Joondalup sets a high standard for visually striking and immaculate presented golf, both of which make for a fun and memorable experience.
It is 35 years since the first balls were struck on a Perth golf course laid across such dramatic terrain few would have imagined the game could ever be played there.
Thanks to the creative mind of American course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr, the 27-hole Joondalup Resort remains as exciting to play as it did all those years ago.
Jones’ career began alongside his famed father, Robert Trent Jones, in the early 1960s before forming his own design company in 1972. In the nearly five decades since, Jones has created or remodelled more than 270 golf courses, across 40 countries and six continents.
During an eight-year period in the 1980s and early 90s, Australia almost became a second home for the Californian as he oversaw the design and construction of courses in Queensland (Coolum), Victoria (The National Old Course and neighbouring Cape Schanck Resort) and Western Australia (Joondalup and Meadow Springs).
Joondalup opened in 1985 and gave Australian golfers their first glimpse of Jones’ imagination and creative flair. Never before had we seen such enormous putting surfaces with many featuring dramatic slopes. Nor had we encountered bunkering of such size and extravagance.
Jones used all his skills to craft 27 holes – the Quarry, Dune and Lake nines – within, over and around the confines of sand dunes and an abandoned limestone quarry and must rate among some of his finest work across an acclaimed career.
On completion of the course Jones wrote to the club and its members. “The key to the design was to maximise the features of the spectacular landscape as well as the dramatic elements of the quarries,” Jones wrote.
“These areas proved to be an exciting landscape providing special visual contrasts of light and shadows and dramatic, strategic elements. There are also three diverse natural landscapes of bush vegetation, dunescape and quarry throughout the golf course.
“Each provided special design challenges and opportunities and combined, creates an incredible, diverse combination of holes. The combination of golfing values and dramatic visual characteristics make this course very special.”
It should not have come as any surprise that Jones would craft such a memorable layout from dramatic terrain. His philosophy has always been to work with the land, not against it.
“All great courses possess an overall mood or rhythm that engenders feelings of anticipation mixed with nostalgia in most players when they reflect on the course,” Jones once wrote. “The architect produces this effect in a fashion similar to the way in which a great composer creates a symphony.
“Each hole is deftly adapted to the site’s natural attributes. A great course also has balance, which derives from the melding, in a pleasant order, of holes of varying degrees of difficulty. For me the hallmark of a great course resides in a golfer’s ability to remember and visualise all the holes after playing the course once.”
“The key to the design was to maximise the features of the spectacular landscape as well as the dramatic elements of the quarries.” – Robert Trent Jones Jr
That’s what I love about Jones’ courses and Joondalup in particular. No two holes throughout the course of a round can ever be described as being similar. And that’s what the great designers do – they fashion unique and memorable playing scenarios that keep us thrilled and excited to play their creations.
You can’t help but be a little excited, or anxious with a little fear, before pushing your tee into the ground on most of Joondalup’s offerings. Your pulse will race, your hands will sweat ... if not on the tee, certainly between tee and green as you let the course take you along for what can often be a wild ride.
Joondalup’s most visually striking, and toughest, holes are on the Quarry nine. The opening hole is a solid entrée but it gives few clues to the drama that lies ahead.
When the vista of the 2nd hole first comes in to view it is hard to imagine such a golf hole exists anywhere on the planet. Or whether any other comes close. Dominating the landscape between you and the green are two bunkers. The first stretches diagonally across the fairway from the right, leaving an ever-narrowing corridor to the left for the longest hitters to thread their tee shot. The second bunker is incredible for its shape, size and position. Shaped like a moon crater, the round bunker, which is cut into the fairway as it rises to the plateaued green, easily measures 10 metres across. The flat sandy base at end of its steep sloping walls covers half of that distance. These two traps are distracting enough that you might not notice there are five other bunkers on the hole – including four around the green’s edge.
If the 2nd does take your breath away, don’t expect to catch your breath at the 3rd tee. This is a wonderful par-3 of 136-metres (from the championship markers), where Jones has fully utilised the landscape to turn what would normally be a straight-forward 6-, 7- or 8-iron into a test of nerve and skill. Your tee shot must carry part of the abandoned quarry to find the green perched on the other side. Mis-hit short or right of the gorge into the out-of-bounds ‘hole’ and it is a heart-breaking third shot from the tee. Make a two here and celebrate that you have conquered one of Australia’s Best 100 Par-3s, as voted by this magazine’s Top-100 Courses judging panel.
The first par-5 of the Quarry nine is unforgettable if only for its unique bunkering within 150 metres of the green. The 475-metre hole climbs gradually from the tee to a bunker through the slight right-to-left dogleg. For the long hitter, a question of bravery awaits their second shot. Many have tried to take on the carry over the second dogleg, that turns hard right, and been found wanting. A mis-hit in the name of gallantry will find a sandy wasteland at the base of a limestone wall that marks the right edge of the fairway above. Escape from here, heading towards the green, is almost impossible and pitching back to the fairway is no easy task either.
The quarry again comes back into play as you turn for home at the 5th tee. By now you will have realised Jones’ design is all about leaving the best approach shot into the massive green complexes. The 370-metre par-4 5th is a prime example. While it’s a superb driving hole, the zig zag shape of the fairway around the edge of the quarry begs the question ‘do you want to play over the quarry to the green or not?’ Taking the risk of driving past the start of the quarry will eliminate the need, but find the quarry with your tee shot and it’s a reload.
If you are restricted to playing just 18 holes during your visit to Joondalup, try and organise to play the Quarry and Dune combination. Not only is it rated the hardest combination of the three nines (ACR 74.1 against its par of 72), it also offers the greatest variety of holes and a more memorable Joondalup experience. In fact, the Quarry/Dune layout was ranked No.37 in Golf Australia magazine’s list of this country’s Top-100 Courses in 2020. The Quarry/Lake combination was ranked at No.79 in the same list.
There are three holes on the Dune nine that will stand out specifically in your mind for a long time after headed home. The 372-metre par-4 3rd on the Dunes is another fine example of Jones’ use of the landscape. A split fairway comes into play from the tee – the low road is shorter but presents a more difficult second shot while the high road (to the left) offers a more conservative, long route to the elevated green.
The 224-metre (from the championship tees) par-3 4th has an unusual hazard lining the right side of the fairway – a seven- to eight-metre high cliff. This is a charming hole with low lying Australian native shrubs separating the tees from the short fairway and two bunkers long providing the huge green’s only protection.
The Dunes nine has another good par-3, the 137-metre 7th. As the length would suggest, it is only a short or middle iron from the tee. But the green is so big that there may be up to four club’s difference between a pin cut at the front of the green and one at the back of the green, which sits diagonally to your position on the tee. Jones surely has mastered the art of deception here.
For mine, the pick of the holes on the Lake nine is the 302-metre par-4 2nd. From the tee, the fairway looks like a green island surrounded by bushland left and a deep gorge and towering rock wall right. This is a short two-shotter where the emphasis is on accuracy from start to finish. The approach must avoid four bunkers on the right of the green. If you find yourself bunkered here it will take a magnificent recovery shot to help save par.
The Jones design aside, Joondalup’s greens, fairways and tees are always in great condition. I have been a regular visitor to Joondalup now for the past two decades and if there is one aspect that never changes it is the high standard of presentation.
The luxury resort, which overlooks the opening and closing holes of the Lake nine, is also a wonderful experience. The Tuscan-style complex offers accommodation with private balconies while the dining in Bistro 38 is first class. I would also recommend a pre-dinner drink in the View 180 cocktail lounge, which offers views over the lagoon-style swimming pool.
Just 30 minutes’ drive north of Perth’s CBD via the Mitchell Freeway, it’s no wonder Joondalup is one of the city’s most popular courses (exceeding 80,000 rounds a year) and is a ‘must play’ for golfers visiting the golden west.
LOCATION: Country Club Blvd, Connolly, Western Australia, 6027
CONTACT: (08) 9400 8888; (08) 9400 8811 (pro shop).
DESIGNER: Robert Trent Jones Jr (1985).
GREEN FEES: $99 (18 holes, Sunday to Friday including twin share cart); $119 (18 holes, Saturday including twin share cart). $70 (resort guests, Sunday to Friday including twin share cart); $95 (resort guests, Saturday including twin share cart).
COURSE SUPERINTENDENT: Ashley Watson.
PGA PROFESSIONALS: Kerrod Gray (Director of Instruction), Ackzel Donaldson (teaching professional), Jessica Speechley (teaching professional).
MEMBERSHIPS: Joondalup Country Club offers a range of membership types and categories including Non-Transferable (Term Membership), Membership Shares, Junior and Corporate Memberships. As a member, you will enjoy golfing rights to the course, access to the clubhouse, use of the resort facilities and services as well as discounts on purchases for most items throughout the resort.
FACILITIES: The PGA professionals of the Joondalup Resort Golf Academy will help you develop your game. The academy hosts clinics or you can book a private lesson, while expert club fitter Leyton Williamson can not only repair your gear but also fit you into the best equipment for your game.
ACCOLADES: Metropolitan Golf Course of the Year (2020 WA Golf Industry Awards); Ashley Watson – Course Superintendent of the Year (2020 WA Golf Industry Awards); 2020 Golf Australia magazine Top-100 Courses ranking (Quarry-Dune, Quarry Lake); 2019 Golf Australia magazine Top-100 Public Courses ranking (Quarry-Dune, Quarry Lake, Lake-Dune).