:
It was in 1949 that Sunday golf was permitted for the first time. Lieutenant Colonel Blair Mayne DSO and Bars, (Colonel Paddy as he was famously known), was elected Captain in 1951.
Open Champion Fred Daly MBE, (1947, Royal Liverpool), was elected as Honorary Member in 1953 and he organized an exhibition match in which he and Mr. John Glover played against Jimmy Henderson and Norman Drew.
In 1956 the Club negotiated a 999 year lease from Montgomery Estates thus securing the future location of the Club for a long time to come. Mr. E J Meadowcroft of Portaferry was appointed as Secretary Manager of the Club in 1962.
With the increase in popularity of the game of golf Full Members in 1978 had risen to 514 and, after protracted discussions, in May 1979 Full Membership was capped at 530.
Tommy Young, who had taken over from Frank Polley as Head Greenkeeper in 1940, retired in 1980 after 50 years of dedicated service to the Club.
Mr. W H C Montgomery of Greyabbey was elected as Honorary Member in February 1981 in appreciation of all the generosity afforded by his family during the life of the Club, including the total area of the course.
In the same year an automated sprinkler system was installed around the greens at a cost of £21.5k.
The 2nd and 8th greens were reconstructed in 1989 with the former having the distinctive 2 tiers introduced.
Having added a Conservatory dining room in 1995, in 2001 a major development and refurbishment of the Clubhouse was completed in preparation of the Club’s Centenary celebrations held throughout 2002.The Late Mr. Robert McDowell was the centenary Captain having previously been Club Captain in 1984.
Hugh Montgomery of Montgomery Estates was elected as an Honorary Member in 1996.
In 2001 George Best, the legendary International and Manchester United footballer came to live in nearby village of Ballyhalbert and was elected an Honorary Member.
In 2008 Jonathan Hagan set the Course Record of 63 on President’s Day and in the same year permanent restroom facilities were erected at the 12th Tee as gift from the then President, The Late Dr. Harry Ferris.
With some reconstruction of the 10th hole in 2019, rendering it now a par 5, the course became a par 70, with the current course record achieved by Gavin McBride in June 2023, scoring 62.
Michael Bannon, who learned his golf at Kirkistown Castle before becoming a Professional Golfer and who is coach to Rory McIlroy, was elected as an Honorary Member in 2013.