Australia’s largest city is blessed with some of the nation’s most famous attractions. After you’re done with the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, here are the dozen highest-ranked courses to be found, all within a 45-minute drive of Sydney’s GPO.
1 NEW SOUTH WALES GOLF CLUB
There’s no question New South Wales Golf Club occupies some of the best land for golf in the country.
Dr Alister MacKenzie plotted the La Perouse course in 1926 before Dan Soutar, who had provided the original plan, reworked many of the holes a decade later. Since then there have been many tweaks to the design but what hasn’t changed is the thrill visitors get from the stunning views and tactical challenges, created by natural undulations and enhanced by the ever-present coastal winds.
There aren’t many weak holes at NSW – so identifying standout holes should be rather challenging. But it’s not. There are two holes that instantly spring to mind for anyone who has ever visited: The par-5 5th and the par-3 6th.
The former offers panoramic views of the course and its surrounds from its peak, while the latter is probably the most photographed one-shotter in Australian golf, playing from tee markers situated on a headland.
The iconic hole measures 177 metres from the tips, but club selection is usually determined by the strength and direction of the wind; par is always a good score here.
NSW was ranked No.9 in Australia’s Top-100 Courses for 2018 and has always been entrenched inside the nation’s top 10.
Green fees: Upon application. Limited tee times are available for members of a golf club
2 THE LAKES GOLF CLUB
The Lakes has become one of the best advertisements for the quality of golf on offer in the Harbour City.
Founded in 1928, the club first welcomed the Australian Open in 1964 – which was won by Jack Nicklaus after a play-off against Bruce Devlin, who later became a member of the club and worked alongside course designer Robert Von Hagge when the course had to be rebuilt in the later ‘60s due to the construction of the city to airport freeway.
The entire layout was extensively redesigned in 2009 by the design team of Geoff Ogilvy, Mike Clayton, Mike Cocking and Ashley Mead (OCCM).
The Lakes relies heavily on the wind and it’s challenging green complexes to defend itself, which ultimately led to Peter Senior’s winning score of four-under-par when the course last hosted the Aussie Open in 2012.
Greg Chalmers won the title when the club threw its gates open for the national championship in 2011. And Ogilvy won there in 2010. All three of the aforementioned are tactical players, who have each built careers from their controlled ball flight and deep understanding of the game.
The Lakes will once again play host to our national open this November. Players can expect a thorough strategic challenge, well-maintained playing surfaces and exposed sandy waste areas – all of which, when combined, saw the course finish 14th in Australia’s Top-100 Courses for 2018.
Green fees: $250 for members of an Australian golf club.
3 BONNIE DOON GOLF CLUB
Originally designed by Lance Giddings and Eric Apperly in 1937, influenced by Prosper Ellis (1951) and Ross Watson (1995-2003) – and currently in the hands of Geoff Ogilvy, Mike Clayton, Mike Cocking and Ashley Mead (OCCM), Bonnie Doon has become one of the most architecturally notable courses in Sydney.
Ranked No.34 in Australia’s Top-100 Courses for 2018 (up four spots from 2016), ‘The Doon’ is currently in the fourth and final stage of its OCCM rebuild.
The design firm is attempting – and in the eyes of many, succeeding – to: “Mimic the work of nature, with a mixture of irregular undulations, wispy roughs and rugged bunker lips that appear to have been formed from years of wind and rain.”
Since OCCM took the reins in 2011, members have enjoyed a golf course that better encapsulates the strategic challenge of the game.
The course is relatively short – at 5,947 metres – so the greens have become its defence against the modern power player. Each of the green complexes are varied and have been improved (reshaped, reworked or rebuilt) to favour an approach from a specific part of the fairway – which in turn asks players to better position themselves off the tee.
Work is currently being completed on the 1st, 2nd and 17th holes. But despite the lengthy rebuild, the course has managed to reach new heights in its conditioning.
It would be an exciting time to be a member at Bonnie Doon Golf Club, with the course expected to continue its rise up the national ranking.
Green fees: Upon application.
4 THE AUSTRALIAN GOLF CLUB
Established in 1882, The Australian Golf Club is one of this country’s most historic and renowned golfing venues, having hosted the Australian Open on 20 occasions, including the very first in 1904 and most recently the 2017 edition.
Located just six kilometres from the CBD, The Australian underwent a complete redesign by Jack Nicklaus in 1977, which the 18-time major champion updated and refined in 2013. The most recent changes, which included modifying all 18 greens, have now well and truly settled in with the playing surfaces at the Kensington course consistently among the best in the country.
The redesign has opened up more short game options to players, while the course’s difficulty was increased through changes to the bunkering, which is now more visually intimidating. Water has also been brought into play on numerous holes, while some holes were lengthened to stretch the par-72 to 6,619 metres from the tips.
Nicklaus makes good use of the elevation changes in his design, which favours players who employ his own preferred fade shot shape. Wind is always a factor at Kensington, while the undulating greens are regularly fast and have made even the very best players in the world look foolish.
The closing three holes are among the best on the course beginning with the long and difficult par-4 16th, before players face a short par-4 and reachable par-5 to conclude their round, with birdie chances on offer for the aggressive player.
GREEN FEES: Available upon application.