Date: January 27, 2007
Author: Jane Crafter

All set-up and ready to go!

By Jane Crafter With just a few days remaining before the start of the 2007 MFS Women’s Australian Open at Royal Sydney Golf Club, course preparations are nearly complete and if I may say so, the course looks immaculate! Many of the players competing are bursting in their praise for the layout and the course condition. Congratulations to both Golf Australia and Royal Sydney! In our role as course consultant for the Open, Crafter + Mogford Golf Strategies have had the pleasure of being part of the team that has fine-tuned the setup of the arena for combat. While the course is not overly long for the women at 5732 metres, it is not to say that the course is without challenge, far from it. Length does not always equal difficulty and conversely, shorter length courses do not automatically equate to low scores. To this end, one of the more important components of our role was choosing from the selection of tees to be used as there was a balance here to be struck. In general terms the goal was to enable players to drive their ball into key strategic positions, whether relative to bunkers in the drive zone or on a par three to allow players to access all the pin positions that may be used during the tournament. One of the key criteria was to reward the bold player with an easier approach shot to the green, and if this meant making the hole play a little shorter, the set-up team did not shy away from this. Why make some of the approach shots shorter you might ask? Well the reason is that the greatest challenge at Royal Sydney lies on and around the greens. To make the course overly long relative to this fact would be torturous for the players and the spectators. If that was to be the case I am glad I have retired from playing such tournaments! If the winning score of eight-under in the Men’sAustralian Open last November is any guide, I think we can expect a similarly modest winning score on a course that will test all aspects of the players capabilities. Of course this is weather dependant, with a number of crucial holes being affected should the wind be strong and consistent from a particular quarter. For example, if the wind blows from the north, holes such as 10, 15, 16 and 18, which play into this wind, become decidedly more difficult. The par three 17th that plays to the south will also be trickier as it will be down-wind, making it far more of a challenge to hold the ball on this undulating green. In fact, wind or no wind, the 17th is a brute of a hole and will undoubtedly prove to be pivotal in deciding the champion come Sunday afternoon. Regardless of wind conditions, other holes of particular strategic interest are the 1st, 6th, 11th, 16th and 18th. As designers ourselves, holes that offer the player strategic choices on how they think it is best to play the hole is what makes for the most interesting and rewarding golf. The opening hole is memorable with its elevated tee sitting directly outside the clubhouse windows. To a large degree, play is determined by the pin position. Measuring just 274 metres, you feel like you should make birdie, but a bogey may be just as likely. The bold line is down the left, however a number of bunkers intrude and await a misdirected tee shot. The reward for hitting the fairway at this side is a more open approach to the green. The safe play off the tee is out to the right, however, if the pin is also tucked right it leaves an awkward short-iron approach over a very deep bunker. Options here are aplenty an early awakening to a course that will challenge competitors mentally more so than physically. The 6th may be the shortest hole on the course at just 124 metres, however it is noteworthy due to the precision that will be required from the tee. The green is large and undulating and simply hitting the putting surface alone will not be enough to ensure par. Miss the green and deep bunkers and grassy swales abound with recovery made difficult. The 11th is one of the longer par fours at 352 metres and is a great hole. Three bunkers are set at the right of the fairway and players will be looking to get as far as they can up the left half of the fairway. A pair of diagonal bunkers is set just short of the green on the right and this is coupled with a steep swale that drops away from the left of the green. These key elements dictate the strategy of the approach. Accordingly, the ideal line into the green is from the left – and play from the middle or right side of the fairway will see players do well to avoid their ball being carried away by either of these hazards. The 16th is the pick of the par 5&aposs, 439 metres in length, playing over generally flattish ground that rises slightly at the end. From the tee most players will strive to pass the bunkers at the left side and it is from here they are confronted with choice. A centrally located bunker is cleverly positioned where most players would like to leave their second shot and they must have a clear plan in mind as to where they want to play their third stroke from. If the pin is set into the back right of the long and angled green, the best line of approach is gained from just short or left of this bunker. Providing options to golfers is the hallmark of strategic design and in approaching this green, golfers are given plenty of alternatives. Make a bad choice and a bogey or worse awaits. The 18th is a fantastic end to a championship round. I spoke the other day with young golfer Katherine Hull and she said, The 18th is deceptively difficult, particularly as it follows 16 and 17 which are crunch holes. With the lovely Royal Sydney clubhouse as a backdrop you really need to focus on the demanding approach shot you need to play! The perfect drive is a slight draw about 220 -230 metres, tight down the left side which will be no snap on the final day. Anything right and you might have three or four extra clubs in your hand. From a good position you need to be wary of the swales off the back left and right not to mention the terrace in the middle of the green! The back right pin is going to be extremely challenging I am sure the crowd will get plenty of entertainment watching this hole! I couldn’t agree more with Katherine s assessment of the last. It is sure to play a pivotal role on Sunday, a perfect place for a champion to emerge from her challengers. I look forward to seeing you at the 2007 MFS Women’s Australian Open – remember to bring the kids, as Golf Australia has a fabulous Kids Zone with all sorts of fun and exciting golfing activities that are sure to inspire future champions and develop their interest in this great game!