Tuesday, July 22, 2014

41 (World) New South Wales Golf Club

May 30, 2014

The last 24 hours of my Australia trip was spent in Sydney with friends, particularly my good friend Al (who is also my regional coordinator in Sydney). We met with a few others for dinner at the fabulous Altitude Restaurant. The view of the opera house and bridge was simply stunning.

After a restful night sleep, I packed my bags for my evening flight to Singapore. Al and I had agreed to meet at the clubhouse. He doesn't play but agreed to walk the course with me during the round so we could chat about both business and personal stuff.  It was good to catch up sicne we only get to see each other once or twice a year. Later, I would be very appreciative of him agreeing to accompany me.

The entrance gate sign to New South Wales G.C.
I was paired up with three men from Japan. They have to be some of the most rude people I have experienced on any of my golf outings. They would tee it up, finish their shots, and then start walking down the course before I had a chance to tee my ball and drive it. They seemed barely interested in chatting with me about anything. And, finally at the turn, they decided they no longer wanted to walk and had the marshal retrieve them riding carts. When I refused to ride in a cart with them, instead choosing to walk with Al, they decided it was some stain on their honor. Not only did they not wait for me to hit my drive, they didn't wait for me to hit my approach shots either. As I set up for my approach shot on hole 9, they stepped on the green and started putting. After three holes of this, I advised them to go ahead and play without me.  I suppose this was another stain on their honor because they began to play extremely slow, hitting two and three balls each.  A foursome of local players finally caught up with me at #17, where I had been waiting on the tee box for almost 15 minutes, and agreed to let me finish the round with them after explaining what was going on.  After joining up with this group, the three Japanese men quickly finished 17 and 18 and were gone before we had finished #17.

Even though my assigned playing partners had left a bad experience on my round, I certainly wasn't going to let it spoil my time. I had paid good, hard earned money for the round, and I used the extra time to take more photos and chat with Al. Speaking of photos, Al took some photos of me playing and I will include some of them on this blog. It is a rare treat that I get photos of me playing holes so I was more than excited to receive them.  Now back to the golf.

New South Wales appears numerous times throughout The World's 500 Greatest Golf Holes and receives quite a few accolades. Among them are:
  • Hole 6 is listed as one of the top 100 holes in the world.
  • Hole 5 is listed as one of the best 18 holes in Australasia and Japan.
  • Hole 6 is listed as one of the best 18 holes in Australasia and Japan.
  • Hole 6 is listed as one of the 18 most strategic holes in the world.
  • Hole 6 is listed as one of the 18 best ocean holes in the world.
  • Hole 6 is listed as one of the best 18 holes in Australasia and Japan.
  • Hole 6 is listed as one of Alister MacKenzie's best 18 holes on the planet.

A view of the front of the clubhouse at New South Wales.

A close up of the club seal above the front door.
The day was perfect. It was almost completely clear, blue skies with only a few clouds. The temperature was in the upper 60s and there was only a very light wind rustling the long grasses. Upon check-in at the pro shop, I was told to keep an eye towards the ocean since whales had been spotted previously. I never saw any but several other golfers reported they had.  I guess that is one of the really neat things that is unique to New South Wales.  The course is also surrounded on three sides by Botany Bay and was the site of James Cook's first landing of HMS Endeavour on the continent of Australia, after his extensive navigation of New Zealand.

After warming up at the range, and then meeting Al, I waited for my playing partners to join me on the first tee. The first hole is a tough opening hole.

A look down the fairway from the 1st tee box.
Hole one is a 304 yard par 4. From the tee you are almost required to aim your drive to the left as there is so little landing room on the right.  Of course, with the first 75 yards of fairway running along the clubhouse, there is a very narrow window to hit left and keep it in play.

A closer look down the fairway with focus on the green.

That's me trying to figure out exactly where I should land my drive.
The fairway slopes to the three bunkers on the right, leaving a very difficult second shot if you end up down in them. If you land in the fairway, the second shot requires a pitch or wedge to an elevated green on top of a ridge, sloping both front and back.

A look into the first green from 130 yards out.
The second hole is a 180 yard par 3. It has a very small, very difficult green to land, with a shallow bowl in the front left, and two bunkers guarding the left side. If you fly the green, your ball is going to roll along ways down hill so it is best to be short if you can come to a rest on the green.

A look into the green from the 2nd tee box.
Hole three is a 374 yard par 4. It was the most difficult on the course to me.  You have to drive through a very narrow opening to a blind landing area that is downhill and over the corner of a dog-leg left. If you hit a long, straight drive here, you are likely to end up in trees at the bottom of the hill.

A look down the fairway from the 3rd tee box.
Once you find the fairway, the approach shot is to a narrow, elevated green guarded by three deep bunkers. The wind picked up on this hole making it an even more difficult hole to navigate.

A look down the 3rd fairway from the turn in the dogleg. 
A look up to the green from 80 yards out.
Luckily, once you navigate the blind tee shot, the dog-leg turn, and the uphill approach with bunkers, the green is fairly flat, giving you a break and hopefully a chance to make par.

A look at the 3rd green. 
The view to the left when standing on the 3rd green.
The fourth hole is a 413 yard par 4. Off the tee you want to aim for the large hump to the right hand side of the fairway.

A look down the fairway from the 4th tee box.
The approach shot needs to cross a ridge to reach the hourglass-shaped green guarded by a bunker and two grassy hollows.  The bunker on the right can be very difficult to escape and keep the shot on the green.

A look into the 4th green from 50 yards out.
The 486 yard par 5, fifth hole is something I didn't expect. It has one of the greatest views into the green you will find anywhere in the world. It comes up on you quick and takes your breath away as you top the fairway hill.
A look down the fairway from the 5th tee box.
The tee shot is a blind one since the green is nowhere in site. If you aim for the center of the ridge, you should be ok for your second shot. There is not much fairway left to land the second shot, so accuracy is the key here. The green slopes to the back with four sand traps left and front right.

As mentioned above, when you arrive at the top of the hill, the view is stunning.

A close look into the 5th green.
A wide shot of the 5th green.
The bunkers cause havoc here. The wind started to pick up when we teed off on the 5th, and one of my playing partners ended up in the far left side bunker below. It took him three shots to get out successfully.
A look into the 5th green from 30 yards out.

The 168 yard par 3 sixth hole is another world class view. You come off the fifth green, turn right, and find the 6th tee box on a peninsula of sorts.  The wind was blowing left to right and had picked up to approximately 30 mph by the time we reached the tee box, making for an even more difficult shot.

A look into the green from the 6th tee box. 
One of my favorite photos to date of me getting ready to hit towards the 6th green.
You want to make sure to avoid the gradient left of the green as well as the bunkers left and right. That is, of course, unless you have a ridiculously strong wind, and then you just hope to get anywhere close.

A closer look into the 6th green.
The seventh hole is a 399 yard par 4 that requires a drive straightaway uphill, but the shot is very demanding with Tea trees found on either side of the fairway capable of severely punishing any stray shots.

A look down the fairway from the 7th tee box.
After a very steep and difficult drive, a steep uphill to the green makes for a difficult finish at the seventh. There is also a moderately deep bunker located on the front right.

A look into the 7th green from 75 yards out.

That's me trying to find my way out of the bunker at the 7th.

Heading back towards the club house, the 541 yard par 5 eighth provides a fairly open tee shot setting up another blind second shot over the crest of a hill.

A look down the fairway from the 8th tee box.
The green is tucked a little to the right behind two large bunkers. The best approach is to come over the hill to the left which opens up the green for a short shot in. This green was very firm so it was very difficult to land the ball softly.

A look into the 8th green from 150 yards out.

The ninth hole is a 365 yard par 4 that plays downhill from an elevated tee. There is a bank on the right of the fairway, and if the tee shot is pushed behind it to the right, it will leave a blind entry to the green. The ideal tee shot is to straight or slightly left to give a full view of the green.

A look down the fairway from the 9th tee box.

A view of the clubhouse from the 9th fairway, looking across the 18th fairway.
The green is guarded on both sides by deep bunkers. The green slopes right to left and it is very easy to land the green but have your ball end up in the right-side trap.

A look into the 9th green from 100 yards out. 
The 10th hole is a 364 yard par 4. The tee shot is fairly open with a difficult bunker bunker on the left that should be avoided. Besides dealing with an uphill shot out of sand, there are trees and shrubbery to contend with.
A look down the fairway from the 10th tee box.
I unfortunately didn't get a good photo of the green due to my rude playing partners. The green heavily protected with slopes and bunkers so a play to the center is almost a must.

Hole #11 is a 159 yard par 3. The downhill approach plays to a green that slopes back to front with a small ridge in the rough and is surrounded by 4 deep bunkers and a hollow. With a wind that blows in towards you, this can be a demanding, difficult shot.

A look into the green from the 11th tee box.

Hole #12 is a 507 yard par 5. Running back alongside hole number eight, you have to drive to the top or over the hill. From there you have the choice to go for the green in 2 or lay up and punch a 3rd shot in.
A look down the fairway from the 12th tee box.

 The green angles to the left so you want to consider playing to the right side for the best opportunity at a good score. There is also a large bunker in front of the green you want to avoid if at all possible.

A look into the 12th green from 60 yards out.

Hole #13 is a 404 yard par 4. It is a dog-leg left so you want to aim for the left corner near the shrubbery.

A look down the fairway from the 13th tee box.
You want to make precise second shot to the narrow, elevated green with pot bunkers left and right, so you have a good chance at a low score on this hole.

A look into the 13th green from 150 yards out.
Hole #14 is a 331 yard par 4. It is a stunningly beautiful hole, with ocean down the entire left side. You have to hit the tee shot over a ravine filled with shrubbery and tea trees. The tee-shot carry is about 200 yards to get over the crest of the hill.

A look down the fairway from the 14th tee box.
One of my favorite photos of me playing, Al took this shot as I was preparing to hit my drive.
The green is very small green and poised at the top of a cliff. Any shot too long or left will be lost and considered a sacrifice to the golf gods. Depending on pin placement, the green can also be treacherous.

A look into the 14th green from 150 yards out.

The view while putting is simply stunning. No whales, but still an awesome view.

The 15th hole is a par 4 that plays to 398 yards is ranked as the hardest hole on the course's stroke index. The uphill tee shot through a narrow chute needs to go about 240 yards to reach the top of the hill and so you an see the green on your next shot. Add the wind that gusts directly into your face and this shot is almost impossible for anyone except the longest driver.

A look down the fairway from the 15th tee box.
The green has a bunker or two, but both sides slope towards the middle. As long as the pin is somewhere in the middle of the green, the approach shot should be fairly straightforward.

A look into the 15th green from 60 yards out.
A look into the 15th green from behind the green and up the hill just a bit.

The 16th hole is a 431 yard par 4 that is a demanding dog-leg left. Despite its narrowness, you want to aim for the corner to the right, otherwise your approach has to carry the trees at the bend and find a small, hidden green in a valley.

A look down the fairway from the 16th tee box.
The green also offers an awesome view of the ocean. Enjoy the view because the walk up the hill is about a five minute walk that can be tough after walking the course for the past three and a half hours.

A look into the 16th green from 100 yards out.

The 17th hole is a 142 yard par 3. To the right is a steep down hill slope. If you hit to that side, you could be as far away as 100 yards once the ball comes to rest. The green is long and narrow and falls away sharply on both sides, but left is definitely the lesser of two evils. The target is very small, and into a strong wind, you will need to be very precise. The "bailout" spot for this hole into the wind is to punch a low shot short of the green.

A look into the green from the 17th tee box.

The 18th hole is a 535 yard par 5.

A look down the fairway from the 18th tee box.
The drive off the tee box is fairly straight forward. You will want to avoid trees to the right and further away on the left or the chance for a par will be minimal.  There are also a eight or nine bunkers to look out for while navigating the home hole.

A look towards the green from 300 yards out.

A look into the green from 120 yards out.
If you play left for most of the hole, you will likely avoid most, if not all bunkers, and have a chance at posting a good score.
You get a great view of the clubhouse from the 18th green.
Even though the players I was paired with really sucked, my round for the day was pretty awesome. New South Wales is a ton of fun to play. The course is well maintained and has some of the best greens and bunkers I have played anywhere in the world. I think it is ranked almost perfectly at #41 in the world. If you find yourself in Sydney, I highly recommend trying to secure a tee time and spending a few hours experiencing a top 50 course in the world.

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