Despite its geographic isolation, Australia has spent decades as a centre of the golfing world. With legends of the game Greg Norman, Adam Scott, and Jason Day hailing from the land down under, it is no doubt that Australia’s reputation as a breeding ground for some of the best golfers in the world is well deserved. One key to these great successes may be that the Aussies are able to hone their skills on some of the finest courses in the world. The country’s unique and widely diverse topography allows for courses whose physical beauty and challenging layouts are rarely challenged elsewhere on the globe, and there is no better place to experience the best golf courses Australia has to offer than the nations largest city; Sydney. With a variety of courses to fit all budgets and skill levels, all located within minutes of the airport, Sydney is the traveling golfer’s paradise.
By Ben Cramer
No course better exemplifies the best the area has to offer than the Royal Sydney Golf Club. Founded in 1893, RSGC is one of the oldest and most prestigious golf clubs in Australia and to date has hosted 14 Australian Opens and one Women’s Open. In 2013 it was Rory Mcllroy who hoisted the Emirates Australian Open trophy after carding a birdie on the final hole of the tournament to edge out Aussie Adam Scott, who earlier in the week fired a course record 62 during the tournaments first round. While this record is more than likely out of reach for us mere mortals, the opportunity to have a go at a course that has hosted the likes of Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, and Greg Norman have competed on should not be missed.
Royal Sydney Golf Club
At first glance, the old-fashioned nature of this golf course may lull players into a false sense of confidence. RSGC does not make use of tricks or gimmicks to provide golfers a challenge. Instead the traditional course relies on the undulating fairways and it’s treacherous bunkers to help keep the low scores at bay. It is crucial that tee shots find the fairway to set up a manageable approach, for if the approach does not find the green it will almost certainly find the sand, as is the case with the par four 8th hole. At only 275 meters from the furthest tees, this short par four is certainly drivable for many players. However with bunkers lining the right side of the fairway and guarding the front of the green, the risk may not be worth the reward. A pitch from the center of the fairway will certainly be easier than bunker shot or short chip into the elevated green. This Par 72 course plays 6054 meter from the men’s tees and located just 13 kilometers from the airport makes the Royal Sydney Golf Club a wonderful option for visitors to the Harbor City.
New South Wales Golf Club
New South Wales may very well be better described as a piece of art than as a golf course. The rolling landscape and ocean vistas make this course one of the most beautiful in the world. However, this is not to say that the course does not provide a thrilling and challenging test of golf. Ranked number nine on Golf Digest’s list of the 100 best courses outside of the United States, this links style construction was designed by Dr. Alister MacKenzie in 1928. The course features dramatic rolling fairways that are lined with sandy wasteland, and greens protected by sinister pot bunkers. The 468-meter par five 5th is the club’s most breathtaking offering. After a blind tee shot over a ridge, golfers are greeted by a downhill second shot overlooking the sea. With bunkers guarding a backward sloping green to both the left and right, accuracy is crucial in setting up a manageable approach. Although NSW Golf Club is private, limited weekday tee times are available to the public when booked in advance.
East Lake Golf Club
Eastlake’s status as a public course may lead some to believe that it cannot compete with many of its more vaunted neighbors but don’t be fooled. In terms of quality for cost, Eastlake is one of the best values in the city. Throughout the years the par 72, 5873-meter course has played host to qualifying events for both the Australian Open and the New South Wales Open Championship. This links style course is constructed on two thin strips of land surrounded by native wetland, bringing water into play on 11 holes. Despite it moderate yardage, much of the courses length is hidden in elevation changes, which means that driver is still in order on a number of holes. Located on 4 kilometers from the airport, golfers are treated to views of the downtown skyline as they meander their way through one of Australia’s finest public courses.
The Lakes Golf Club
Any course that has seen its fairways prowled by both a Golden Bear and a Great White is surely one of the finest in the world and this holds true with The Lakes Golf Club. Having hosted six Australian Opens, including three of the last five, this Michael Clayton design is a masterpiece. There are few courses in the area that make better use of natural water hazards than The Lakes, including all three of the back nine par fives. One of the toughest challenges the course offers comes at the par five 14th. At 502 meters, players must take driver off the tee to set up a reasonable second shot. The more sensible golfer will send his second shot further along the fairway for an easier approach. The more ambitious and foolhardy will attempt to carry the massive lake guarding the green. However, reaching the green in two is no guarantee of birdie as it is one of the largest putting surfaces on the course. Located only three kilometers from the airport, The Lakes Golf Club is a must play for the avid golfer.
Kogarah Golf Club
Even if your trip to Sydney consists only of a layover at the airport, it is still possible to squeeze in a round of golf while on Australia’s east coast. Located only 500 meters (that is not a misprint; only half a kilometer) from the airport, Kogarah Golf Club is the perfect option for a golfer on a time crunch. This 5903-meter par 72 features a flatter topography and straightforward course design that is suitable for even the most novice golfers. However, with trees lining most of the fairways and a fair amount of water and terrific sand features coming into play, Kogarah offers plenty of challenges for the more seasoned player. With rates as low as $40, Kogarah Golf Club is the perfect option if you are looking for a quick, casual round in Sydney.
St. Michael’s Golf Club
Located within the Botany Bay National Parkland, St. Michael’s Golf Club was designed to offer a tough test of golf, without disturbing the Little Bay Peninsula’s natural beauty and topography. This 6345-meter links style course is not particularly long by modern standards and places a premium on accuracy over power. Small greens leave little room for error while the native shrubs hugging many of the fairways means an errant ball may be lost forever. The coastal location means that wind provides a natural defense on nearly every hole including the courses signature par three 5th. With a back to right sloping green shots left below the hole will rarely result in a par on the scorecard. Even football giants Manchester United have taken on St. Michael’s when they spent a day on the course during their 2013 Australian tour. Only 11 kilometers from the airport, tee times are available seven days a week.
Bonnies Doon Golf Club
Located on rolling sand dunes, Bonnie Doon Golf Club is a course that would look more at home in Melbourne’s sand belt than in Sydney. Its rolling fairways that are bespeckled with sandy waste areas and bunkers that provide a tough, but thoroughly enjoyable, test of golf. The par three 15th very well may be one of the most entertaining holes on the course. From the tee, players face an uphill shot into a green featuring extreme rolls and swales, which is guarded on both sides by large bunker complexes. The multi tiered nature of the putting surface means tee shots must land hole-high or else a putting disaster awaits. Originally founded in 1897, the course has recently undergone two stages of redevelopment by Ogilvy Clayon, which has improved upon an already tremendous layout. Located just 13 kilometers from the airport, Bonnie Doon can hold its own with the best courses in Sydney.
Founded in 1913 as Sydney’s first public golf course, Moore Park is unlike any other course in the area. With its fig tree lined fairways giving way to large undulating greens, this championship course offers plenty of challenge for golfers of all skill levels. The courses signature is the 5th hole, a short 150-meter par three. However, this devilishly clever hole makes up for what it lacks in distance with a 30-meter drop from tee to green that when the wind is up, creates a deceptively tricky shot. As home to the Sydney Golf Academy, Moore Park boasts some of the most impressive practice facilities in the city. The three story fully automated hitting bay is the perfect place to warm up before your round and with a 22 square meter big screen on the driving range it’s easy to keep up with all of the happenings elsewhere in the golf world. With the driving range remaining open until midnight on some evenings, and located only 5 kilometers from the airport, Moore Park is a terrific option for traveling golfers; regardless of what time their flight arrives.