Blog 207 – The Lakes

Course 31 for 2022 – The Lakes GC, Sydney

A special view across the 18th green

Wonderfully strategic and attractive golf course among sand, water and planes

Nomadic_golfer : April 2022

Par 72, 6313m (white 5966m), slope 143 / 133

4 par3s 160-191m, 10 par4s 290-444m, 4 par5s 454-528m

This iconic Sydney course near Mascot Airport was first played in the late 20’s, redesigned in the 60s to accommodate construction of the Mascot Freeway, and most recently restored by Mike Clayton in 2006. Playing this layout for the first time in late April 2022 was not ideal timing, following the recent rain events that had besieged the city and 3 weeks after the greens had been cored, but I was in no way disappointed.

Despite the numerous high profile events played here, I hadn’t previously paid much attention to design/ hole routing here and began the round with no preconceived opinion. The course is tough, generally without scaring the wits out of all golfers through narrowness of fairways, yet the odd water carry and plenty of fairways flanked by water, does ensure that most of us weekend golfers get to tremble in their boots on more than one occasion over 18 holes.

It starts with a medium length 4 with the lake all the way down the left, moves away from the water for the rest of the front 9, for a stretch characterised by sandy wastelands, magnificent bunkering, some tree-lined fairways and generally strong, testing holes. Memorable holes for me on the front were: the very long par4 3rd (440m off the back with wasteland down the right of a wide fairway, trees set back lining both sides to the green, which has lots of undulations and is well bunkered); and the stunning short par4 6th (310m turning gently left, with an elevated fairway, bunkers all over the place and a narrow contoured green with drop-offs long and left).

The second 9 is more about the water, its very prominent on a number of holes and there are memorable holes everywhere. Although the water-dominated holes will likely stick in the memories of most, and the design philosophy on most of those water-featured holes is super, I probably enjoyed the 2 short par4s on the back the most, where the water threat is less obvious. The 300m 10th with the narrowest fairway on the course, bushes and hidden water right, bunkers left and a shallow green, gives heaps of choices off the tee and demands a quality approach from wherever your tee-shot finishes. The very tempting 290m downhill 13th has a pond right, bunkers and trees left and a great green complex for a short4, v-shaped with drop-offs on both sides. Again its a hole with lots of choices, no bail-out and demands you execute to your plan.

There are more iconic holes on the back, with the 3 spectacular par5s all being significantly impacted by large water masses, and I did particularly like 11 and 14, but those 2 short 4s were a little more subtle, which appealed to me.

From a condition point of view, the kikuyu fairways had super grass cover but were very wet following the recent rains, yet in no threat of being unplayable. Greens were still showing obvious signs of the recent coring.

Overall, this is one quality golf course, the fairways are wide enough to ensure its a fun day out but respect must be shown and some conservative choices made around 18 holes to avoid falling victim to obvious hazards. I finish with this quote of Mike Clayton’s from ‘Volume 6 of Golf Architecture’, which reflects the philosophy I would carry if I ever had the privilege and wherewithal to design a golf course “Without significant fairway width, there can be no meaningful strategy from the tees; and no one wants to play down narrow fairways in high winds. We headed in the opposite direction, there would be no rough around the greens; the fairways would be as wide as we could make them; but the ideal lines into the flags would be from the more difficult to access edges of the fairways – and this would be close to the hazards.…”