Date: December 01, 2010

Course setup primed for Open

Trevor Herden, Director-Championships for Golf Australia, is the man responsible for the highest-profile aspect of this, the fourth Australian Open to be held at The Lakes: the set-up of the golf course. Which is no simple task. In these days of ever-more sophisticated equipment, presenting the top-class field with an appropriate test has never been more of a challenge. My number one task is making sure that the best players are in there at the finish, says Herden. And this year that won t be easy. The Lakes can be an extreme test, depending on the wind. It’s a very open course with incredibly wide fairways, even if there are a lot of sandy waste areas out there. But I like to see that sort of set-up, where players are asked to not only hit the fairway but the right part of the fairway, if they want to attack the flag with their approach shot. The greens are a good size, too. We ll be able to use a variety of pin positions. Take the third hole. The prevailing wind is hard off the right. So most drives will end up on the left side of the fairway. I can make things a bit tougher by having the flag on the left side of the green. So there will be plenty of strategy, especially from the tees. Players won t be able to just blaze away without thinking. They ll need to find the right spots to get rewarded. Then there is the speed of the greens. As Herden pointed out, a stiff breeze is likely to be an almost constant factor at The Lakes. So care will have to be taken, especially when it comes to the more undulating surfaces. We ll aim to have the greens running at about ten on the stimpmeter, continues Herden. But the eventual speed will be dictated by holes like the par-5 14th and the 16th; they will be my guides for the week. Whatever speed is safe on those will work everywhere else. Another pleasing feature of The Lakes is the almost complete absence of deep rough. But that, according to Herden, only enhances the inherent appeal of the Sydney course that has seen three greats of the game Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Steve Elkington crowned Australian Open champion. Long grass would only ruin the strategic aspect of the course, he explains. What will also be interesting are the bunkering and the fescue grass around the sand. There could be some ugly lies out there if a player gets unlucky. But that s part of the design and the game at the end of the day. And what of the winning score? I don t care what number the champion shoots, declares Herden. That never enters my mind. I want the players to produce entertaining golf, so I m never going to do anything to prevent them doing that. It’s no fun watching them grind out pars all day long. So a nice week of weather will probably see something like ten or 12 under par win. Maybe it will be less than that, maybe more.” What it will definitely be, however, is a complete test of golf for everyone in the field, especially those from China and Korea; they who won t have seen too much of this kind of golf. It certainly won t be anything like they experience in Asia.” We have a nice diversity of players in the field though. There are guys from the Nationwide Tour, the European Tour, the PGA Tour, all over really. I m looking forward to a great week. As are we all.