Hackett, Eddie J. [1910-1996]

Eddie Hackett has long been considered Ireland’s foremost golf course designer yet he was in his mid-late fifties before designing his first eighteen-hole course. Eddie started out as an amateur at the Hermitage Golf Club before taking up golf as a professional career. Eddie started as an apprentice/assistant to Fred Smyth, the famous clubmaker, in Dollymount and spent five months in Belgium with Henry Cotton at Waterloo and nearly a year with Sid Brews in South Africa. Eddie succeeded Willie Nolan as professional in Portmarnock in 1939 from his position as professional at Elm Park. Eddie’s assistants included Jimmy Doran (renowned clubmaker), Joe Nagle, Cecil Connolly and Christy Greene who was attached to Portmarnock between 1946-1950 before moving to Milltown.

Hackett wrote a newspaper column in both the Irish Press and later the Irish Independent. During the war Eddie would arrange exhibitions matches and reportedly accumulated £300, no small sum during the war years, for donation to good causes.

As a professional his successes were limited to the Michael Moran matchplay competition, being runner-up for two years in the 1940s, and the Irish Professional Championship in 1942 when he was runner-up to Harry Bradshaw. As a result of his training he was considered an expert clubmaker but it was for his instruction and knowledge on the theory of the game and the mechanics of the golf swing where his expertise was most in demand. In 1948 he was made honorary secretary of the Irish Professional Golfers’ Association but one of his first acts was to deny an up and coming youngster from a place in the national championship being hosted by his home club, Galway Golf Club as later told to John Redmond in his autobiography, Christy O’Connor (Snr).

J.P. Rooney had chosen Eddie, after witnessing his play, to provide instruction for the brassy (the modern equivalent of a two wood) in his book, ‘Play Good Golf’ which shows him in different poses wielding a brassy. His instruction basically espoused the easy three quarter- full swing with equipment suited for the purpose (whippy shaft, regular length and weight best suited to the golfer, male or female). The book includes photographs of Eddie in various stages of the swing to illustrate the proper execution of a brassy shot.

When he left Portmarnock in 1950 he joined the amateur ranks retiring from professional golf as a result of illness and was made an honorary member of Portmarnock. Ironically he had taken the game up because of ill health. The Irishman’s Diary reported: “Eddie Hackett has no superior as a teacher of the game of golf in this country……There is little that he does not know about the theory of golf”. However he left his mark when his protege Christy Greene who at the time was moving to Kilcroney as another player, Harry Bradshaw, was taking up his position at Portmarnock. Christy won the Irish Professional Championship in 1956 and he gave no small praise to Eddie Hackett for his achievement. As a re-instated amateur Eddie played out of Foxrock Golf Club. In the early 1960s he was hospitalised with Meningitis as was advised by Bill Menton who was Secretary of the GUI (Golfers Union of Ireland) to take up golf architecture.

In 1963 he announced his return to the professional ranks but as he was not affiliated to a golf club he made his services available under the Golfing Union’s Temporary Professional Scheme allowing clubs to avail of his services for short stints. They started a free coaching project whereby Eddie would offer free coaching to the boys and girls of club members, while there was a lower limit of eight persons per group this didn’t seem to be an issue, by way of example, sixty people turned up when Hackett visited Belturbet.

Eddie was offered a position at Foxrock which had lost Ernie Jones and was on the verge of losing their assistant ‘R. J. Browne’ but Eddie chose to continue with his coaching. By October 1963 he was considered Ireland’s leading teaching professional and the Irish equivalent of John Jacobs. In October 1963 he opened a golf school at the Old Belvedere Rugby and Sports Club, setting up mats and netting in their clubhouse. Also night courses were held between 7-10pm Mon,Wed and Fri. Eddie was also teaching at the Leopardstown school twice a week and coached the UCD Ladies members at their college gym in Earlsfort Terrace. It was around about 1965 when he appears to have first got into golf design in ernest as he was already coaching at Clongowes and Rockwell and they presumably asked him to lay out a number of holes in or near their college grounds.

Since the mid-sixties his efforts were focussed in the area of course design which he appeared to have a natural aptitude for given his ability to weave a route through previously unchartered golfing terrain to produce a challenging golf course with the minimum of interference with the contours and topography of the area. It was a time when golf course architects were few and far between on the Emerald Isle and his reputation for being both reasonable from a cost perspective, a factor which can’t be underestimated in Ireland and the time and his ability to produce a quality product made his the architect of choice for new and re-designed golf courses.

Eddie seemingly had a pact with Mother Nature to design courses with the minimum of disruption to her existing creation and this led to his involvement in nearly a third of the links courses in Ireland which represents nearly ten percent of all links courses in existence. His dedication to his work is reflected in the story where he offered, a cash-strapped Ballyconeely club, to mark out the tees and greens for the course for a pittance so they could produce the most challenging course possible. Although some of his courses have been tweaked or redesigned it is testament to his skill as a course designer that many are still listed on the top 100 courses in Ireland.

His greatest creation is considered by many to be Waterville Golf Links, currently ranked sixth best in Ireland albeit with some alterations from Tom Fazio, but his work can be viewed at all points of the compass on the island of Ireland as he has never strayed beyond its shores. The praise heaped on another of his creations, Ceann Sibeal, is testament to his genius:

Dingle Golf Links Reviews

“This Links have everything that St.Andrews has – and more!” Christy O’Connor Jnr.

“It was a delight to play such a natural links in such a beautiful place!”, Ronan Rafferty

“The most westerly course in Europe, the links itself is eloquent in any language, one of Eddie Hackett’s most bewitching creations. The setting is mesmerizing, too — with the Three Sisters rock towering behind the course, and the sea crashing against the cliffs just below. If the legendary giants of Irish lore played golf, this might be where they’d play.” Links of Heaven, Irishgolf.com

“This Links is living, breathing proof
that a place of outstanding natural beauty
and the game of Golf can be
a partnership made in heaven”
Golf World

One of the best insights into Eddie Hackett as a man and architect is detailed in the classic book ‘Links of Heaven’ when Richard Phinney tried to get to know Ireland’s own “National Architect”, when he interviewed Eddie first hand and witnessed his approach to designing golf courses as they traversed the virgin territory that was to be an additional nine-holes at the Connemara Golf Club. Eddie Hackett died in the year the book, a seven-year long adventure, was published and the authors partially dedicated the book to him.

Below is a list (not a complete list) of the courses which have Eddie Hackett’s stamp on them.

Golf Course Year*
Adare Manor Golf Club 1992
Ardee Golf Club 1984
Arklow Golf Club 1990
Ashford Castle – Jack Mulcahy of Waterville fame owned Ashford Castle at the time. 1973
Athenry Golf Club 1991
Athlone Golf Club
Ballinasloe Golf Club [Expansion from 9 to 18 hole] 1984
Ballinrobe Golf Club
Ballyliffin Golf Club – Old Links 1973
Bantry Bay Golf Club [with Christy O’Connor jnr.) 1975
Beaverstown Golf Club – Land formerly owned by Lamb Brothers, the jam manufacturers. Eddie was proud he could feature the canal that ran through the course on eight of its holes. 1985
Beech Park Golf Club 1983
Belturbet
Bodenstown Golf Club 1973
Boyle Golf Club
Cahir Park Golf Club 1967
Carnbeg Golf Course 1996
Carne Golf Links 1992
Carrick-on-Shannon
Carrick-on-Suir Golf Club 1975
Castlebar Golf Club [New 18 holes] 1981
Castletroy Golf Club
Ceann Sibeal (Dingle) Golf Club
Charlesland Golf Club 1992
Clane Golf Club – Clongowes 1965
Clonmel Golf Club 1969
Cobh Golf Club 1986
Connemara Golf Links 1970
Coollattin Golf Club 1962
County Longford Golf Club
Djouce Golf Club 1990
Donegal Golf Club at Murvagh 1976
Dublin City Golf Club [Re-designed by Frank Clarke]
Dunmore Demesne GC 1996
Dunmore Golf Club 1967
East Cork Golf Club 1969
Edenderry Golf Club
Elm Green Golf Course 1995
Enniscorthy Golf Club 1975
Enniscrone 1970
Glebe Golf Club 1993
Greencastle Golf Club
Greenore Golf Club
Hazel Grove Golf Club 1988
Hollystown Golf Club 1992
Kenmare Golf Club 1993
Kilcock Golf Club 1990
Kilkee Golf Club
Kilkeel Golf Club 1990
Killarney – Killeen Course
Killarney Executive Course located on the race course, an American idea comprising 7 par threes, 2 par fives and 9 par fours. 1984
Killinbeg Golf Club 1991
Killorglin Golf Club 1992
Kilternan 1970
Leixlip Golf Club 1994
Letterkenny Golf Club – Hackett’s first eighteen-hole design. 1967
Listowel Golf Club 1995
Loughrea Golf Club 1992
Lucan Golf Club [Designed new nine holes] 1989
Macroom Golf Club
Mahon Golf Club 1978
Malahide Golf Club moved to 27 hole layout in 1989 designed by Hackett. (reworked by Jeff Howes 2007] 1989
Marley Park Golf Cub Opened – nine hole par-three course. 1979
Moor Park Golf Club 1993
Nenagh Golf Club 1973
Nuremore Golf Club
Old Conna Golf Club 1986
Old Head Golf Links [ with Joe Carr, Ron Kirby,Liam Higgins and Haulie O’Shea and Paddy Merrigan]
Oughterard – second nine Extension 1984
Portarlington Golf Club – Extension 1984
Raffeen Creek Golf Club 1989
Rathdowney Golf Club 1984
Ring of Kerry Golf Club [Partial Design – 1996 Official Opening 1998] 1996
Rockwell 1964
Rosapenna – Old Tom Morris links
Skerries Golf Club 1969
Skibbereen and West Carbery Golf Club 1993
South Meath Golf Club 1996
St Anne’s Golf Club [1970/71] – nine hole extension on 70 acres 1970
St. Patricks, Carrigart St. (Maheramagorgan Course) 1982
Stepaside Golf Course [Ballyogan] – Originally meant to be an eighteen hole golf course only the land not suitable for a tip-head was turned into a golf course (nine-holes] 1981
Strabane Golf Club
The County Meath Golf Club 1991
The Island Golf Club – made adaptions to Fred Hawtree 1973 designs
Tuam Golf Club 1974
Tubercurry Golf Club 1990
Waterville 1969
West Waterford Golf Club 1993
Westmanstown Golf Club 1988
Williamstown Golf Club
Alterations
Hermitage Golf Club – Drainage problem with signature hole tenth – estimated costs of 15k were vastly reduced when Hackett devised an alternative solution by raising the green two feet, making it bigger and moving it back towards the Liffey.
Unsucessful tenders
Ballybunion – new course [Designs rejected in favour of Robert Trent Jones jnr.]
Castle Leslie Estate [ Robert Trent Jones and Eddie Hackett were to collaborate on building a golf course but it never materialised]
Portmarnock – fourth nine – stills plays Portmarnock every Saturday morning – 1984 – Decision pending – Trent Jones and Hackett collaboration rejected in favour of Donald Steel design in 1987
Phoenix Park [1970 – Land Surveyed] 1970

 

Year*- The reference to year is a very rough estimate as the design process can take a number of years.

Of Robert Trent Jones jnr he said : “he’s a much cleverer man than I”, in all modesty. The Irish Times goes on the quote him as saying: “In fact, I was delighted that Ballybunion and Tralee decided to use Trent Jones and Arnold Palmer, in view of the greater the appeal of their work would have for American tourists.”

In 1996 he was awarded a silver medal for outstanding contribution to golf course architecture by British Institute of Golf Course Architects (currently the European Institute of Golf Course Architects)

Eddie Hackett, a devote Catholic, died on 16 December 1996, reportedly with in excess of one hundred golf courses created, moulded or enhanced by his design skills. Fond memories still linger around the fairways of Ireland of his kind, self-effacing genius and ability to extract a challenging golf course from, in many cases, a blank canvas. He did what he loved doing, designing golf courses, to the very end and despite his ill-health throughout his life lived to a ripe old age.

Sources

Richard Phinney and Scott Whitley – Links of Heaven [1996] Published By: Baltray Books

James .P. Rooney: Play Good Golf Published By The Kerryman Limited , Tralee [1947].

Additional Reading Material

Richard Goodale: Desperately Seeking Eddie Hackett [July 2008 – Golf Course Architecture]

Eddie Hackett – Wikipedia

Charlesland Golf Club – Course Designer

Newsreel

Irish Pro. Catches ’em Young – Pathe Newsreel [March 1950]