Castle Hill Country Club has long been one of the most eye-catching inland courses in Sydney. But forward-thinking staff and members have laid out plans to be one of the best clubs, too.
It is one of the more difficult temptations to resist for a golf writer visiting a course that is both beautiful and hilly: don’t compare it to Augusta National. Just… don’t.
But that is impossible at Sydney’s Castle Hill Country Club; walking around the clubhouse from the carpark to the pro shop and the resemblance smacks you in the face.
Castle Hill’s stunning, short par-4 16th couldn’t look more like Augusta National. Towering trees frame the 294-metre downhill hole, while elegant bunkers 40 metres short of the green give off the appearance of a straighter version of Augusta’s 10th hole.
But the 16th is only one part of the sweeping views across this sprawling, 67-hectare property that golfers are greeted with upon arrival.
It had been a couple of years since my last visit and I’d forgotten one thing: Castle Hill certainly knows how to make an entrance.
Castle Hill’s routing is blessed by a deep valley of a property that produces exciting elevation changes as well as dramatic tee shots and approaches. And it’s always enjoyed a reputation as one of the better conditioned courses in Sydney thanks to world-class maintenance staff. It’s easy to see why the Australian PGA Championship was held there twice in the mid-1980s, when Greg Norman won one and finished second in the other.
But Castle Hill has made some exciting changes during the past two years to bolster its reputation as one of Sydney’s best golf courses. The acclaimed company of course architect Bob Harrison has carried out a number of upgrades, most notably to holes one, 12 and 16.
A newly added creek now cuts across holes one, three, 12 and 15, which is reticulated and can be crossed by four new bridges. This has a significant effect on the first tee shot as golfers now have to think about how to approach the par-5 opener based on the wind and their carry distance with the driver.
As for the driveable par-4 12th – Castle Hill’s signature hole – the creek now has more influence over the decision to go for the green. A new green was built closer to the creek to add more indecision for the aggressive player. It is a fantastic golf hole.
Perhaps the 12th’s closest rival is the 16th, where Harrison and co. built a new green, which gives the golfer as many attacking options as there are challenges. New greens were also installed at holes two and five.
While the white sand of the bunkers at the 16th add to the Augusta National resemblance, it’s worth mentioning all 75 of the sand traps at Castle Hill were rebuilt with Matrix lining and reduced in size by 20 per cent overall. Not only is this a more sustainable move for maintenance, it also allows the bunkers to bounce back hours after heavy rain. Members are enjoying the fact entering and exiting bunkers is now much easier.
One thing that does make this north-west golf course stand out from other Sydney courses is the kikuyu fairways, which are a treat to play from when maintained as well as they are at Castle Hill.
One area Castle Hill wants to upgrade going forward is matching the experience in the clubhouse with the quality of the golf course. Castle Hill’s clubhouse will, in the near future, undergo an architectural redesign to improve the gaming, dining and bar areas. This will enhance the family atmosphere at the club to the point where members’ families spend almost as much time on the property as golfers do. That is the aim.
A clubhouse that can offer the ambience of a pub with great food is also a lure that will surely entice men and women aged in their 30 and 40s in this area of north-western Sydney who are looking to join a golf club, but want more than just a great golf course.
Members and guests are already enjoying a terrace area that provides a relaxing area to have a drink looking over the sprawling course, but the clubhouse will eventually take further advantage of a vista that few courses in north-western Sydney have been gifted.
Castle Hill is sitting pretty when one considers the population growth that is occurring in the north-west corridor of Sydney. It is home to almost 500,000 people, having increased by 89,837 people a year during the past decade at a rate of 22 per cent. It is estimated that by 2036 north-western Sydney will be home to one million people. And so Castle Hill will become even more of a sanctuary from the daily grind than it already is.
Did you know?
Castle Hill is one of the most sought-after courses in Sydney for corporate days, hosting about 38 a year – many of which are repeat clients. It’s no mystery why; a private golf club is an ideal setting for a company to host a corporate day and a fleet of 72 Club Car Tempo 2 carts allows all guests to ride in comfort.
Following on from its 2014 ‘Club of The Year’ award in this magazine, Castle Hill has sustained its efforts to reach out to junior and women golfers in north-western Sydney. A women’s golf clinic is held every Tuesday morning and the club has been proactive in offering incentives and membership trials for women within the Hills region, even those who have never played golf. Junior master coaching classes have also been established to grow Castle Hill’s stable of children and teenagers taking up the game, and even excelling at it.
Castle Hill Country Club
Where: 7 Spurway Drive, Norwest NSW 2153
Phone: (02) 9634 2499