Blog 236 – Grafton

Course 5 for 2023 – Grafton GC, NSW

Looking back up the par3 1st

Nomadic_golfer : February 2023

Par 72, 6019m slope 119 $35

4 par3s 135-175m, 10 par4s 294-391m, 4 par5s 435-473

This is a super golf course in a beautiful, natural Aussie bush setting with plenty of gum trees, roos and other native wildlife, which you play amidst a constant background of birdsong. I really enjoy this design that uses the elevation changes of what is a large property, quite dramatically, with some steep uphill and downhill holes, coupled with lots of undulations and a number of fairways that look a little mogul-like, a-la Lismore GC.

Most holes have an easier side to approach from, some subtle angles that you need to understand, with most hazards in the air, not on the ground, and after several chutes not far off tees, the fairways themselves are what I would call standard width. They consist of a couch base, with some natural occurring broad leaf grasses. They were firm and a little patchy on my Feb 2023 visit.

The 328 Bermuda greens are medium to large, relatively flat with lots of subtle undulation rather than big breaks, and in excellent condition, firm and of nice pace. The green complexes themselves are interesting and varied, lots of mounds and drop-offs, some gentle, some elaborate, with greenside bunkering on 11 of the holes. These complexes lead to many pin positions, with a number of them influencing those subtle angles I mentioned above and changing the complexion of a hole. Some holes also have some thick grass in the surrounds so you get a real mixture that tests the range of your short game.

The design is super, and consistent. I don’t reckon there is one weak hole. If you could fault the layout, it is only that: a) the approaches to the long uphill 4s in 3 and 7 have a very similar feel and the trees that encroach on both your tee shots (some quite early in flight) and approaches, have probably taken more of your territory than was originally envisioned by designers. But that’s being picky, I love the vibe of this place and the consistent quality of the holes.

I played here in 2020 (as the course was recovering from drought) and nominated Grafton as one of my 10 hidden gems of the first 3 years of my trip (220 courses). If anything, its better than I remember it. To score well, you need to take advantage of the par 5s, all under 475 and all represent opportunity, with 2 and 11 my favourites, both giving great risk/ reward options if you get your tee shot on the short-stuff. The 4s are generally tough, each with individual defining characteristics, and pars are a good score on most. The 3s are a super quartet, not long but all offer hope and all have a fine line between pleasure and pain. They are my focus here:

#1 – a 135m one-shotter is a very unusual way to start a round. It’s quite steep downhill to a diagonally placed, long & narrow, kidney-shaped green with bunkers both sides, where pin position makes a huge difference.

#6 – a beautiful 150m where the green emerges from a densely wooded eastern side of the course, plays slightly downhill, flanked by gums, to a large rolling green with a bunker left and steep drop-offs left, right and back. As is also the case with 17, the onus is on line, missing short is the only safe-miss.

#10 – this exposed 147m par3 seems a little out of place as there aren’t any trees but it is a cleverly designed hole. From a slightly elevated tee, over a gully to a green running diagonally from short right (redan style), bunker & drop-off left and uphill bank right, there is a tier in the green that runs along the diagonal so any chip from the right-hand bail out is very tricky.

#17 – probably the strongest (definitely the toughest) of the quartet. It is 175m from a beautiful tree-surrounded elevated tee, over a steam to a long, narrow-ish green that resembles a saddle, with drop-offs on all sides including that stream catching most left misses. It is a tee shot that gets the heart pumping.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable experience. It is a consistent, well-designed course, a testing walk, and a real ‘golfer’s course’. This visit reaffirmed my thinking on bestowing it with hidden gem status