Hills by name, hills by nature. The ability to master the sometimes-curious art of sloping terrain is more prerequisite than preference at Pennant Hills.
The most obvious movement takes place on the fairways, but also more subtly closer to the cup. The small, sloping greens – which own more break than the eyes first see – definitely place a premium on keeping the ball below the hole.
However while the property might rise and fall, as a club Pennant Hills is most certainly on an upward trend, recently rebuilding its clubhouse, renovating all its bunkers and with plans to rebuild greens. The club will mark its centenary in 2023 – Pennant Hills is the fourth oldest golf club in Sydney still playing on the same site.
Unusually, design credit for Pennant Hills cannot be given to a single course architect. The layout developed slowly between 1923 and 1934, becoming complete when the current sixth hole was added in ’34. Since this time there has been minor lengthening and the addition of bunkers throughout the course. In 1934 the layout measured 6,261 yards while today it is 5,921 metres (6,475 yards), an expansion of just 196 metres. And no golfer has ever carded a round lower than 63. That is an eye-raising stat considering the club is home to one of Australia’s most decorated amateurs in Tony Gresham, among other top names with connections
to the club.
Ups And Downs
Elevation change is a constant at Pennant Hills. The site is relatively steep – the walk up the second fairway will test any pair of calves – but the holes work every which way across the sloping land. Golfers who can cope with a variety of uneven lies will fare best. Additionally, judging approach-shot distances to greens set well above and below fairway or tee level is an underrated aspect of unpicking the strategy of the course. The same can be said for having a decent level of physical fitness for those who eschew a cart. The club held the 2018 New South Wales Speed Golf Championship over its challenging terrain, which surely separated the wheat from the chaff in more than score alone.
The course is set in a remnant forest of magnificent blue gum, blackbutt and turpentine trees and is well known for its beauty. The trees are a hallmark of the course, fitting for one in the local government area of Hornsby, which is known as the Bushland Shire. However, last December those towering assets created a headache, as a wild storm felled a tree that took out the bridge connecting the tee to the fairway at the 10th hole. The incident made for a less direct route from tee to fairway. But as the club rightfully reminded its members, the inconvenience pales in comparison to the club’s early days, when ‘fording’ the gully housing Devlins Creek was a far riskier act. “The steep banks on both sides of the creek meant that golfers needed to clamber down and up each time they played one of the holes which straddled the gully,” notes the club’s history log. “The earliest ‘bridges’ across the creek were logs or railway sleepers placed across a narrow portion. These were precarious and rickety… The first group off the tee sometimes found overnight heavy rain had washed the ‘bridges’ down the creek and many a pair of plus-fours was baptised while retrieving and replacing the logs.”
Today there are grand plans to renovate the course with an impending masterplan to upgrade the layout. But unlike some clubs, Pennant Hills opted to upgrade its off-course facilities before the 18 holes. The new-look clubhouse (renovated at a cost of more than $7 million) incorporates a new event space with four individual rooms that when combined can host up to 260 people. A current incentive includes introductory offers for events booked prior to January 31, 2020. The clubhouse space has been designed so that the member experience is not compromised by events, while anyone needing further enticement to stay need only be reminded that Pennant Hills was rated the best golf club kitchen in a recent Clubs NSW Chef’s Table. Members and visitors can enjoy a simple sandwich through to a five-course degustation event and everything in between.
Yet the club likes to think of its greatest asset as not the course or clubhouse, but the intangible of the celebrated camaraderie that comes with membership.
And Pennant Hills isn’t the ‘closed shop’ it might appear to be from the outside. The club hosts occasional open days during the year, offering an ideal chance to play the course and experience all the club has to offer. And for those inclined, membership is open, with the club offering seven-day membership for men and women and six-day membership for women.
“Both seven and six-day categories come with aged-based discounts for golfers aged up to 40,” says Pennant Hills general manager, Barnaby Sumner. “While for the modern golfer balancing life, Pennant Hills has a flexible option for those aged 40 and under. The club is also very proud of our pathways into the game of golf, with resident teaching professional Rachel Bailey and director of golf Neil Rolfe running ‘Get Started’ programs for both women and juniors.”
Likewise, corporate golf is back up and running, the club currently offering a range of appealing packages.
Pennant Hills Golf Club
Where: Cnr Copeland Rd & Burns Rd South, Beecroft NSW 2119
Phone: (02) 8860 5800