Having recently hosted the ALPG Tour’s Australian Ladies Classic, one of this country’s most spectacular inland courses has rarely looked better and is justifying the description often made by visitors as Australia’s Augusta.
It’s not often that the beauty of a golf course can simply take your breath away, or at the very least make you stop for a minute to soak in the scene. If it was by the sea, discard that one because any course or hole, no matter how good or bad, can look world class and amazing with an ocean view.
Let your thoughts drift away from the ocean to lush strip-cut and undulating fairways – lined with majestic stands of flooded gums as well as vast areas of sub-tropical forest – and punctuated by white sandy bunkers. In the spring, blossoming azaleas and flowering natives add touches of pink, red, white and purple to the colour palette.
If you’re now thinking of Bonville Golf Resort, you’ve been fortunate enough, like me, to experience arguably this country’s most beautiful inland golf course. If you haven’t played Bonville, there’s never been a better time to experience what some are moved to describe as Australia’s Augusta National.
There is some resemblance to the famous home of the Masters Tournament and all credit must go to the designers, Terry Watson and Ted Stirling, whose brief from the original owners was to create a course like that found in Georgia. However, there is only one Augusta.
What Watson and Stirling did was create a distinctly Australian course that has the same features Augusta is famous for, including holes with great elevation change between tee
and green, holes incorporating natural watercourses, large undulating putting surfaces and, of course, the azaleas.
“The 17th is very similar to the 12th at Augusta. It’s a similar length, it has an elevated tee. We don’t quite have the swirling winds they have at Augusta, but we have the back bunkers and the big water carry in the front,” says Bonville Chairman Peter Montgomery.
“There are some other holes that have similarity in some of the shots, but we get told that all the time. It’s not really proper business practise to compare yourself to the heaven of golf, but in our own little way we like to think we resemble that beautiful course.
“We are happy to think that if people can’t get to Augusta they can at least get to Bonville. They’d be welcomed here with open arms.”
Bonville opened for play 26 years ago and its design in a beautiful setting has always been its strength.
During the past dozen years Bonville’s presentation has continued to improve, year-on-year. The conversion of the greens to the more resilient Bermuda 328 grass more than a decade ago was a master stroke. All the bunkers were renovated as well a few years back and have never been better.
More recently, slight tweaks to the design have seen a bunker moved near the 1st green to create a wider entry to allow shots to run onto the green, while the cart path that used to skirt the edge of the green on the par-3 8th hole has been re-routed well away from the playing area.
It is the little changes like this that continue to enhance the playing experience at Bonville.
Then, of course, there are the holes you will long remember, with Bonville’s par-5s being particularly memorable.
“We are happy to think that if people can’t get to Augusta they can at least get to Bonville.” – Peter Montgomery
Each of the par-5s require attention to strategic detail and, just like Augusta, putting your shots in the right position from the tee and in lay-up areas will reap benefits.
The 485-metre 4th is a great driving hole with a saddle-shaped fairway funnelling even slightly off-line shots back to the centre of the mown portion. The aggressive player may consider going for the green in two shots here but it is a shot that must be solid and shaped slightly right-to-left around the dogleg and the wall of flooded gums flanking the fairway. Two fairway traps and a huge swale, both about 60 metres short of the green, are in play and can complicate the errant lay-up shot.
There is no better example of risk-and-reward par-5 strategy design than that found on Bonville’s closing hole – a 460-metre journey up and over a hill between deep rows of towering flooded gums that line the way to the green, which sits just beyond a pond and stream. Standing on the crest of this hill looking down toward the green, with the azaleas in full bloom, you can imagine a similar view confronting players at the Masters when playing the famous 13th or 15th holes. For many players, there is never any question whether to go for the green in two shots or not. In such a wonderful theatre that the 18th provides it is hard not to add to the drama by throwing off the shackles and risking a dropped shot or two by going for it.
As you walk off the final green you might agree with my belief that one round at Bonville International is never enough. The resort has accommodation overlooking the 1st fairway, while the Queenslander-style clubhouse boasts the multi-award winning Flooded Gums restaurant where you can dine on great food as you overlook the course. So there are really no excuses not to stick around and play at least one more round.
ADDRESS: North Bonville Rd, Bonville, NSW.
CONTACT: (02) 6653 4002, (02) 6653 4544
(pro shop); www.bonvillegolf.com.au
DESIGNER: Terry Watson and Ted Stirling (1992).
PGA PROFESSIONALS: Richie Gallichan.
COURSE SUPERINTENDENT: Chris Neal.
MEMBERSHIPS: Single, couple, intermediate, colt, junior and sub-junior memberships
are available. Applications are available via the website or you can email email@example.com
SOCIAL GROUPS: Bonville welcomes social golf groups. Bonville’s golf group coordinator can arrange all the details including onsite accommodation, tee times, on course activities, dinner/ gourmet chef cooked barbeque, reservations in the Flooded Gums Restaurant or in a private dining room, daily leader board updates and post-golf drinking areas.
PLAY & STAY: Bonville features 30 well-appointed rooms including 17 Resort Rooms, eight Executive Spa Rooms and five Executive View Rooms, all overlooking the picturesque 1st fairway. Check the website for seasonal package deals.
RANKINGS: Bonville has been voted Australia’s Favourite Course by Golf Australia readers for the past two years. It was also ranked No.45 in Golf Australia’s Top-100 Courses ranking released in January 2018.