Location: Pagewood, NSW
Architect: Lance Giddings & Eric Apperly (1937)/Prosper Ellis (1951)/Ross Watson (1995-2003)/Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking & Mead (2011-Ongoing)
Date Played: 29th August 2017
Due to an association with a group I’m involved with, an opportunity arose to play at Bonnie Doon Golf Club. This was the last course in NSW to complete from the Top 100 Golf list.
Bonnie Doon Golf Club Entrance
The club started out in 1897 at its first site in Tempe as a 12 hole course. It moved to Arncliffe in 1907, where its name was changed to Bonnie Doon Golf Club. It finally moved to its current site at Pagewood in 1947, taking over the New Metropolitan Golf Club.
Clubhouse at Boonie Doon Golf Club
The clubhouse has some nice views over the course and blends in nicely with its surrounds. Over the last 5 years renovations have been carried out at the course, by the firm Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking & Mead. There was a master plan drawn up, which has seen the changes carried out in four stages. Recently the third stage had been completed. I had never played before renovations, so hearing about how the course has progressed was very interesting.
Bonnie Doon Golf Club Course Map
The course is spread out over two parcels of land. Holes 1-2, 8-18 are on the main block, whilst holes 3-7 are across Heffron Road on a long, narrow block. Holes 3-7 are the latest stage to have been redeveloped. The fourth stage will see holes 1, 2 and 17 undergo renovations.
Scorecard for Bonnie Doon Golf Club
On our day of play the back tees were used, although most of these were slightly forward of the normal position. My group were new friends from the Golf Australia ranking panel.
Hole 1 – 372 meter par 4
Starting the round is a mid-long par 4 which plays fairly straight. From the tee a small rise must be carried before the green can be seen. Bunkers to the left are within driving distance, but more importantly steering clear of the out of bounds down that side. Trees line either side of the fairway, although they are more dense on the boundary side.
Fairway bunkers on the 1st fairway
Playing close to the fairway traps allows a better angle into the green, which has three bunker to the right and two rear left. This sits slightly raised with a gentle slope up to the front. The putting surface is longer than it is wide, so missing to the sides is not a great option. Some slight sloping from left to right are also found. A nice starting hole, even if it has not been renovated yet. There is generous width available on the fairway, even with the heavy tree line. There is some strategy required, with lines played and also around the green.
Hole 2 – 310 meter par 4
A short par 4 follows, with a dogleg to the left. Contours look great from the tee, seeing a slight rise with the fairway sloping from the right. Thick bush covers the view of the bunkers found down the left, whilst the hill slightly hides the long fairway traps or sandy waste down the right (can’t confirm as I didn’t venture down that side).
View of the 2nd green
The pin position will determine the side of the fairway you should hit. Left pin positions best approached from the right, whilst right ones are better from the left. This brings the fairway traps into play. This green is also raised, allowing some depth to the bunkers, but also allowing for mounds and hollows to be shaped around the green complex. During my visit, the back half of the green was under repair due to vandalism. The use of shorter grass around the greens allows for varying shots to be played. Good strategic hole, although the dense trees down either side detracts a little (would become more apparent once we hit the newer sections of the course).
Hole 3 – 386 meter par 4
You must cross the road for holes 3-7. This section is the latest stage of the redesign project by OCCM. Having been open for just under twelve months, this area has bed in quite well, but will be fantastic after another growing season. The land on this parcel has large elevation changes to deal with. This hole plays from an elevated tee. Play is over a valley, with no danger the tee side, but bunkers are found along the fairway. For shorter hitters one is located to the right, whilst for long hitters trees and bunkers on the right may come into play.
Looking across at the 3rd green
Playing closer to the left bunkers will open the green slightly for most pin positions. The approach will be uphill to a green protected on the front right by a sand trap. Another is further around on the same side. Some undulations are found on the putting surface which is longer than it is wide. It becomes very apparent that work has occurred, when compared to the first two holes. There is certainly a lot more of an open feel, with much larger fairways and less trees. The greens are bigger, with the surrounds blending in seamlessly with the fairway.
Hole 4 – 390 meter par 4
Heading back in the opposite direction is a similar length hole, but less elevation is encountered from the tee. From the tee sandy waste must be carried before reaching the fairway. There is a slight claustrophobic feel with a large dune to the left and heavy bush to the right. Bunkers are built into the face of a dune to the right, but can be carried by longer hitters (if offline that is). Sandy waste is found a little further along, whilst on the left a solitary trap is found.
Approach from the 4th fairway
Making the approach up a decent incline, is via a much narrower strip of fairway. Extremely deep bunkers fall away to the left of the green, I can’t imagine playing out of them. Another trap is located right. The putting surface has two distinct tiers, with a few undulations thrown in here and there. A lot more strategy with this hole with front pin positions better reached from the right side of the fairway, whilst those back would find the left side more favourable. The green has more complexity (like a fine wine), where finding the right portion is critical.
Hole 5 – 432 meter par 4
Feeling like ping pong, we had back in the direction we have just come on the longest par 4 at Bonnie Doon Golf Club. From a slightly elevated tee, play is over a slight rise, with a large trap to the left. Plenty of space is available to the right, but not the ideal line, unless you are happy with a blind shot over trees. At this point the fairway narrows dramatically with sandy waste and trees to the right and another bunker to the left. If playing for the first time it is worth walking up the left line to see how much space is really available on the second portion of the fairway. I had hit to the right, did not look and thought the fairway was extremely narrow.b
Looking towards the 5th green
A large sand trap is found short left of the green complex. The fairway falls away just short of the green, which may affect those running the ball in. Two bunkers line the back of the putting surface, awaiting those ball over cooked. There are some gentle slopes encountered on this green, but still can be difficult to navigate. Certainly a hole which is best played twice to learn what is capable in the best lines of play. With placement of the vegetation it is very deceptive on how the hole can be played for visitors.
Hole 6 – 147 meter par 3
After five consecutive par 4 holes, we get a change. Welcome to the hardest ranked par 3. This mid length hole plays up a steep hill, running along the most southern boundary of the property. Two large traps are found leading up the left side of the hole, whilst the right side of the hill has a tier, sympathy for those slightly short of the putting surface to find relief.
Looking back from the 6th green
Three further traps are found around the green, one to the right and two at the rear. The putting surface is not overly large and angles away to the right. Tough short hole which relies on accurate distance control. I’m not the biggest fan of uphill par 3 holes, but this does the job quite nicely. Missing along the right side is probably favourable and less penal than anything left, where numerous traps are found, as well as out of bounds.
Hole 7 – 467 meter par 5
Heading back in the direction of the clubhouse is this medium length par 5. From an elevated tee, sandy waste must be carried before reaching the fairway, which almost looks like a roller coaster making its way towards the green. The landing area is extremely wide, although anything left has the change of being out of bounds, which happens to be the favourable side. A large fairway trap is found to the right, just before the fairway fall away down another slope.
Narrowing fairway of the 7th fairway
The landing area for the second shot is much narrower, between the boundary and a large dune to the right. There is the choice to layup short of here leaving a short iron approach. Leading into the green is all uphill. Finally a large mound with a bunker built into its face, protects the entry of the green complex. The putting surface is fairly large, sloping towards the back, where anything long will run down a large hill. Strategy is required for each shot, offering various levels of risk. Facing a narrow entry is challenging but there are options to play less aggressively.
Hole 8 – 268 meter par 4
Crossing the road back to the main property, sees the shortest par 4 hole. This plays up a steady incline with sandy waste to the left being carried (although in reality not in play as it is part of the 16th hole). The fairway has two levels, separated by a central bunker, with the left much lower than the right.
Looking back from the 8th green
Further bunkers are built into the left side green face and are relatively deep. The putting surface is longer than it is wide, having some distinct portions for various pin locations. Finding yourself above the pin is not ideal with some strong slopes running towards the front of the green. Good risk verse reward hole from the tee, which I’m sure will bring many golfers undone. The green still offers some resistance though with some of its sloping.
Hole 9 – 434 meter par 5
To finish the front loop is the shortest and easiest par 5. Another elevated tee shot plays to an wide fairway, although two large bunker complex are found staggered on either side. Ideally playing close to the bunkers right of the fairway, will leave a clearer angle for the approach.
Approach to the 9th fairway
A narrowing fairway is found leading into the small green complex. Laying up is a real option here, as trouble is found either side of the green.
Looking back from the 9th green
Sandy waste is located right of the green, whilst a large sand trap is left. Both leave a difficult recovery to a narrow green. Some gentle undulations are located throughout the green to make things interesting. Good hole which will entice longer hitters to be aggressive in reaching in two. Those not accurate maybe severely punished by the sand. But plenty of room is also available for those taking a safer option of play.
Hole marker and pin flag
With the course being renovated, there is also a change occurring for hole markers. The newer type are a large wooden post with the hole lengths for different tees, which is quite handy. The pin flags for Bonnie Doon Golf Club are colour coded, depending on hole position, also containing the clubs logo.
Hole 10 – 417 meter par 4
Starting the second loop is the hardest hole on the course. This long par 4 requires a tee shot to carry a small section of waste (partly used for a hazard on the 9th green) to a fairway which angles slightly to the right. A large bunker is found further down the right, at a point where the fairway starts to fall away.
View across the 10th green entrance
The fairway falls away before running up slope to the green. A large waste area is found short right of the green, whilst three bunkers are around the green. Containing a large putting surface, there are a few undulations which run through the green. Challenging hole due to the distance required, but offers some distinct options.
Hole 11 – 170 meter par 3
From the longest par 4, to the longest par 3. From a slightly elevated the tee, the ground falls away before gently rising to the green. There are four bunkers around each side of the hole, although on the right, it is slightly short.
Looking back from the 11th green
The green is slightly angled away to the left, in relation to the tee. Some gentle slopes and a few undulations are in place on the putting surface, but overall it is not too tricky. This hole is framed nicely from the tee, with the forward bunkers below the green surface, whilst those at the rear almost sit above. Pins to the left are more difficult to reach, but the slopes can be utilised to feed the ball down this side.
Hole 12 – 293 meter par 4
Heading back north, is the easiest index par 4. From the top of the hill, the tee shot will travel down to the fairway, which narrows at driving distance. Two large bunker complexes ensure only an accurate shot my travel through.
Approach from the 12th fairway – if you laid up
The right hand bunkers also come into play on the 9th hole. To reach the green, you either need one long drive through the middle, which is going to be hard to make the upper plateau due to the rising slope. Or be smart and lay back a little to have a clear shot at the green. Playing towards the left of the fairway opens the green a little.
View back at the 12th green
With a slight angle away to the right, this green will be a narrow, if playing from the right side of the fairway. With the slope running mainly to the rear, this makes for a difficult approach. The putting surface also has a couple of areas which see the ball run off to the surrounds. Must admit seeing the hole distance, having a rush of blood trying to make it up the hill near the green. This take quite a long drive. There is ample fairway to land the ball, although looking back there is a clear strategy playing out close to the tree, to gain the best approach angle. Lovely designed hole.
Hole 13 – 166 meter par 3
Getting to the tee, I struggled to see where this green was. Luckily one of the group had previously played here. From this elevated tee, a carry is required over two areas of scrub. A part of the green is just visible.
Looking back on the 13th green
The green is quite large and one of the most interesting green complexes on the course. There is a lot of various undulations and sections which makes for some interesting putting. I’ve never played the Himilaya’s at The Old Course, but sure there is some sort of inspiration taken in developing this. Slopes predominantly run right to left and rear to front. A lot of the surrounding area is short grass, allowing for some creativity. Loved the green complex, not so big on the teeing area. The small dune has various shrubs, trees, which maybe a big issue if allowed to grow. If part of the dune could be left exposed with shorter growth, much like other areas on the property, this would be one of the best holes on the course. Would be great to see the practice green turned into something similar.
Hole 14 – 505 meter par 5
Heading back south is the longest and most difficult par 5 on the course. The tee almost borders the driving range, which has been moved from its original position in front of the clubhouse (good move in my opinion). The fairway is angling across to the right, so there is a question on how much waste to carry before landing the ball. Anything hit right may be out of bounds on the driving range. One of the more intimidating tee shots on the course.
Sandy waste splits the 14th fairway
The fairway is split, although this is not obvious for a first time visitor, by sandy waste where the second shot will land. Actually it is partly joint with the 12th fairway. It was only after reaching the green that this became obvious. Being a members course, I guess they don’t have to advertise this fact.
Horseshoe shaped 14th green
The reason for a second fairway, the green has a horse shoe shape, well a little like that. The front bunker sits recessed in, meaning if the pin is on the opposite side, it will be a tricky putt to reach. Certainly this putting surface has a few slopes and bumps to contend with. Anything long will run off the slope at the rear. This offers a lot of strategy, risks and rewards. A hole you could play in a multitude of ways and still enjoy.
Hole 15 – 120 meter par 3
Next was the shortest & easiest hole on the course. Unfortunately we did not get to play it as it was having a rest. It plays over sandy waste before reaching the raised green. Only small in size there are some strong slopes to contend with. Looked good from the tee, shame we could not play the hole.
Hole 15A Green
When hole 15A is in play, the club makes two carts available, for the players to drive back up the slope and play the hole. Not sure if they tee off from the 16th first before doing this, which would make sense, since this shot is from the 16th tee. Due to time restrictions, we did not play this hole, but the concept looked interesting.
Hole 16 – 310 meter par 4
A short par 4 follows which turns to the right. A large dune has been used to provide the shape on this hole, filled with sandy waste and bunkers at its base. With a wide fairway available to land the ball, most players will be interested in trying to shorten the hole, taking on the narrower section beyond the bunkers.
Sandy waste before the 16th green
A large area of sandy waste is found short right of the green complex. The green sits slightly angled to the left, with two bunkers on that side. Another smaller one sits to the right. The putting area is quite narrow, making the player fight for the reward. Nicely designed hole which offers risk and reward from the tee and the approach. Certainly a favourite among my playing group.
Hole 17 – 298 meter par 4
Back to one of the original holes on the course, is this short par 4. Playing up a gradual slope, there is a slight turn to the left. Trees line both sides of the fairway, giving a very claustrophobic feel after playing the open areas. A bunker is reachable to the right, which is quite flat and bland.
Looking back from the 17th green
The fairway narrows dramatically before reaching the green, which is extremely small. Two small bunkers protect the front, which basically have to be carried. Really disappointing hole after having played the rest of the course. Even compared to the other two original holes, this really can’t be compared. Has a totally different feel but also limited strategy. Will be very interested to see the plans of what will replace this.
Hole 18 – 417 meter par 4
Finishing the round is this long par 4. Playing from an elevated tee, the fairway shapes to the left. At the landing area the fairway opens up dramatically, with a bunker located on the left. Trees run down the right, from the old section of the course, so best avoided. Playing close to the fairway bunker opens up the line into the green.
Last bunker on the 18th fairway
A bunker has been built on the right section of the fairway, short of the green. It either needs to be carried or played around to reach the last green of the day.
Looking back from the 18th green
Those long enough to reach the bunkerless complex, will find a large green, which mainly slopes from the rear. The surrounds predominantly slope away from the green, although right rear they feed in. A few humps and hollows are found to the left, with wide expanse of short grass, allowing for a variety in how to play. Good placement on the hazards, even more interesting not having any beside the green. Not usually a huge fan of long par 4 holes, but this was good.
Looking at the course makeup:
- Hole Directions – There was some variety allowing for conditions to have wide ranging effects during play. Overall though it felt like ping pong going back and forth on consecutive holes at times. A large majority of the holes ran in a north east or south west direction. The second parcel of land was very limited in how the holes could be routed, although a good job was done in their design
- Hole Lengths – Par three holes had a decent variance in distance, ranging from short to mid. The majority in mid length range. Par four holes where either short or long with an even split. Par 5 holes ranged from short to long with the mid length being the majority. Balance of the par types was good as a whole. When looking at the two nine loops though, it was not quite the case. Only one par 3 for the front nine, compared to 3 on the back. Six par 4s were on the front compared to 4 on the back. The hole lengths were also unbalanced between the two loops. Four long par 4 holes on the front whilst the back was stacked with short par 4 holes
- Hole Layout – There was a good mixture in how the holes played, with an even split between those turning left or right, where two shots or more were required to reach the green
The condition of the course, considering it was coming to the end of winter, was more than satisfactory. The tee box areas had level surfaces and good grass coverage. These have been rotated on a regular basis. Fairways were in an excellent state. Quite firm and allowing for a bit of run. Bunkers were well maintained, although a wall on the ninth looked like it was about to collapse. Sand was consistent in the bunkers I visited. Green complexes were good with firm yet receptive surfaces and the ball rolling true. There was conjecture in the group regarding consistency, especially with some of the more early staged work, with greens having an invasion of poa.
A few standout holes for me were 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14 and 16. I really enjoyed the 13th green, but not so much overall setup. Certainly a memorable course with the good work that has been done so far.
In summary Bonnie Doon Golf Club was certainly one of the top courses in the Sydney CBD. With what land is available, some very open holes have been designed, which would challenge all level of player. The contrast between the old and new is quite significant, as can be seen with the 3 remaining old holes. Considering play was during the late stages of winter, you would not really have any indication due to the condition of the course. There was obviously some imbalance with the two nines, but this is hard to avoid with the land which is available. With more than enough stand out holes to keep you keen on playing again.
How to play at Bonnie Doon:
1. Be invited by a member
2. Be an interstate or overseas visitor who is a member of a golf club
3. Play in one of the advertised days via one of the social golf clubs, such as Qantas