Having achieved its highest national public access course ranking in nearly eight years, there is no better time to book a round at this Greg Norman and Bob Harrison-designed classic.
When Brookwater opened in 2002 there was much fanfare with many visiting golfers quick to draw comparisons with the home of the Masters, Augusta National.
The undulating terrain, creative bunkering and sloping putting surfaces fueled appraisals of the design crafted by Greg Norman and then design chief Bob Harrison – both of whom are devotees of the work of Dr Alister MacKenzie, who created Augusta.
But the truth is this par-72 is an original, just 30 minutes’ drive south west of the Brisbane CBD. It boasts an overwhelming Australian feel and even the occasional kangaroo bounding across a fairway. The Norman and Harrison design is one of Australia’s most spectacular inland courses and has been well-entrenched in national course rankings for 17 years. Its latest ranking came in January this year when it finished at No.11 on Golf Australia’s Top-100 Public Access Course list, an improvement on its two previous standings.
This bounce back in the rank can be attributed to changes made to the course three years ago.
Greg Norman Golf Course Design was charged with maintaining the essence that is Brookwater while tweaking the course for improved playability and aesthetics. A redesign program was undertaken at Brookwater, which saw greens enlarged, bunkers softened and areas of deep rough cut back. The Shark himself made a visit to what is arguably his best design in Queensland to make his personal recommendations, with the front nine opening in November 2016 and the entire 18 holes open for play in March 2017.
Before the remodelling, Brookwater had areas of long rough as well as scrub and tall trees close to playing lines, which led to plenty of lost balls.
The remedy started from the ground up with the removal of much of the cluttered grass plantings and deep rough. Multiple trees were removed across the course, while large branches and limbs were trimmed to clear out sight and playing lines from tees and into greens. This has vastly improved the strategic values of playing a round here.
RIGHT: Water and sand dominates the 16th – the best of the one-shotters at Brookwater. PHOTO: Brendan James.
Perhaps the biggest change came on the greens with the Bermuda Tifdwarf surfaces redone, while the greens were reshaped, made larger and some of the severe slopes and undulations softened to offer more pin positions. Drainage work was also conducted on many of the greens to ensure the high quality of the playing surfaces are maintained. After more than two years of maturation, Brookwater’s Bermuda putting surfaces are some of the best in the country, which is indicative of the standard to be found at Troon Golf-managed courses.
Brookwater, despite these playability improvements, remains a long, tough, undulating test that asks questions of your game that other courses don’t. In the course of 18 holes there are heroic carries, tight drives and approaches into greens from a variety of lies that range from subtle to dramatic.
From the championship tees, the journey is long (one of the top-10 longest in Australia), brutish and something I would only recommend for pros and elite amateurs. I’d suggest moving forward a tee, where the course plays shorter but no less dramatic.
Elevation changes are Brookwater’s trademark. The roller-coastering par-5 4th hole is as wild a ride as you’ll get on a golf course. The fairway plunges downhill before levelling briefly and climbing to a green that sits so far above, you can just see the top of the flag from as close as 100 metres away.
“Brookwater, despite these playability improvements, remains a long, tough, undulating test that asks questions of your game that other courses don’t.”
The 4th might be the most graphic example of the undulations Norman and Harrison saw when they first looked at the property and discovered a piece of land that needed little massaging and just needed to find the holes.
One of the keys to scoring well at Brookwater is deciphering the angles into the greens. The tall tree-lined holes give the impression of the course being much tighter than it is. However, there is ample space on most holes and several saddle-shaped fairways that will save a slightly wayward drive and correct its course. Problems only arise if you miss these slopes and find the neighbouring trees, where escapes are rarely straightforward. But positioning your ball in the correct part of each fairway for the best angle for the next shot is a distinct key to the challenge.
“The Brookwater course is one of my more strategic designs,” Norman said shortly after the layout opened. “The course was designed around the natural contours of Brookwater’s dynamic landscape. It’s almost as if the course was already there.”
Brookwater’s rises and falls strike you from the start. The opening hole, a scenic and brilliant dogleg left, drops from the tee to a plateau fairway flanked by sand to the right before dipping and rising again to a smallish green. Similar movement characterises the approach to the 358-metre 3rd hole before the topsy-turvy 4th and sharply downhill par-3 5th, a 167-metre journey to a green boarded by sand and tightly-trimmed drop-off to the rear.
There are other stand-out holes everywhere. At the 6th, the tee shot funnels down one of Brookwater’s saddled fairways before wrapping around a pond that lines the right edge of the green. No.7 is an uphill par-3 with a green angled to be receptive to a high fade with a long iron before the straightforward par-5 8th weaves between two hillsides. The closing hole on the front nine is a sleeper, as it is short by the scorecard at 322 metres yet plays longer as the tee shot is uphill and won’t roll very far. The iron shot is also uphill to a tiny green so even though you might have a short club in hand, you’d better be accurate with it.
Three good and varied par-4s open the second nine. The 10th climbs to a two-tiered green where you simply must find the correct level to have any chance of making a birdie putt. The 11th is a fantastic dogleg right around a stand of tall trees to a green once again guarded by water on the right and behind. The 12th meanders up a hill to a narrow, angled green before the course’s signature test.
The par-5 plays much shorter than its 551-metre as it tumbles down a steep hillside, snaking gently left to a green perched above a collection of ripples and rolls in the fairway. Level stances are rare and only two straight pokes will leave a simple pitch to a small, awkwardly cantered green.
The 162-metre par-3 14th is a beautiful hole where the tee shot must carry a creek to a green on a ridge, which is slanted from right to left with two bunkers either side of the undulating putting surface.
Then it’s time to head into Shark Alley, the difficult quartet of closing holes. The 15th is one of the few holes at Brookwater where the ball must fly all the way to the green on the approach as an area of rough ground fronts the otherwise open green.
“The course was designed around the natural contours of Brookwater’s dynamic landscape. It’s almost as if the course was already there.” – Greg Norman
The approach is a little more complicated from the tee at the par-3 16th. The 173-metre journey beside the edge of a wetland, is to a green slanted from right to left and demands an exacting tee shot to avoid deep bunkers left and right.
The two closing holes can make or break a round. The 17th is a 483-metre par-5 along a ridgeline to a skinny green ringed by hazards, both wet and sandy. And as with many of Norman and Harrison’s golf courses, the toughest test is reserved for the last.
Brookwater’s par-4 18th is a 396-metre climb to a green cut into a hillside with four deep bunkers left and another to the right. Hit this green in two shots, take your two putts and make a beeline for the clubhouse.
LOCATION: 1 Tournament Dr, Brookwater, QLD, 4300.
CONTACT: (07) 3814 5500.
DESIGNERS: Greg Norman and Bob Harrison (2002).
SLOPE RATINGS: Men – Black 146; Gold 141; Silver 133. Women – Jade 139, Silver 143.
PLAYING SURFACES: Tifdwarf Bermuda (greens), Santa Ana couch (tees), C2T (fairways).
GREEN FEES: $100 (Monday - Thursday, 18 holes, includes shared cart); $120 (Friday - Sunday including shared cart).
COURSE SUPERINTENDENT: James Gordon.
PGA PROFESSIONALS: John Collins and Ian Triggs.
MEMBERSHIP: Brookwater has a variety of membership categories including junior, intermediate and family classifications, as well as seven- and five-day options.
A full seven-day membership costs $3,650 for residents and $4,110 for non-residents, while a family membership is $5,850 for residents and $7,250 for non-residents. Junior memberships start from $360, and the club is currently offering an introductory membership for weekend play only at a cost of $2,190 for a maximum of two years.
FACILITIES: The clubhouse is home to the prized Brookwater Restaurant, Café and Bar, which offers a relaxed, country club-style bar and dining experience. As well as a fabulous view of the stunning course.
WEDDINGS & FUNCTIONS: Brookwater offers the versatility of providing an intimate space for low-key affairs or large events catering for 180 sit down or 300 cocktail. An events coordinator can assist in selecting the perfect menu, theming and entertainment options.
RECIPROCAL CLUBS: All Troon Golf Clubs worldwide.