Nomadic_golfer : April 2022
Par 72, 6245m (white 5948m), slope 138/ 134
4 par3s 149-185m, 10 par4s 293-403m, 4 par5s 468-507m
Is this everyone’s favourite course in the state? It’s a sentimental choice and a course I have heard about for many years, from when my dad played here in the 80s and from the times I watched attentively on the TV when it hosted those few Aussie tour events. It’s been a regular in the top 5 ranked courses in Australia over the years, and top 40 in the world. I was familiar with the iconic par5 5th, and the water carry par3 6th, which didn’t let me down in ‘real-life’, while the par4s on the back nine from 13 to 16 really appealed to me. But what sticks in my memory about this place is the need to hit quality shots repeatedly, there is no let up. Add exposure to the elements, and you have one tough test of golf
Designed by MacKenzie in the 1920’s, a couple of years before he did Cypress Point in the US, and assisted by Eric Apperly (responsible for the bunkers and in carrying out MacKenzie’s vision), there are magnificent views of the coastline from many vantage points on the course. The setting is a sand-duned peninsula in La Perouse, half an hour south of the Sydney CBD. Add the undulating fairways and the thick undergrowth that borders the fairways and you have arguably the most photogenic course in the land! The amount of undergrowth was reduced considerably by the 1998 bushfires (which threatened the clubhouse) with the result being more of those stunning panoramic views being opened up.
There are quite a few blind tee shots, most fairways are quite generous in width, some give a bail-out at driving length with adjoining fairways, while most contain that thick undergrowth on both sides if you get wild. There are plenty of opportunities to part with your small, dimpled, white sphere here.
After starting with a short par 4 right in front of the clubhouse, that does have a bit of bail out right, it gets serious from the 2nd tee, a 184m par 3 with a steep drop-off on the right side. Two undulating, near 400m par4’s with uphill approaches follow and by the time you reach the 5th tee, you well and truly understand the challenge.
There’s not much left to write about with 5 and 6, the pictures tell the story. You do need to know that finding the steep downslope on that par5 5th does need something beyond 250m from the back blocks, which would then leave you with a short iron in. More relevant to most of us, is the need to carry it over 200m to reach that plateau and get a look at the fairway and green below. And what a look it is. We played the water/ rock-carry 185m 6th into the breeze on our trip (and into the tide on day 1), and it makes it a brute.
There’s nothing wrong with holes 7 through 12, routed through the middle of the course, further from the sea, but still quite exposed. Get to the 13th tee though, and a quartet of super par4s await. 13 is a 375m dogleg left between the thick undergrowth, but its much more generous off the tee than it first appears. The scene for the approach is just beautiful, to a green protected by a couple of pot bunkers, that initially sits on your horizon, then makes the foreground to an idyllic setting with the sea and the bottom of the La Perouse peninsula behind. The 323m 14th heads in the same direction and has a similar ending but the tee shot is really different, to a right to left, diagonally-positioned fairway with a large ridge running through the middle of it. At 372, 15 is the hardest ranked hole on the course and its all about the exhilarating drive, steeply uphill to a narrow, saddle-shaped fairway, flanked by thick undergrowth. Into the wind, this tee shot would be pretty scary. The quartet ends with the longest par4 on the course, the 403m 16th, sweeping left to a green with banks high right, bunkers short left and the sea behind.
If you have managed to keep it together over the first 12 holes, these 4 will determine whether it is your day or not. There might be a birdie or 2 in them if you nail those tee-shots, but miss the short stuff on any of those 4 and you will likely need the fingers on both hands to count your score.
And a word about the sandy base and drainage. We played here at the end of a week in Sydney where a number of other courses were waterlogged/ some closed. The base here, with the well-drained santa-anna couch fairways ensured golf was still firmly on the agenda. The bent-grass greens had great cover, were very true but did have some of the ‘fire’ taken out of them by the wet.
Overall, is was an absolute treat to play NSW for the first time. It is a genuine golfing experience, and definitely not for the feint-hearted when the wind is up. Views are as good as it gets, the challenge factor is very high, the layout strategic & undulating, and it looks as though condition is consistently of a very high standard, Yes, there are a few blind tee shots, and 3 of those 4 gun 4’s on the back have similar elements, but this is top-shelf entertainment.