The golf courses of South East Queensland are no stranger to rain and plenty of it all at once. Some, like Indooroopilly Golf Club, bounce back better than most.
It’s early in the afternoon and the Queensland sun is warming the back as I size up my approach into the 1st green of Indooroopilly’s West course. I hit a crisp mid iron and the sound of club on ball echoed between the trees.
This same idyllic scenario repeated itself (far too much for my liking) throughout the round, which forced me to remind myself several times that I was playing golf just 20 minutes from the Brisbane CBD. The serenity to be found at Indooroopilly Golf Club is amazing given its location on a surfboard fin-shaped peninsula beside the Brisbane River.
While this position covering rolling terrain beside the river offers great tranquillity, it also makes all 36 holes at Indooroopilly vulnerable to flooding.
Back in January 2011, the Brisbane River burst its banks creating floodwater levels not seen since the record 1974 floods that inundated the Queensland capital.
One of the unforgettable images of that time was an aerial photograph showing the floodwaters covering most of the peninsula (known as Long Pocket) occupied by both courses, which is bound on three sides by the river as it flows east toward the city. Of the 36 holes on the 130-hectare property, 22 holes were completely inundated by the floodwater and the tonnes of sand, silt and mud that came with it.
In the days after, as the waters receded the full extent of the devastation became apparent. Almost every tee and green was damaged to some degree. One fairway, which runs alongside the river, was buried under more than a metre of sand and sludge.
Course superintendent Charlie Giffard led an army of staff and volunteers in a massive clean-up that involved removing layers of mud and silt off the affected greens, which were then washed and squeegeed clean. This helped save the greens from completely dying. It also went a long way to having all 36 holes opened for play within two months.
Today, there is not a shred of evidence of those devastating floods and the West Course has gone on to achieve its highest-ever rankings in Golf Australia’s Top-100 Courses ranking in 2014 and 2016.
While the West Course receives most of the plaudits, Indooroopilly has the advantage of being split into four coloured nines – Gold, Red, Blue and Green – allowing the club to operate six 18-hole combinations. Of these, the West Course (Gold and Red) and the East Course (Blue and Green) are the most commonly used, while the President’s Course (Red and Blue) has become a favourite of this writer.
Having been established at nearby St Lucia in 1926, the club added a course at Long Pocket in 1964 and within two decades it had developed a 36-hole complex on the peninsula with Ross Watson redesigning the older holes, which were renamed the West Course.
Watson continues to work with the club on any design changes, while Giffard’s maintenance team have begun work on a masterplan of continued improvement to all holes that includes converting all greens surrounds to zoysia grass. Zoysia thrives in warmer climates and will form a barrier between the couch fairways and Bermuda greens.
Sand plays a dominant role on the West course outward half, or Gold nine, with expansive bunkering complexes on the par-5 3rd, par-4 6th and par-5 7th holes being the most visually intimidating across the entire rolling Indooroopilly landscape.
Of this trio, I really liked the 3rd hole. You step onto the tee here and you are standing right on the banks of the Brisbane River (during the flood, this tee was under nearly five metres of water). While the hole follows the edge of the river, the fairway veers slightly to the right, around a crop of bunkers left, before doglegging slightly left to bring trees and more sand into play for the second shot. Thankfully, there is plenty of fairway to be found right of the bunkers, which are within pitching distance of the front of the table-top shaped green.
The 311-metre par-4 9th is one of the holes that changed dramatically as part of Watson’s redesign in 2006 and offers a grandstand finish to the nine with a narrow fairway being flanked by a lake to the left, while four bunkers protect the deep, contoured green that lies within an amphitheatre beneath the gazing eyes of those in the clubhouse.
Heading out on the inward nine, the Red nine, the test of your nerve and skill begins from the opening tee shot. The 513-metre par-5 can be reached in two shots by only the longest hitters but they must be willing to thread their drive between a lake to the right and trees to the left of a narrow landing zone. The lake is still in play for all players (it’s only 180 metres from the white tee) but the fairway is much wider. Stay dry from the tee, maintain a good line with your second down the left of the fairway and you will have a straight-forward approach to an elevated green.
Water plays a significant role on the Red nine as does the changing elevation. The quartet of holes starting at the short par-4 6th is, for mine, the most interesting sequence of holes at Indooroopilly. The 6th hole demands a well-struck drive across the edge of a gully to find the fairway, which lies diagonally off to the right. The drive at the 7th, which is Index 1 on the West course, must also be straight to avoid the lake on the right. A water carry with your long second shot is also required to find the green beyond another lake, this one bordering the front and left edge of the green.
The par-3 8th offers some respite from the water but it is back again at the 478-metre 9th where you must bomb a drive over a lake to the fairway, again diagonally placed to the flight of the your tee shot, before taking on more water with your final approach to a semi-island green where there is water short, left and long of the putting surface. It is a treacherous journey from tee to green here but what a closer it is to the front nine.
The West Course is a gem and will continue to improve in ranking lists as Giffard works through the masterplan. That said, there is much to like about the variety and quality of the holes to be found on the East Course (Blue and Green nines), which features much less bunkering and water hazards than the West Course.
For mine, the Blue is the slightly better of the two halves and is probably my second favourite nine at Indooroopilly behind the Red nine. While the holes are generally shorter on the Blue nine, the changing elevation and natural twists in the terrain, combined with the narrower, tree-lined fairways, gives rise to some strong par-4s, like the 394-metre 6th hole.
The rolling terrain has been used well to create some terrific, under-rated, holes on the Green nine as well. The 324-metre par-4 3rd is just one of the gems. Accuracy from the tee is a prerequisite on this dogleg left fairway, which rolls over the crest of one hill before climbing again to reach the green. The uphill second shot here is quite deceptive in terms of judging the distance and it is best to be under the hole for your first putt as this green slopes quite a bit to the front right.
If you find yourself in Brisbane and in search of a game, try and get on to Indooroopilly. Enjoy the serenity, the golf and be amazed at how well this club has bounced back from the despair of the floods just six years ago.
LOCATION: Meiers Rd, Indooroopilly, 4068.
CONTACT: (07) 3721 2121 or (07) 3721 2122.
DESIGNERS: Al Howard & members (1964); Bob Green (1976); Ross Watson (1985, 2006 and ongoing).
PLAYING SURFACES: Greenlees Park couch (fairways); Bermuda 328 (greens).
COURSE SUPERINTENDENT: Charlie Giffard.
PGA PROFESSIONALS: Richard Harris, Craig Parker, Rod Hume. David Scott (Director of Golf).
GREEN FEES: Indooroopilly welcomes visitors to play the 36-hole course from Sunday to Friday. The club offers six 18-hole combinations. $65 (18 holes Monday to Thursday), $75 (Friday and Sunday). Bookings can also be made online via the club’s website.
MEMBERSHIPS: Applications for membership are welcomed. Categories of membership are based on playing rights and course access with generous discounts for younger members and the family of existing members.
Full membership has a range of benefits including direct access to 36 holes. The club also boasts Brisbane’s most extensive practice facilities, including a driving range, three putting greens, practice holes and chipping bunkers. For more details contact the membership co-ordinator Rebecca Burchill on email email@example.com
RECIPROCAL CLUBS: NSW (Castle Hill, Killara, The Lakes, Manly, Newcastle, Pennant Hills, Pymble, Rich River); SA (Glenelg, Grange, Kooyonga); Victoria (Commonwealth, Thirteenth Beach, Yarra Yarra, Woodlands, Peninsula); WA (Lake Karrinyup, Joondalup, Mt Lawley, Nedlands, The Western Australia, Royal Perth); Tasmania (Royal Hobart, Launceston); ACT (Federal); Queensland (Southport).
CORPORATE GOLF: The club has experienced staff on hand to take the pressure off you and manage the logistics of your golf day. For packages and corporate memberships call Nelson Eaton on (07) 3721 2130.