Bill Clinton First Member of PGA National Ireland

The PGA National Ireland at Palmerstown House, Ireland’s newest golf course, has opened with the former U.S. President Bill Clinton as its first official member. President Clinton, a 16 handicap, was handed the keys to his locker and given the membership number “001” at a ceremony attended by 1,100 people in Dublin on May 23. Strong winds and heavy rain prevented Clinton from playing the County Kildare course earlier in the day, but he may return later in the year for his inaugural round.

Located just 30 miles from Dublin, the 7,419-yard parkland golf course is already being touted as a possible host site for a major championship. Sandy Jones, chief executive of the PGA, believes the new course is one of the best.

“It will not be long before it is hosting some of the world’s most prestigious golf events,” Jones said. “It has been the ambition of the PGA for a number of years to create and develop a spiritual home for the PGA in Ireland. The criteria for choosing a suitable golf venue as our partner was rigorous, and that meant only a course deemed by experts to be in the top 10 in Ireland could be considered.

“Palmerstown House quickly became our preferred choice because of its location, the layout of the golf course, the facilities and the unique ambiance of the setting,” Jones added.

The Palmerstown House project is the brainchild of Jim Mansfield, one of Ireland’s most successful entrepreneurs. Mansfield also owns the 1,100-bed CityWest Conference & Golf Resort, one of Europe’s leading conference destinations, as well as Dublin’s private airport at Weston.

Palmerstown House has been granted the unique title of PGA National Ireland and joins a select family of European venues with that designation, joining PGA National at The Belfry and PGA Centenary at Gleneagles. The course will serve as the PGA’s headquarters for its Irish activities and will eventually contain a golf-training center.

The 800-acre site was once the home of the Earls of Mayo. A magnificent manor house – built in 1872 – dominates the property. The golf course is built around a renowned stud farm which has produced some of Ireland’s top racehorses, including winners of the Irish 1,000 Guineas, the Ladbroke Gold Cup and the Ebor Handicap.

Course designer Christy O’Connor Jr. said of the course, “It has to be one of the best sites for a golf course in the world and reminds me of going through the gates of Augusta and up Magnolia Lane at the Masters. The estate, with all the great racing thoroughbreds that have been produced here, is so steeped in history. It was probably one of the easiest jobs I have had to do: Beautiful mature trees, the lakes and bridges that were used as the entrance into the estate, are all incorporated into the golf course. It is a fantastic spectacle.”