GETTING people to come to Brookwater was never the issue; it was convincing them to come back that proved the more difficult task.
With Queensland’s favourite golfing son Greg Norman on hand for the grand opening, Brookwater was unveiled to great fanfare in 2002 and quickly established itself as one of the finest golf courses in the country. If you were a golfer in south-east Queensland at the time you simply had to play it, but the after-taste you took away very much depended on how well you had played.
Play well, rave wildly to your mates. Play poorly, and start scouring the bottom of your golf bag for a ball in order to finish the round.
It was big boy golf designed by the ultimate big boy golfer and given its location in Springfield, west of Brisbane, it became a challenge that more and more golfers simply decided they weren’t up to on a semi-regular basis.
In order to forge a successful future, Brookwater’s management acknowledged that they needed to become much more than a “one and done” golf course, which is why Adam Scott’s insistence on going around twice late last year reinforced to staff that they had created a golf experience to savour without compromising the original design strategy of the course.
“Adam came out just prior to Christmas and he was very impressed. In fact he went around and played it twice,” relayed Brookwater general manager Graham Dale.
“Ian Triggs is based here now and John Senden comes out here when he is home, so I think the integrity is there because if those sorts of players are saying that it hasn’t lost its integrity and are enjoying the experience, then we know it hasn’t lost that integrity.
“It’s about coming out and having a pleasurable playing experience: ‘Yes it was tough but I enjoyed it and I want to come back.’ That’s what we’re about. We’re a public-access course and we’re the No.1 course in Queensland, but the only way we’re going to improve on that is to have people out here playing more often.
“People have always enjoyed the Brookwater experience but we needed to soften the course to an extent so that they want to keep coming out and playing here two or three times a year.”
If you played Brookwater in its early days you will remember the overwhelming sense of inadequacy as you stepped onto the first tee. The excitement that flowed through your body as you turned onto Tournament Drive seemed to seep out the bottom of your golf shoes as you looked down the barrel of a fairway that had towering gum trees pinching in from the sides before wrapping around a ravine to a green perched beside a pond.
The number of people ‘playing three’ from that first tee over the past 15 years must be astronomical, but the tree removal program in conjunction with a thorough greens refurbishment and bunkering alterations create a much more forgiving visual.
By thinning out the number of trees lining the fairways, more light comes through and shines brightly on a landing area that now looks like something average golfers can actually hit more often than not. It’s a subtle change but it has the effect of easing your subconscious into thinking that the 17 holes to follow might not be that difficult. Heck, you might even walk off having made par on a few.
“People enjoy coming to play Brookwater but because it is such a challenge we found it difficult to draw them back again for the simple fact that it was such a tough golf course,” Dale explained. “Even the pros
find it difficult, so if it’s proving tough for them, what’s it going to be like for the average golfer?
“I’ve spoken to a lot of the members and their feeling was always that it needed to be a bit softer and a little bit easier, and they play it every day.
“The comments I’ve had since we reopened the front nine back in November is that they’re really enjoying it because the greens are much bigger, you’ve got a bit more landing area and you can see the green from the tee, which you couldn’t do before. It’s a more pleasurable experience.”
With 15 years of thatch build-up, the renovation of all 18 greens was timely and gave the Greg Norman Golf Course Design team the opportunity to soften some of the contours in places and restore the greens to their original size. The first, 10th and 13th holes came in for particular attention with more surface area on the putting greens for a greater number of possible pin positions and improved playing surfaces due to reduced wear and tear.
Trees have been removed on every hole and the top edges of bunkers have been folded over to tie in better with the surrounds. Two bunkers down the left of the exquisite 322-metre ninth have been removed completely to assist speed of play and the previously narrow green has been expanded.
“During this process we considered the playability, agronomy, golf strategy and maintenance practices and are confident the end result will appeal to the members and future hotel guests alike,” Norman said.
Given that construction began in November 2015, members are excitedly awaiting the opportunity to play their revamped layout for the first time in its entirety on March 25 when up to 1,000 people are expected to attend a golf expo showcasing as many as 12 of the game’s leading manufacturers to mark the relaunch of Brookwater. From March 27 the doors once again open to visitors and this time those at the club are confident that a person’s next round at Brookwater will now be the first of many.
Yes, there’s still a place for golf’s big boys, but more than ever Brookwater is tailoring the golf experience to those who simply play for the love of the game.