The recently redesigned 18 hole Letterkenny Golf Club stands amid 146 acres of mature parkland at Barnhill just on the outskirts of the town. Since redevelopment under the direction of course designer Declan Branigan it has emerged as one of the finest parkland courses in Ireland and attracts a membership of some 750 golfers. According to GUI records Letterkenny is documented as having “started activities” in 1913. By then golf had spread nationwide having been introduced from Scotland and ten other clubs were already in existence in Co. Donegal.
There is evidence in extant papers associated with the Stewart estate at Rockhill that golf was played on that estate which encompassed the lands at Crievesmith in 1894. The land was referred to as “splendid golfing ground” and consisted of “six pots”with the possibility to “extend it to ten pots”.This was the original location for competitive golf in Letterkenny. When the club was registered with the GUI in 1913 the course at Crievesmith consisted of nine holes on 16 acres. A clubhouse was added later. However because of the fact that golf was becoming more inclusive, plus the difficult topographical features and the limited space at Crievesmith the club committee was actively engaged in sourcing a new course. Many locations were examined including the Boyd estate at Ballymacool.
In Jan 1967 the club President Mr J.C.Stewart announced the purchase of the land at Barnhill from the Hunter estate. This included Barnhill house and 146 acres of a mixture of arable and wood land ready for development. The club disposed of their property at Crievesmith for £3200 and purchased Barnhill for £6600. The committee of the time was faced with many problems not least course planning, drainage and tree felling. Given the fact that the bottom half of the course was alongside the River Swilly drainage was to be a major concern. But the resolve of the committee led by Club Captain 1966 Mr Jim Kennedy was never in question. They engaged the renowned course planner Mr.Eddie Hackett to design the course. No time was lost and a temporary nine hole course was laid out at Barnhill to allow the club to vacate Crievesmith. Under the direction of Mr Hugh Duffy Club Captain in 1967 and his coordinating committee competition golf was played for the first time at Barnhill in 1967. The course took 3 years to complete. Letterkenny Golf Club at Barnhill was now up and running.
Thirty years later a new club house was built and opened on 13 June 1998 by Dr James McDaid, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation and the Irish Ladies Open was held over the course the same year.
Club membership flourished and many improvements were made throughout the years. Drainage was a perennial problem but an enlightened strategic review of the way forward for the club was undertaken and implemented by successive committees over the past few years and major expenditure was approved for both club house and course. This strategy which involved considerable expense was carefully monitored with strict financial control by the club committee. Under the direction of Declan Branigan redesign work on the course commenced in 2006/7.
Despite the obvious concerns this has proven to be a major success and the course now benefits from the successful extensive upgrade and drainage and now presents a real challenge and sporting pleasure for the golfer.
The new course was officially opened on 28 July 2007 by Mr Tommie Basquille President GUI.