Having weathered bushfire and COVID-19 crises, Mollymook Golf Club is ready to put 2020 in the rear-vision mirror and greet the New Year as one of the best public access courses in the nation.
The first days of 2020 will long be remembered in Mollymook for the fiery hell that cut the seaside town off from the outside world.
With catastrophic bushfires sweeping through Lake Conjola and parts of Milton to the north, and Batemans Bay to the south, residents and holiday-makers were trapped as the Pacific Highway was closed in both directions.
Mollymook Golf Club became an important hub as its Beachside Course and clubhouse became a sanctuary for tourists, displaced locals and emergency workers.
The bushfire emergency over, there was only a small window of respite before the first cases of coronavirus were being recorded in Australia, forcing the shutdown of club and course operations for nearly a month.
Despite the unprecedented rough start to 2020, the club has emerged in great shape. The acclaimed Hilltop Course is in pristine condition and is destined to be named as one of the Top-100 Public Access Courses in Australia, as ranked by Golf Australia magazine, next month.
The course climbed to No.72 in that ranking in 2019, after cracking a spot in 2015 at No.99 and edging further up the ladder to No.80 in 2017. This gradual ascent in the list can be attributed to the program of course improvements the club has implemented during the past six years. Bunker renovations, selective tree removal and superior kikuyu fairways and bentgrass greens, combine with a par-72 design that is fun and interesting to play for players of all standards.
It is not a surprising climb for those that have ever played the course and enthused about making a return as soon as possible.
Created by former course superintendent Bill Andriske and professional Ken McKay Snr, Mollymook’s Hilltop Course was carved from a dense eucalypt forest and opened for play in 1977. In the 43 years that have followed, it really has become an integral part of an impressive golfing landscape on the NSW South Coast, which boasts four Top-100 Public Access-ranked courses.
Both nines at Mollymook open from in front of the clubhouse, which occupies the highest point on the course and offers beautiful south-easterly views across the tree tops to the Pacific Ocean in the distance.
Four challenging par-4s open the round, with all measuring between 365 and 398 metres. This quartet demands players use their driver and use it well from the outset, which can produce errors and plenty of tree trouble early in the round. I like how the 1st, 3rd and 4th holes dogleg to varying degrees from right-to-left and suit the player who moves the ball in the same direction. But then, right in the middle of them, is the 373-metre 2nd hole that turns sharply from left-to-right and demands a completely different approach from the tee.
The stretch of holes from the 2nd to the 7th cover the easiest walking terrain on the course but all – with the exception of the par-3 5th hole – are relatively tight driving holes with tall timbers lining both sides of the doglegging fairways.
For mine, Mollymook’s finest offerings are on the back nine. The inward half covers more dramatic terrain, which ultimately requires a greater variety of shots to be played from differing lies.
Having made the steep descent down the dogleg left 10th fairway to the green, the 380-metre par-4 11th hole weaves subtly left through a narrow gap in the trees to open up at the long, narrow green, which features a lone bunker wedged between the putting surface and a picturesque lake.
“This gradual ascent in the list can be attributed to the program of course improvements the club has implemented during the past six years.”
My favourite hole at Mollymook is also one of its most memorable. The par-5 13th hole plays a little shorter than the 500 metres listed on the scorecard. For longer hitters it is a blind tee shot over the crest of a hill to a fairway that turns to the right from the top of the rise. Once you have cleared the hill, the remainder of your journey is laid out before and there are a plethora of choices presented for your second shot. Most players won’t be long enough to carry the stream that separates the green from the end of the fairway, so the question is “where do I lay-up?” It is best to leave a full shot into the putting surface, which slopes markedly from back-to-front and left-to-right. If you leave your approach shot above the hole here, you face the likelihood of a three-putt heading down the slope.
Mollymook’s best, and prettiest, par-3 is the penultimate offering. Colourful flowers provide vivid surrounds to the teeing areas of the 162-metre 17th hole, which is played from a tall-timber lined chute down to a kidney-shaped green. A creek cuts the hole in two and can be found left of the green, while three bunkers – one short left and another two to the right – easily capture mis-hit tee shots.
LOCATION: Clifford Close, Mollymook, NSW.
CONTACT: (02) 4454 1912; (02) 4455 2055 (pro shop).
DESIGNER: Bill Andriske & Ken McKay Snr (1977).
PLAYING SURFACES: Kikuyu (fairways), bentgrass (greens).
COURSE SUPERINTENDENT: Mark Pullinger.
PGA PROFESSIONALS: Barry West (Golf manager), Mario van Zyl (head professional), Brad Wall (teaching professional), Nick Heath (trainee professional).
GREEN FEES: Visitors $59 (weekdays, 18 holes), $69 (weekends); Member’s guests $30 (weekdays) and $40 (weekends). Bookings essential.
MEMBERSHIP: Mollymook has moved to become a club promoting gender equality, and its membership categories now reflect this. Full golf membership – covering seven-day access to both the Hilltop and Beachside Courses as well as entry into all competitions – is $1,090. There is also a Weekday Membership category, for $845, which provides the same course and competition access from Monday to Friday. For other categories, including junior and country golf memberships, visit the club’s website.
FACILITIES: Mollymook has two modern clubhouses – one at the Hilltop course and the other beside the par-33 Beachside layout. The Beachside clubhouse is home to the appropriately named, Beachside Bistro, which offers an extensive lunch and dinner menu and fantastic views overlooking Mollymook Beach.