“Wow, it’s so good to see you! How long has it been? You look fantastic, you really do.”
Returning to a club where I have been a member previously always brings with it a whirlwind of emotions. For a period of two years I gave some of my best Saturdays to Gailes Golf Club in Brisbane’s western suburbs. We shared some wonderful times together… and there were times when we didn’t exactly see eye to eye.
It’s been 15 years since we last saw each other. There were no hard feelings on my part. I’d accepted a job in Sydney and long-distance relationships had never been my strong point. Parking behind the cart sheds and walking around to the pro shop alone evokes so many memories, but it is the changes Gailes has made in recent years that make its future something you want to be a part of.
Any course review ever written about Gailes will tell you it hosted the 1955 Australian Open and as a result can use the fact that Bobby Locke, Kel Nagle and Norman von Nida have all graced its fairways in its marketing material, but more than ever it is time to look forward.
The greens are in as good a condition as they have been in many years courtesy of an expanded dam beside the seventh green and associated pump station. It took 14 years to get the government grant needed to complete the works but it has been worth the wait, the availability of fresh water breathing new life into old surfaces.
There’s been a progressive and adaptable methodology adopted with the membership structure and the arrival of head professional Brent Barlow and return of former junior Bronson La’Cassie into the pro shop team has contributed to a major surge in junior numbers.
“Gailes Golf Club has a very proud history, but it’s become clear in recent years that there is a need to meet the market,” explains general manager Frank McCarthy, the former managing director of Callaway Golf South Pacific, who boasts an association with Gailes stretching back to the mid-1980s.
“In the beginning we broke with tradition, originally the first club in Queensland to introduce full lady members. In 2016 we moved a step further, changing the constitution to remove the Associates membership category. Whether male or female, you are now a full member of Gailes with all the privileges that come with that.
“We introduced a new category for people aged between 26 and 45, which has attracted 75 new members to the club, and Brent and Bronson have done a fantastic job growing the junior numbers. Three years ago we had 14 juniors and that’s now up to 50, so with that and the new membership category we’ve managed to reduce the average age of our members from 64 down to 58.
“We have some 250 social club days, we’re attracting more corporate guests, but at our heart we are a golf club and we view the course as our greatest and most important asset.”
That’s not to say that there aren’t some old treasures highly valued by the club. A member of the 61st Battalion deployed to New Guinea to repel the Japanese onslaught in World War II in 1942, Edward ‘Ted’ Bousen celebrated his 100th birthday in September and remains a regular at Gailes every Wednesday.
“He plays in the first group every Wednesday morning,” explains Barlow, the club estimating that Ted has been a member for 60 years.
“Ted used to play twice a week until only fairly recently. He doesn’t hand a card in anymore, he just likes playing with the same group of guys each week who all look after him. More than anything I think Ted just enjoys the camaraderie of the guys he plays with and the other members in general.”
Plotting The Course
Originally established as Goodna Golf Club in 1924, Gailes Golf Club is one of very few courses from which the suburb drew its name, rather than the other way around.
The Gailes name was formally adopted in 1935 when the local railway siding name was changed from Dingo Hill to Gailes. Purportedly, the then Commissioner for Railways, in searching for a new name for the nearby siding, likened it to Western Gailes in Scotland, “a famous UK golf club” itself in close proximity to a railway.
Originally situated within the suburb of Dingo Hill, the club pays homage to its roots with the Dingo Hill Classic, a back-marker challenge on the second Friday of each month that rewards those who can play to their handicap with a box of balls.
Although for some of the club’s talented youngsters, not even the Dingo Hill Classic can hold them back.
“We’ve got a young member here by the name of Will Florimo who plays off plus-4 and recently shot 65 in the Dingo Classic,” McCarthy explains. “Longstanding members reckon Will should now have the course record just for how hard the course is set up on those days. Will actually missed a three-footer on 16 that would have given him the record outright, but he still managed to pick up both the gross and net wins.”
Host to the Queensland Amateur in August and regarded as one of the longest courses in Queensland when the original nine holes was opened almost a century ago, it is the topography and routing that has held Gailes in good stead. From the opening tee shot at the first of consecutive par 5s, it is less about how far you hit it and more about the way you position your shots. Fairways bank from left to right and back again, holes playing uphill and others requiring careful club selection depending on the wind.
When you think of the likes of Locke and Von Nida plotting their way around the layout, you can imagine it would be just as much fun playing with persimmon in plus-fours than trying to subdue it with power and modern equipment artillery. You’re expected to play golf shots, not simply bomb and gouge.
The par-4 fourth plays just 238 metres but with the Brisbane Correctional Centre to your left, it gives you cause to consider the best play from the tee. The fifth wraps sharply to the left and the gorgeous bunkering leading up to the left side of the green encourages you to play out to the right and with a longer second shot in.
The best angle for the partly blind par-4 eighth is also to the right side of the fairway but it is on the back nine where the course’s most interesting holes await. Out-of-bounds right makes the tee shot at 10 a nervous one and 11’s camber to the right encourages you to hug the treeline on the left for the best angle in. The raised green and bunkering at the par-3 12th is like something you would find on the Melbourne Sandbelt, while the 276-metre, dogleg 17th has left many victims ruing a late blemish on the scorecard.
“If we have the option, Bronson and I will often play the back nine first,” says Barlow, who undertook his PGA traineeship at nearby Oxley Golf Club. “If you can get through 17 in good position, you have a par 5 at 18, two more at one and two and then the short par-4 at four to get on a bit of a roll.
“It’s definitely a course that can bring you undone quite quickly, though. You need to be in good position for your second shot otherwise you’ve got to try to play a recovery shot, which brings its own risks.
“The layout really hasn’t changed over the years, but it always seems to throw something different at you whenever you play here.”
Gailes Golf Club
Where: 299 Wilruna St, Wacol QLD 4076
Phone: (07) 3271 1045