Twin Creeks was just the beginning.
When the lush Graham Marsh-designed course opened its doors for the first time in 2006, the surrounding area of Luddenham was nothing more than sparsely populated farmland. The bold vision of two Australian property developers to create a prestigious residential estate and championship golf course in the most southern corner of the Penrith region in Sydney’s west may have tickled the imagination of hardcore golf fans, but it left sceptics questioning: why there?
Fast-forward to September this year and the Federal Government’s announcement that construction of Sydney’s second major airport at nearby Badgerys Creek had finally been given the green light after more than 70 years of talk, and those sceptics have their answer.
Then add the $5 billion Sydney Science Park being built across the road – an internationally recognised epicentre for research and development that’s set to inject new life into Western Sydney. Set across 280 hectares adjacent to Twin Creeks Golf & Country Club, Sydney Science Park will be a fully integrated community that will create more than 12,000 knowledge-based jobs, cater to some 10,000 students and be home to more than 10,000 residents.
What does all this mean for Twin Creeks? More than you can possibly imagine. Increased accessibility to both international and domestic guests via an airfield tipped to rival New York’s JFK Airport in size, along with neighbouring world-class infrastructure and housing will inevitably increase demand for tee-times and other recreational activities on offer inside the gates of Twin Creeks.
According to Twin Creeks chief executive Grant Martin, such exciting developments for the area will go a long way to solving the club’s identity crisis.
“I guess we’ve always been a hybrid model, somewhere between a resort and traditional golf club,” he says. “But with what we’ve got happening here over the next five years, we’re going to become so much more.”
The Home of the New South Wales Open
One thing about Twin Creeks Golf & Country Club, when it rains, it pours – both figuratively and literally. With so much happening around its boundaries, securing the hosting rights to the state’s marquee golf tournament on a long-term deal was just the icing on a multi-layered cake.
And after passing its first examination last year – an event won by West Australian European Tour combatant Jason Scrivener – the $400,000 tournament has a home in Sydney’s west for the next five years after glowing reviews from the 2017 field.
“These are probably the best greens I have putted on in the past five years,” said American tour player Kramer Hickok. “These greens are so good; they are so pure. It’s one of those deals where if you have an eight-footer and you miss it, it’s on you.”
Scrivener was equally as glowing in his appraisal for Twin Creek’s conditioning, maintained under the watchful eye of course superintendent Justin Doyle.
“These are the best greens I’ve played on all year. We don’t get the chance to putt on greens this good in Europe. It’s an absolute treat,” Scrivener boasted.
While the 2017 NSW Open was a success on many levels, it also provided an opportunity for course designer Graham Marsh to return and devise a five-year plan to make it an even better tournament venue.
“Graham attended last year’s final round to view the course from a tournament perspective and acknowledged the game has changed,” says Martin. “So what we’re looking at over the next five years are some progressive changes to holes that won’t be too disruptive to the overall business.”
Having already implemented a successful bunker rejuvenation program, Marsh will extend approximately seven tee boxes, stretching the course length off the back tees from 6,444 metres to upwards of 7,000, but it shouldn’t be a cause for concern for everyday members.
“Graham’s realistic, which is why I rate him as one of the better designers,” says Martin. “He’s going to bring the rough in closer around the landing zones for the better (longer) players. The average golfer won’t be affected. But pros with extra length will now have to think carefully where they place their tee shots because they could end up in tricky spots.”
Perhaps the most notable change, however, will come at the driveable par-4 12th. Currently tipping 309 metres off the blacks, a huge bunker in the middle of the fairway will be turned into a water hazard, creating a split fairway. There will also be a much narrower entry to the green, and another “Tiger tee”, forcing the bombers to put a premium on accuracy. Anything other than landing your tee shot on the green will be trouble, warns Martin.
“We’ve worked out a program that will allow these changes to be incremental over the next few years,” he adds. “We won’t be too dissimilar to the Masters model at Augusta National. They make subtle changes and don’t tell anyone. We’re hoping to have a least-disturbance approach, too.”
‘Diversifying the business model’
The changing face of golf has impacted the way clubs have to think and operate in Australia. Twin Creeks is no exception to that rule. What started out as a pure golf business 12 years ago under the management of Troon Golf is no longer under its new owners, a consortium known as The Twin Creeks Development.
The club’s golf revenue has dropped to about 45 percent of its overall income. “About 55 percent of what we do is non-golf,” says Martin. While it sounds alarming at first, when you crunch the numbers you quickly realise that if innovation were an Olympic sport, Twin Creeks Golf & Country Club would win gold.
Apart from offering first-class golf and dining experiences (representing 30 percent growth year-on-year in food and beverage), you’ll soon be able to get your car washed while you play 18 holes.
The club also leases out any unused carts to other Sydney clubs for their corporate golf days, a revenue model so successful it forced the club to purchase its own truck and driver to deliver the vehicles.
“External golf-cart hire has been a chestnut for us,” Martin says. “We drop them off the night before and pick them up the night after the event. We figured it’s better than having them sit in our sheds not getting used. Our philosophy is ‘full car park, empty cart bay’. If we can achieve that every day we know we’re on the right track.”
“Our philosophy is ‘full car park, empty cart bay’. If we can achieve that every day we know we’re on the right track.”
Twin Creeks Golf & Country Club also caters for funerals, not just wakes, and runs a successful landscaping business where it constructs and maintains gardens and lawn for residents within its gated community. It’s also one of the first golf clubs in Australia to sign up to the new government Biodiversity Offsets Scheme, a framework to avoid, minimise and offset impacts on biodiversity from development. It essentially means the club receives significant funding to maintain and protect valuable vegetation within its boundaries, a financial windfall it didn’t see coming.
Finally, there’s the golden egg – a 10-storey, 400-plus-room, 5-star resort complete with its own lagoon pool and Wet ’n’ Wild-style beach that has just had its first two stages of development signed
off for construction.
All this in the sleepy little paddocks of Luddenham…
“Our strategy has always been around diversifying the business model,” Martin says. “When it buckets down with rain, how do we continue to operate as a facility?”
It’s a crucial question more clubs need to ask themselves.