IT FEELS wrong that I wasn’t ‘aware’ of Brisbane Golf Club.
I mean, clearly there had to be a Brisbane Golf Club, but its place in Australia’s golf history – and the sheer quality of the layout – had eluded me.
It’s the tyranny of distance. As my old Pappy said, “You can’t know everything, son.” But then there’s nothing quite like having the chance to learn, is there? So it was with great excitement my brother and I drove through the inner suburbs of Brisbane to Yeerongpilly. It’s literally 7 kilometres from the CBD, and 22km from the airport.
Brisbane is Queensland’s third oldest golf club, with legendary names like Carnegie Clark and Alister MacKenzie attached to the course design. More recently, Ross Watson has been involved. The first thing to catch your eye is the clubhouse. It’s gorgeous: a rambling, two-storey wooden piece of architectural eye candy.
Royal Wellington in New Zealand has a similar clubhouse, renowned as the most beautiful clubhouse in the land of the long white cloud. And, while not a competition, I’d say hand-on-heart the clubhouse at Brisbane leaves the one across the ‘dutch’ for ‘did’.
The Queensland Open returns to Brisbane Golf Club this year and it’s in for a treat – the course has never looked or played better.
Course chairman Terry Campbell attributes this in part to a volunteer program initiated by the club a few years ago.
“It’s something that was never done before: all the trees and shrubs have been planted by our volunteers,” says Campbell.
“They have a great sense of pride in the work they have done.”
It’s an ongoing program, with the volunteers working on the ‘one per cent-ers’ that make good golf clubs great. Tree planting continues as well, with the number of new trees now in excess of 10,000. What the planting has done for the course, along with mulching and specific plant profiling, is to define the golf holes, and make them that much more challenging.
Course Superintendent Mitch Hayes believes that, while most people consider the greens to be the standout feature, it’s actually the journey to get to them that’s significant and quite beautiful.
Brisbane offers a unique experience, unlike any other in Australia, as it’s the only course in the country to run the Ultra Dwarf Bermuda Grass – otherwise known as Champion. It’s a relatively common green surface in the US, used at iconic courses such as Pinehurst. It’s fast, has less grain than other surfaces in a climate like Brisbane’s and is highly traffic resistant.
Ross Watson’s bunkering work since coming to the club in 2007 is also notable. Watson has an uncanny knack of making sand traps look both beautiful, and quite terrifying at the same time.
It’s all in the face – not just the bunker itself – but possibly the golfer as they contemplate the penalty of straying from the preferred line.
For purists, golf is not just about the course, but the experience. The playability, the condition and the opportunity to hit shots that are going to bring you back time and time again. Brisbane Golf Club manages to tick all the boxes.
Clearly there isn’t just one way to play a golf course, but plotting your way around Brisbane is how it has been set up. This is a fairly traditional parkland course, with trees lining most fairways, bunkers taunting mid fairway and water – a lot of which isn’t visible from the tee.
Fair play gets just reward, but punishment lurks for anything errant. With regard to the upcoming Queensland Open, Mitch Hayes believes the course will ask mental and strategic questions of the competitors.
“I feel the pros will really have to carefully navigate their way around the course, it’s a track that can easily catch you out if you don’t place the ball correctly,” he says.
“The first, currently a short par 5 that will become a monster par 4, is a beautiful opener – hitting down into a tight, well protected green.”
From there, the round becomes more enjoyable – and challenging. Hayes has his favourites, as you’d expect from someone analysing the layout on a daily basis.
“The second, fifth, eighth, 13th and 15th are very special holes on the course; challenging but also very attractive.”
Personally, it was the stretch from 11 to 14 I liked most. Funnily enough, those were the holes that brought my round completely undone.
Brisbane Golf Club is unquestionably a beautiful golfing experience – there’s a pleasant variety to the course. No two holes are even remotely the same.
And yet, for a fairly flat parcel of land, there’s enough change in elevation to make your round very interesting, particularly in the back corner of the course where things get very tight and – if you’re not careful – you can run into a few water hazards.
In one of those rare, slightly out-of-body experiences, I felt we could have been at Augusta. Which was weird, because I’ve never been to Augusta, and yet that’s the distinct feeling I was getting.
It’ll be really interesting to see how the professionals handle Brisbane at the Queensland Open.
On the day my brother, Cameron, and I played, we were lucky enough to be joined by club pro Reece McRae and Australian Test, One Day International and Twenty20 cricket star Usman Khawaja, who is a Brisbane GC Ambassador.
It wasn’t just an enjoyable round because of the course, but also the people. Given we were all of such different skill levels (Khawaja is off an 8 handicap, but that should get better as he hadn’t swung a club for more than a year) it was great to see the course was playable for all of us.
Brisbane Golf Club – an unforgettable experience on a course that I will be happy to remember – for a very long time.