A Quick 9: The best holes of the 2017 Challenge Series
If you took the best holes from each of the courses hosting the 2017 Challenge Series qualifiers*, you would have a world class short course. Here is our pick of the finest, along with expert tips on how to play them.
BROOKWATER GOLF CLUB, BRISBANE
Qualifier date: July 20
Standout hole: 4th (Par 5)
Almost every hole at Brookwater is stunning, but the view as you step on the 4th tee is breathtaking. Sweeping steeply downhill before climbing to the green, you’ll need to concentrate on every shot in order to score well on this lengthy par 5. The thrill starts from the elevated tee, where a well-struck drive will run out longer than your average drive, but the exhilaration is quickly offset by a lay-up shot requiring precision in both distance and direction. The green is angled from front left to back right, with deep bunkers guarding the right side. So your best bet is to keep left with your second shot to avoid a diabolical approach. Although complicating matters further is the lack of level lies on the steeply uphill approach and a false front, which will repel anything short and send your ball rolling back down the fairway.
NEW SOUTH WALES GOLF CLUB, SYDNEY
Qualifier date: August 1
Standout hole: 5th (Par 5)
Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, but the Irishman was clearly taken with this magnificent par-5 during the pro-am for the Australian PGA Championship in the late 1990’s. Topping the rise which sits directly in front of the tee, McGinley stopped dead before commenting to his playing partners: “Wow. This is better than anything in Ireland!” Indeed, the view out to the ocean from the top of the rise is hard to beat on a hole that offers a birdie chance for any golfer clearing the hill with their tee shot. The green sits at the bottom of the downslope and accepts a running shot, meaning it is within range for most with a decent strike. Putts are makeable on a relatively flat putting surface and lots of golfers head to the 6th tee with a smile after making a routine four here.
NOOSA SPRINGS GOLF CLUB, SUNSHINE COAST
Qualifier date: August 11
Standout hole: 17th (Par 4)
Rated the fifth hardest hole on the course, the 17th at Noosa Springs is a test of nerve as much as skill. Generous off the tee, it is the approach which tests the mettle of the golfer at this shortish par-4 where danger lurks both left and right. Playing not much over 320 metres it is precision, not power, which is required here. A water hazard pushes hard up against the green on the left and any pin on that side spells danger, particularly if your tee shot finds the left side of the fairway. But there is little relief on the opposite side of the putting surface where two bunkers await the player who is overly cautious and playing from the sand back towards the water hazard is an intimidating prospect.
ROYAL QUEENSLAND GOLF CLUB, BRISBANE
Qualifier date: August 28
Standout hole: 12th (Par 4)
Another excellent example of a short par 4 at one of Queensland’s premiere clubs. The centre line bunker and angled green mean precision is crucial whether taking the aggressive line or the more conservative route. Those wishing to attack the green need to play to the narrowest area left of the fairway. Those opting to lay up have more space to hit to, but have to negate a water hazard wide of the fairway. Also dictating strategy will be the position of the pin on any given day, anything back right favours a more aggressive play, while front and left lends itself to a lay-up shot.
BONNIE DOON GOLF CLUB, SYDNEY
Qualifier date: September 21
Standout hole: 12th (Par 4)
With a major redesign undertaken by the Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking Mead design group in recent years, Bonnie Doon lays claim to being Sydney’s most improved golf course. And on a rejuvenated layout that boasts many fine holes, the short par-4 12th is a standout. Like all the great short 4’s, Bonnie Doon’s 12th tempts the player at every turn. Only 293 metres from the back and downhill for most of the journey, even shorter hitters feel they can get close to the putting surface. That strategy, even if successful, leaves some awkward short shots to a large, sloping green with some deep fronting bunkers and thick rough and a shallow bunker at the rear. Taking a four-iron from the tee will leave you with an approach around 100 metres on the hole’s flattest terrain, though you will still have the tricky bunker placements to negotiate. Both the brave and the smart can make birdies here, but no matter which strategy you choose, perfect execution will be the key.
HUNTINGDALE GOLF CLUB, MELBOURNE
Qualifier date: October 9
Standout hole: 8th (Par 4)
Care needs to be taken off the tee but it is the second shot where the fun really begins with this hole. Trees encroach on both sides but it is the fairway bunker on the left which poses the biggest threat, anything ending here is an almost guaranteed bogey (at best). Choosing to hit driver can be rewarded with a short pitch, while those laying back face a fuller shot but in both cases, the approach needs to be pinpoint accurate. The severe green is guarded by several bunkers and merely finding the putting surface is no guarantee of a straightforward two putt. The 8th is only short par 4 on the scorecard, but can easily ruin a round with just one loose shot.
FEDERAL GOLF CLUB, CANBERRA
Qualifier date: October 19
Standout hole: 17th (Par 5)
One of the ACT’s favourite three-shot holes, it’s all about the drive at 17. Fairway bunkers lurk to the right at the top of the hill while trees lining both sides make the landing area feel narrower than it actually is. The downhill run to the green makes the putting surface reachable in two for many and even those who can’t get there face a straightforward pitch to a receptive green if they can keep it on the fairway. With the difficult par-4 18th to come, the 17th offers a good birdie opportunity and brief respite ahead of one of the toughest finishing holes in golf.
CONCORD GOLF CLUB, SYDNEY
Qualifier date: June 29
Standout hole: 2nd (Par 4)
One of the more demanding holes on one of Sydney’s more demanding courses, there is no let up on this sweeping left to right par 4. Measuring 358 metres, most will need to hit driver off the tee to leave any sort of sensible approach, but the tee shot needs to be well struck and fading to hold a fairway which slopes right to left. Things don’t get much easier with the approach to a green guarded by bunkers left, a swale right and a steep fall off at the back. Regardless of pin position the middle of the green is always the most sensible target with any miss likely to be severely punished.
HAMILTON ISLAND GOLF CLUB, WHITSUNDAYS
Final date: December 5
Standout hole: 4th (Par 3)
One of golf’s greatest thrills is to face, and stare down, what’s known as a heroic shot: a shot that presents a do-or-die outcome, where the only possible results are success or failure. The famous island green 17th at TPC Sawgrass is such a hole, as is the extraordinary 16th at Cypress Point. The par-3 4th at Hamilton Island also fits neatly in this category. Playing slightly downhill from one ridge top to the next across a gully of impenetrable scrub, this medium length par-3 will test the nerve – and skill – of every level of golfer. Short and left are dead while anything long generally spells a lost ball. Short and right offers some wiggle room but the truth is that hitting the green here is the only safe play. From the front tee the 4th is a manageable 110-metres, while from the middle it will be as much as most golfers can handle at 161-metres. Only the genuinely skilled, or recklessly adventurous, should wander to the back tee at 175 metres, especially if there is any kind of wind to be factored in. Par should be straightforward here but rarely is, the hallmark of a great golf hole.