After weeks of NSW sunshine, the rain finally decided to come the day we were due to play its premier course. The NSW GC is the closest course out of the top 100 to my home in Sydney and my first foray to play a course ranked in the top 50. In many ways I was pleased about the wild conditions, it was the first time I’ve played in such wind plus the course was practically empty. My playing partner on the day summed it up quite well by saying its like playing golf after a surf. Rain blasted us 4 times, 30km winds plus sunny periods dried us out pretty quick and the saltwater sprays left us feeling pretty weary after the round. One thing I hadn’t realised was how hilly the course is, certainly bests Pennant Hills for getting the pulse racing. I try not to do much research when playing a course for the first time as I like the surprise of what awaits. The NSW certainly made an indelible impression.
NSW GC was founded in 1928 and the course was designed two years earlier by the infamous architect Dr Alister Mackenzie. He commented the following on the course:
“At Sydney, I made an entirely new course for the New South Wales Golf Club at a place called La Perouse. This is a sand-duned peninsula which overlooks Botany Bay and presents, I think, more spectacular views than any other place I know, with the possible exception of the new Cypress Point golf course I am doing on the Del Monte peninsula in California” – Quote from Planet Golf
Eric Apperly then made extensive alterations between 1932-37 and 1948-51. The most significant alteration made was the creation of the infamous 6th hole in the 1930s which requires a mid-iron shot played over the Tasman. Other course designers were to come, Thomson & Woolveridge in the 80s, Newton,Grant & Spencer 80s & 90s, and subsequently Greg Norman, ostensively to renovate green sites and add tees in order to maintain the sternest of golfing tests in the face of the rapid advancement of golf equipment technology. However, MacKenzie’s original routing (1926) and Apperly’s necessary changes (1937 & 51) still form the basis of a scenically breathtaking, powerful, and ever-changing golfing masterpiece. NSW hosted the Australian Open for the first time in 2009.
Although Dr Mackenzie played a role in the history of Ganton, this was my first opportunity to play one of his layouts. First couple of holes are a gentle introduction to what awaits, we didn’t play them particularly well but that was more down to the excitement of playing the course. Things get interesting at the third hole where the first of many blind tee shots awaits over a large sand dune. Gap is fairly narrow so accuracy is a premium here. The 4th is a beautifully manicured hole and provides an introduction to the remaining holes. The infamous 5th hole then awaits with a drive over a massive hill. I caught my drive on the day but couldn’t carry the top (I blame the 30km headwind) which is 200 odd metres away, reckon I would have added another 100 or so metres had I done so. The drama then ensues once the hill is traversed and descent made into one of golf’s great vistas. I can’t express the words so will let the video below do the talking. The 6th is another classic short hole, a hit over the Tasman and a type of hole I’ve always dreamed of playing. Didn’t play it particularly well on the day but one could never tire of this hole. The 7th is a straight Par 4 and allowed me to catch my breath, although a volley of rain soon had me gasping again! The 8th is another blindish tee shot to a big mound. Neither of us had an idea what was on the other side so playing partner Trent played it safe while I decided to smash my hybrid. Hole opens up the other side and beautiful tree protected green awaits. The 9th is fairly similar to the 1st but memorable for me as I birdied the hole on the day!
Similar to the first 9, the course really hits the straps half way through starting with the 13th which directs golfers back to the ocean or sea in this case and introduces some devilish dogleg layouts to proceedings. The 14th is a remarkable Par 4 hole and one that I didn’t know anything about beforehand. Teeshot is played into a valley with the sea to the left and dog leg rounding back to the left to an elevated green. Wayward tee shots are severely punished but I guess when are they not. The elevated green is protected by wind and provides a serious examination of your game. The next two holes are perhaps the finest on the course. The 15th requires a hit over another sand dune with a gap narrower than the third. It is the most daunting tee shot I’ve ever played. Both Trent and I nailed our shots and approach shots then played to another blind elevated green on a sharp dogleg right. We both scored well on the hole. 16th is an even sharper dogleg left though its impossible to know this from the tee, I tried to cut the corner and messed it up which ruined my chances of scoring well. Lack of a course guide did not help here! We both remarked that we would have played numerous holes differently with hindsight earned at the finish. The walk to the 17th almost finished us off, another lashing from the heavens and steep ascent upwards to the last Par 3. We both messed up our shots here and again hole is penal if the green is missed. The 18th is a great closing Par 5 and provides a serene finish to proceedings contrasting with shots over oceans, sand dunes and hills. Green is protected by several pot bunkers and great to view from a distance, not so great if you land in one of them.
Was utterly spent after the round, a mix of wind, rain, mountain climbing and golf adrenaline the contributors. As always felt the disappointment upon finishing but will certainly be back at some point to play again, hopefully with old man.
Favourite hole – The 14th. Par 4s don’t get much better than this.
Hardest hole – The 16th. Perhaps controversial as the 15th is also very tough. Severe dogleg Par 4 that punishes any mistakes.
By the way apologies for the timestamps in the photos below, they aren’t even right!