Above: The inclusion of Bonville Golf Resort on the ALPG calendar in February added a new dimension to the local women’s circuit.
WITH the recent addition of another incredible venue in Bonville Golf Resort on the ALPG schedule, it prompted thoughts about how many wonderful tournament venues we have in Australia. It also must be said how well the ALPG has done to secure some of the finest golf courses in the country situated in sought-after travel destinations for both competitors and spectators to revel in.
It was saddening to hear that the Australian Ladies Masters dropped off the schedule due to lack of sponsorship money, however, with much enthusiasm and excitement from the ALPG, the NSW Government, Destination NSW and Golf NSW, the Australian Ladies Classic will be held at Bonville for the next five years. This event is co-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour, which means the tournament attracts many domestic and international players thanks to the lure of greater prizemoney and the opportunity to gain status on the Ladies European Tour. This makes for a star-studded field, including players such as Dame Laura Davies, who always gives so much to Australian women’s golf, plus a host of Olympic players and Solheim Cup players. Our own Minjee Lee, Katherine Kirk, Hannah Green, Rebecca Artis and Sarah Kemp were just a few of the bigger names to tee it up for the inaugural event in February.
Bonville is highly publicised as one of Australia’s most precious gems and it is often referred to as the “Augusta of Australia”. For anyone who has walked the sacred grounds of Augusta National, you would think this statement to be not only bold but also grossly exaggerated. However, most would agree that Bonville is incredibly beautiful and does deserve all the accolades it receives, including the Augusta comparison, albeit a rugged Aussie version! Bonville should be on the bucket list of Australian golf courses to play. It keeps even the finest golfers engaged and is as serene as it gets with every hole separated from the next.
Other courses on the ALPG schedule that are second to none in Australia are Thirteenth Beach Golf Links, a stunning seaside course that hosts the Oates Vic Open; Royal Canberra Golf Club, venue of the ACTewAGL Canberra Classic and an immaculately groomed and picturesque parkland course that the professionals rave about; Kooyonga Golf Club in Adelaide, host of the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, a top-class layout and a golfer’s dream to play as it is firm, fast and every hole is as interesting visually as it is a challenge to play; Coffs Harbour Golf Club, host of the New South Wales Open and a typical layout with wide open spaces and howling winds to play havoc with your ball; Yamba Golf Club, venue of the BWAC Pro-Am and a very pretty course surrounded by natural beauty. Last but not least is Links Hope Island on the Gold Coast, host of the Qantas Golf Club Gold Coast Challenge. Hope Island is a very challenging layout for professionals and with plenty on offer away from the links.
All these courses are fantastic layouts in beautiful places that would entice spectators to come to watch the tournament and enjoy the surrounding regions and attractions. With the amount of travel between venues at a minimum (considering how large our country is), it means even the players will have some time between tournaments to explore the sites away from the golf course, which makes for a better experience and has them thinking about returning.
With the Women’s Australian Open now co-sanctioned with the LPGA Tour and both the Vic Open and Australian Ladies Classic co-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour, there is good reason for both domestic and international players to plan their playing schedules to include a string of ALPG events. At a time when the Ladies European Tour is enduring what can only be described as dire straits with the schedule reduced to a radically low eight events in 2018, it seems things are far more buoyant in Australia. Kudos must go to the ALPG board and staff for making significant gains over the past five years or so as a result of hard work and commitment to the cause. I’m sure all the Australian tour players are especially grateful.