A choice Residential Holding, with all the advantages for up to-date farming…. well worthy of inspection.” Turtulla House and 218 acres were being offered for sale, in the 5th of February, 1944 issue of the “Tipperary Star,” by the representatives of the late Michael Barry. Among those who inspected it, were leading members of Thurles Golf Club, then sited at Dovea, following earlier periods at Leugh and Loughtagalla.
The initial affiliation to the Golfing Union was in 1909. The Dovea course – nine holes, later twelve – was laid out by Lionel Hewson, about 1932, on the lands of Captain Trant.
Turtulla was at once seen to be an ideal location for the club’s next and final abode. On the verge of town, it was prime parkland, well stocked with mature timber, draining readily towards the Suir – and even adapted by nature for two separate nines, divided by the road.
Their minds quickly made up, the golfers deputized the Hon. Secretary P.J. 0’Meara, Solr., to bid for them. He went, under the pressure of the bidding, somewhat above their agreed limit and the property was theirs for £6,100. Part was recouped by the sale of the portion to the left of the 7th and 8th holes to the Pallottine Order.
The golfers were moving into a house and lands of ancient and colourful history. A military map of 1755, drawn to delineate an army encampment in the area, shows a house where the club still resides. A 19th century map indicates another army camp in the area of the 17th fairway. It shows a roadway below Turtulla crossroads and probably following the ridge, along the l0th, 12thand 15th towards the Mill Road and passing by the mysterious remains known as “Jack’s House,” on the 11th hole.
Family surnames Nicholson, Bailey, Maher and finally Barry designate previous owners. It was in the Maher period in the 19th century that the house held its most famous guest, Daniel O’Connell. He was on his Repeal Campaign, early in 1843, when he addressed a “monster meeting” on the hill of Knockroe, less than a mile from Turtulla, and was entertained by the Mahers. During that era the house was renovated by Clonmel-born architect William Tinsley, as was another Maher property, Tullamaine House, near Fethard. The Barry family came from Co Limerick and took over Turtulla from Valentine Maher in the 1880’s.
The house was occupied until 1927. During the “Troubles” of the early twenties the family coachman, Denis Regan, was shot and left for dead by the “Black and Tans” near the bridge on the entrance road. He survived to become in later years the hearse driver for the undertaking firm of W H Ryan. Local superstition used to maintain that the premises, empty from 1927 until the golf club took over, were haunted. Nowadays, the “spirits” are strictly confined to the club lounge!
The laying-out of the new course was entrusted to Mr. J McAllister – terms £5, plus expenses! His design has stood the test of time as making best use of the terrain – new tees at several holes are the modern variations. The original wide-open farmland was gradually altered by judicious tree planting, giving individual character to each hole. It is today a well-respected test of golf, host to national and provincial championships at many levels and very popular with societies. Recently a development plan for the first nine has been commissioned and will shortly be submitted to the Members for their approval.
Clubhouse amenities were the object of improvement in various stages. For more than three decades the changes were of modest scope. By the end of the 1970’s the structure had deteriorated to the point where radical action was needed. An original decision to replace it with a modern-style clubhouse was later reversed and a large scale reconstruction skilfully preserved its’ rare and admirable character. This was opened in 1981. The most recent phase giving the club its present unique and individual ambience was opened in May 1993.
During the past dozen years there have been major and fundamental changes in the club. One that had been too long delayed was the granting of full and equal membership to women. It would be gratifying if we could say that this was an entirely spontaneous act of enlightenment on the club’s part but in fact there were external pressures resulting from Oireachtas legislation that speeded matters.Yet the change, though late, was brought about in a spirit of harmony and goodwill which was greatly to the club’s credit. On the practical level it entailed the replacement of the Committee by a new Governing Body of seventeen, with both sexes represented, while management of golf affairs was delegated to two committees, one for men and the other for women.
Despite the failure earlier in the decade to acquire additional land there remained a strong lobby in the club advocating major improvements to the course. It must also be recorded that many members were content with the course as it stood, or were in favour of minor change.
In 1999 the well-known Walker Cup player and golf architect Peter McEvoy was invited to draw up a plan for an eighteen-hole redevelopment, which was discussed at an EGM. The two bodies of opinion within the club had if anything hardened their positions, resulting in some regrettably bad-tempered outbursts at the meeting. The McEvoy proposal was rejected but the impetus towards change had not weakened and re-emerged in 2004, but now a different and perhaps more diplomatic approach was taken. A questionnaire was circulated to all members, seeking their general views on the issue. From this there came a broad consensus for alteration to the front nine, to incorporate the Island Field. Mel Flanagan of Irish Golf Design, whose work elsewhere in Ireland was well-known and well-regarded, was asked to design on this basis. It was initially presented to an information meeting at the club, and at an EGM in October 2005 the Flanagan plan was endorsed by a large majority. The motion to approve the necessary borrowing required a seventy-five per cent majority and this was easily achieved. Six contractors tendered. The Governing Body appointed European Golf Services. Work began in January 2006 and continued until April 2007, with some delay due to hostile weather. Thanks to some ingenious rearrangement the members were able to play a full nine holes throughout construction. The new course was opened in July 2007.