The strategic challenge and outstanding presentation of Wanneroo Golf Club make it easy to understand why the club was chosen as co-host of the 2018 Australian Amateur.
When making the 45-minute drive to the north of Perth, one would be forgiven for thinking you had become lost as you follow the GPS directions to the front gate of Wanneroo Golf Club. The surrounding scrub covered landscape and nearby sand and limestone companies occupying property that appears less than hospitable for golf.
But once inside the club’s property, it becomes quickly apparent you have arrived at an oasis of green space, with a simple yet strategically designed golf course that was Western Australia’s first fully reticulated layout, presented in immaculate condition.
Founded in 1970, and opened three years later, the Bob Green/Murray Dawson design is not hugely long from the back tees by today’s standards at 6,234 metres. But Wanneroo’s challenge is via its doglegs lined with trees and large well-placed bunkers.
This defence of par has been tested under plenty of tournament play in recent years. It previously hosted the Western Australian PGA Championship in 2003, which was won by home favourite Kim Felton, the private club most recently jointly staged, with Lake Karrinyup Country Club, the early rounds of both the men’s and women’s Australian Amateur Championship. And Wanneroo held its own, with only nine of the men and four of the ladies among the two elite fields breaking 70 around the par-72 layout.
Beyond the picturesque outlook from the recently renovated alfresco area of the clubhouse, the course at Wanneroo provides a tranquil setting surrounded by native trees, including enormous gums that separate the holes and give you a feeling that you have the course all to yourself.
With elevation changes at a minimum and tees located typically just a stone’s throw from the previous green, the walk around Wanneroo is also an enjoyable and easy one that like so many other courses in WA is enhanced by the presence of native wildlife, including kangaroos keeping an eye on things.
The trio of opening holes at Wanneroo offer a fairly tame start to your round, with less than driver required from all three tees for stronger players unless you are in a particularly aggressive mood. What follows, though, is a difficult stretch of four holes – ranking 8th, 5th, 2nd and 3rd on the card – which offer the first test of the day.
The par-3 4th hole is the longest of the one-shotters at Wanneroo and the best of the short holes in my opinion. Played downhill, the 188-metre hole features a fairly small green surrounded by mounding and slopes that can both help a slightly miscued approach by throwing it toward the hole or hinder by doing the opposite. This is a common theme throughout the course, with the sloping surrounds making short game options plentiful and difficult, with the best place to miss short of the green on most holes.
Three consecutive par-4s make up the rest of the most difficult stretch on the course, all of which are played in a different direction – meaning judging the wind can be difficult, particularly with the stands of gums at times sheltering players from the breeze. Driver can be used from all three tees, but position is as important as length to setup the best approaches to greens raised slightly above the level of the fairway, which feature subtle slopes that can prove hard for first timers to read.
The 5th, 6th and 7th, in addition to their difficulty, stand out due to their relative straight lines of play when compared with the rest of the course – particularly on the tighter back nine, where sharp and mild doglegs are the main defender of par from the long hitter.
The par-5 9th closes out the front nine and despite out of bounds to the right and a long bunker left, the 506-metre hole offers the chance to open the shoulders from the tee. The approach to the green is played downhill, offering even shorter hitters the chance to get close to the putting surface and setup a potential birdie.
Another par-5 opens the back side and when standing on the tee you are instantly given a taste of what is to come on the second half.
Three large fairway bunkers and a sharp bend to the right make finding the fairway of the 435-metre hole a difficult task, before contemplating whether to challenge a well bunkered green to perhaps give yourself another birdie chance or risk bogey or worse.
A mid-length par-3 and dogleg left par-4 come next before you reach the hardest hole on the course.
The par-4 13th measures 406-metres from the tips and is the most memorable of the back nine two-shotters – which, if there is an identifiable weakness of the course, is the par-4s bearing a certain sameness from one to the next.
Again, the quality and position of your drive will largely determine the end result at the 13th, with fairway bunkering down the inside corner of the dogleg left causing many, myself included, to run through the right hand side of the short grass, where the sandy base of the trees that features throughout Wanneroo can produce a variety of lies.
If you do manage to find the fairway, a drawing mid- to long-iron to a green guarded by a bunker right and trees overhanging the fairway means that a par four is always a score to be happy with as you walk to the 14th tee.
Ranked as the sixth hardest on the course, the concluding hole features perhaps the design’s most severe dogleg, which turns to the right around a fairway bunker that can be challenged by some. Like the majority of the other holes at Wanneroo, however, the choice of shot from the tee is not an automatic one for any player, the long hitter cannot simply blast away, with the fairway narrowing beyond the trap. And the conservative player mustn’t lay too far back or to the left either, with a significantly longer approach into the left-to-right sloping green the result of an overly defensive tee shot.
While the strategy required, particularly from the tee, is one of highlights of a round at Wanneroo, the conditioning on my recent visit was outstanding, making it no wonder the club was chosen to host the Australian Amateur just a month earlier.
The combination of the flawless Couch grass fairways and the evenly covered and true rolling bent greens, has me already looking forward to my next visit to Wanneroo, which will hopefully be more confidently navigated, both to the course and on it.
LOCATION: 44 Flynn Dr, Neerabup, WA, 6031.
CONTACT: (08) 9405 3677.
DESIGNERS: Bob Green and Murray Dawson (1973).
SLOPE RATINGS: 125 (blue), 123 (white), 118 (yellow), 124 (red women).
PLAYING SURFACES: Couch fairways, bentgrass greens.
GREEN FEES: Public bookings are available Monday to Friday. $50 (18 holes) and $25 (9 holes) and social groups are welcome on Sundays (price available on request).
COURSE SUPERINTENDENT: John Carter.
PGA PROFESSIONALS: Steve Kuriata.
MEMBERSHIP: Wanneroo offers a range of membership options to suit a wide variety of lifestyles from premium seven-day access to four-day memberships, with a number of discounted options for golfers under 24. Full membership currently incurs an annual fee of $2,965, which includes a $264 house credit. A $250 nomination fee is also applicable for new members, with the membership year running from October 1 to September 30.
RECIPROCAL CLUBS: NSW: Queanbeyan GC (NSW); ACT: Murrumbidgee CC; Tasmania: Riverside GC; Queensland: Wynnum GC, Half Moon Bay GC, Headland GC; Victoria: Green Acres GC; Beacon Hills CC, Mildura GC Resort; SA: Flagstaff Hill GC, Mt Gambier GC, West Lakes GC; WA: Albany GC; Bunbury GC, Capel GC.
FUNCTIONS: Wanneroo tailors its offerings to suit each individual event. Offering memorable, bespoke social and corporate occasions from weddings and birthdays to seminars and conferences that are specifically designed for you and your guests.