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Royal Belfast Golf Club at Holywood and Carnalea. (1881 - 1926)

Founded in 1881. 

The first course was at Kinnegar, Holywood.

In 1892 the club moved to a new course at Carnalea, Bangor, where it continued until it moved to its present location at Craigavad in 1926. 

Report from the Northern Whig Thursday 10th November 1881. “Yesterday a highly influential meeting was held in the Chamber of Commerce to form a Golf Club for Belfast. The Mayor, Edward Portar Cowan, presided, and, after some explanations of the nature of the game, a club was established. Permission to play on the Kinnegar, at Holywoood, had been kindly given by Captain Harrison. There is no doubt the movement will be a great success.”

Extract from the Northern Whig Wednesday 14th December 1881. “A general meeting was held yesterday in the offices of the Scottish Provident Institution, Waring Street. Dr. Collier, Principal of the Belfast Academy, in the chair. A report was presented on the capabilities of the green and on the preparations requisite to render it thoroughly satisfactory for the game. The report was prepared by Walter Day, clubmaster of the Bruntsfield Golf Club, Musselburgh. Mr Day’s opinion of the suitability of the Kinnegar for the game is most favourable, and he considers the preliminary expenses will be very small. The club is thus enabled to start at the moderately yearly subscription of a guinea, without entrance. The playing course that has been laid down is a very excellent one, and in some of the holes good hazards occur. A number of members engage in the game each Saturday, and already have been favoured with the presence of several interested spectators. The following office-bearers for 1882 were appointed; Captain, Thomas Sinclair; secretary, George L Baillie, St James Villas, Antrim Road, Belfast; treasurer, John O Brown, 22 Waring Street; council – Sir Edward Cowan, James Barbour, C K Cordner, Dr. Collier, W Quartus Ewart, John Findlater, W M Grimshaw, Hugh Johnston, R Milford Megaw, Richard Patterson and W H Smiles.”

So, after just a couple of months, it seems that everything had been prepared.

The first handicap competition was arranged for Monday 26th December, on the arrival of the Twelve o’clock train from Belfast.                                

The following couples started in the monthly competition in January 1882; A S Mitchell and Andrew Doig; H Johnston and J O Brown; F M Harris and S Johnston; W H Simplas and J H MacIlwaine; D C Kemp and J Findlater; Dr. Collier and J A Johnston; T Sinclair and G L Baillie; J Barbour and A Coombe; W Findlay jun. and H MacIlwaine. The winner with a score of 106 was John MacIlwaine.  

The first half yearly competition took place in May 1882.  Mr Lochman, the caretaker, had the putting greens in splendid order. It was stated to be “the most enjoyable match since the club started.” The first prize of six golf clubs, presented by Messrs. McEwan, Musselburgh, was won by Hugh Johnson with a score of ninety for 18-holes. Captain Harrison of Holywood, accepted the Hon. Presidency of the club. There were now nearly 70 members.

The following officers were elected at the annual meeting in November 1884; President, Captain Harrison; captain, W Quartus Ewart; treasurer, J O Brown; secretary G D Baillie.

Below becomes Royal Belfast Golf Club in 1885.


Royal Belfast Golf Club, Holywood. A Royal Compliment in 1885.

From the Northern Whig Friday 3rd July 1885. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Below is the result of a match played on the Dublin Golf Club course at Fifteen Acres, Phoenix Park, on Saturday 24th October 1885.

Dublin Golf Club holes won Royal Belfast Golf Club Holes won
T Gilroy 9 J L Baillie 1
A H Roberts 6 H J Johnston 5
Dr. Campbell 7 Andrew Doig 5
James Stewart 9 G N Shaw 6
Colonel Stevenson 9 Henry Gregg 6
Captain Lushington 7 J O Benson 5
Captain Sellar 8 E H Clarke 4
W F Gunn 7 P H Charley 5
J Lumsden (captain) 4 J H MacIlwaine 11
J M Gillies 4 W L Wheeler 10
  70   58


Royal Belfast Golf Club, Holywood. Entry from the 1888/89 Golfing Annual.


Royal Belfast Golf Club, Holywood. Entry from the 1888/89 Golfing Annual.

Above is from the Golfing Annual 1888/89.


Following is the result of one of the last competitions played on the Holywood course in May 1892. The scores were high due to the adverse weather conditions.; Henry Davis, 112-25-87; Captain St Aubyn, 109-18-91; James Hyndman, 110-18-92; Fred Hoey, 123-30-93; Robert Young, 116-22-94; Alex Cross, 114-18-98; John MacCormac, 12-22-98.

Below the move to the Carnalea golf course and the first competition in July 1892. The course adjoined the railway station.


Royal Belfast Golf Club, Carnalea. The club moves to the Carnalea course in July 1892.

From the Northern Whig Tuesday 5th July 1892. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


From the 1905 Nisbet’s Golf Yearbook; Instituted 1881; Number of members 260; Station, Carnalea, adjoining course; Hon. secretary, F Plunket, Mornington Park, Bangor; captain, R Young; Entrance fee £2/2s and subs £2/2s; nine-holes; professional, A G Day; professional record, 36; amateur record, 37; Terms for visitors, 5s per week.

Below is Thomas Sinclair founder member of the club and Captain in 1881-83. He bought golf to Belfast after a trip to Scotland which included a visit to The Home of Golf. He died in February 1914.


Royal Belfast Golf Club, Carnalea. Thomas Sinclair founder member and captain 1881-83.

The Right Hon. Thomas Sinclair.


The final annual meeting to be held Carnalea took place in the clubhouse in November 1925, outgoing captain, J C Lepper in the chair. Among those present were; Melville Trimble, hon. secretary; F G Walsh, hon. treasurer. The Chairman said he had a very sad duty to perform. They had lost in the last few days their senior past captain.  Mr Gregg had been a great favourite with all the members of the club, and since 1881, when the club was started he was one of the foremost promoters.

It was reported in November 1926 that the annual meeting was held in the new clubhouse of the Royal Belfast Club at Craigavad.

The Google Map below shows the area around Kinnegar, Holywood, location of the first golf course.