It is an envious position to be in: minutes away from Canberra, but a world away from politics.
To the east of Federal Golf Club sits the engine room of Australia, Parliament House and Capital Hill. Yet a quick glance west at the Brindabella Range is a mountainous reminder that the nation’s capital isn’t all about government.
If the contrast needs any reinforcement, this Red Hill layout’s spectacular landscapes and wildlife could convince a golfer they are nowhere near the Australian Capital Territory. And with trees framing each undulating hole – and kangaroos lying next to the tee boxes – it is difficult to imagine Canberra is only 4 kilometres away.
Naturally, this buffer zone has formed a golfing sanctuary for politicians, Canberra’s sporting celebrities and, most importantly, Federal Golf Club members. Such identities include Wallabies and ACT Brumbies captain Stephen Moore. Whenever the 105-cap Wallabies veteran tees it up at Federal, the pressure cooker of rugby union’s Test arena seems light years away.
“It’s a lovely part of Canberra. It’s such a nice view with The Brindabellas in the background,” says the Super Rugby star. “It’s just relaxing to get out there and away from things for a few hours.
“There are plenty of trees and a good mix of water, bunkers and some long holes.”
When Australian Golf Digest visited Federal – 290 kilometres southwest of Sydney – in July, Moore joined club and Test teammates Scott Fardy and Sam Carter for a round of golf. The trio was taking time out from preparing for a home quarter-final against Otago franchise, the Highlanders.
“The members are all great and I enjoy playing with guys from different walks of life; they give us an opportunity to get away from rugby for a little bit,” says Fardy. “It’s good for us to have other challenges like golf and Federal is one of the top courses around Canberra.”
Play It On Repeat
It only takes one hole to see why these Wallabies forwards are such enthusiastic fans of Federal Golf Club. There is a difference between a good golf course and a layout you could play every week.
Federal is certainly the latter, with 18 distinct holes easily earning their No.87 ranking on the Australian Golf Digest Top 100 Courses ranking.
“We’re out here once or twice a week normally,” says Carter who, like Fardy, is a Federal member. “The scenery is really relaxing for me; when we get the day off training we love coming here to play golf.”
Trees play a big part of Federal’s appeal – and playability. While they line each hole tastefully, they’re sparse enough to allow any handicap to play simple recovery shots. The tall timber also works in concert with the many doglegs at Federal to encourage thoughtful strategy from the tee. Once on the fairway, many of Federal’s green complexes have narrow entrances framed by bunkers to force the golfer to consider the shot shape and trajectory required.
Few golf courses can pull off the look of dormant grass, but in winter Federal’s santa ana couch fairways are a light shade of honey, providing an excellent contrast to the deep green rough. A high standard of conditioning has allowed the course to achieve this colour, as well as a solid turf base conducive to winter golf – and a rise of 10 places in AGD’s recent Top 100 rankings.
“Our members and guests tell us it’s a course you can keep playing; there seems to be something new every round,” says assistant general manager Cam Sullings. “During winter, our couch fairways take on an almost golden, honey-brown colour but come September, they turn a beautiful shade of emerald green.”
Adds club captain Wally Gregory, a 2-handicapper: “Federal is challenging but not penal, and it’s an outstanding members’ course. It’s really enjoyable to play.”
There are some excellent par 3s at Federal, but the standout feature of Prosper Ellis’ 1946 design are the par 4s. At 6,240 metres, this shorter layout still remains a thorough examination of your game, due mainly to the fact many of the par 4s feature sharp doglegs and drastic changes in elevation.
Federal Golf Club boasts 18 truly different holes and, designed properly, there are few things more satisfying in our sport.
For Young and Old
The progressive minds at Federal Golf Club are attempting to reach out to all age groups in a bid to secure the club’s financial future. A popular junior golf program has been established and last month Federal sent six juniors to the School Sports Australia championships in South Australia.
“We’ve got a great junior program and the members are very proud of the youngsters,” says Gregory. “We had a big fundraising day in July to help get the kids down there as it cost $2,500 for each junior.”
In that team was Federal junior Lachlan Chamberlain, who shot 80, 77 and 79 to win the NSW Under-13s Championship by five shots on the New South Wales Central Coast.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Federal has proposed the construction of a world-class retirement and over-55s village to be integrated into the club. The aim is to erect approximately 120 sustainable, low-maintenance homes supported by a modern clubhouse featuring active lifestyle facilities.
“We’re trying to achieve long-term viability for the golf club,” says Sullings. “The overall deal that is proposed will hopefully include some new irrigation and water projects to get us through our typically dry summers, as well as a brand new clubhouse facility catering to the over-55s, while allowing us to stage functions and weddings.
“The development is only at the community consultation stage, but we know there’s a real need for over-55s lifestyle living in Canberra.
“The developer, MBark, is an award-winning company that has consulted with local interest groups and council to assess the environmental impacts.”
Federal is also eager to introduce golf to local men and women aged 30-45 with trial programs, as well as flexible payment options for members and families.
“We’re minutes from Parliament House but if you look around you’re a world away from it,” says Sullings. “It looks as though Federal could be anywhere, but you’re in the nation’s capital. It’s a great place to bring people.”
Federal Golf Club
Address: Gowrie Drive, Red Hill ACT 2603
Phone: +61 2 6281 1888
Email: [email protected]