Date: November 30, 2010

New face on an old favourite

By John Huggan, Australian Open columnist This Australian Open may be the fourth to be held over The Lakes course, but it is the first since a dramatic and radical re-vamp of all 18-holes by former Australian amateur champion Mike Clayton and his design team. It was great land when we got here, of course, says the Melbourne native who now plays part-time on the European Seniors Tour. But the course wasn t as great as that land suggested it should be. It was one-dimensional, even if there was nothing wrong with the routing. The actual holes were pretty good. So our job was to make it more interesting to play.” I like to think we achieved that. We ve created the width that gives the players opportunities to think. To get to the pins they will have to approach from the correct sides of the fairways. “To achieve that greater freedom of expression, many of the non-indigenous trees planted over the previous three decades had to disappear. And they have. Now, as well as playing very differently, The Lakes has a completely different look and atmosphere.” Over the years, the course had veered away from the early 1970s design by Devlin and Von Hagge in that it was almost covered in foliage, continues Clayton, who recently formed a new course design partnership with former U.S Open champion Geoff Ogilvy. Our brief was to restore the original feel of the course. Prior to the freeway being built, it had hardly any trees on it at all. Plus, much of the bunkering and many of the greens had been altered by various architects over the years. Most importantly, however, there were too many holes where the only route to the green was from the middle of the fairway. There was only that one strategy on almost every hole. That one-dimensional quality is now long gone, replaced by a more open feel that is designed to give the players options and, hopefully, make them think.” Take the first hole, enthuses Clayton. We restored the bottom tee, one where the player has choices as to how much of the lake he wants to bite off, especially now that we took the trees out down that side. Before, it was simply a case of answering the question: can you hit between the water left and the sand dunes right?” Now, it will be exciting to watch the longer players deciding how much risk they want to take. Right off the bat, there is an interesting decision to be made. In the right wind, someone like Adam Scott can easily carry the ball the 270-yards or so across the corner. So he could drive the green. But does he want to take that big a risk in the first hole of the tournament? Miss and he will be back on the tee playing three. The first isn t the only hole where temptation will be a big part of the equation for almost every player; the dramatic downhill and potentially drivable par-4 13th will surely play its part in the eventual destination of the famous Stonehaven Cup. This hole is my own particular favourite, admits Clayton. Some of the players will no doubt hate it; but others will figure it out. But I m looking forward to seeing some confusion on some faces standing on that tee. They can all reach the green in one, but if they drive out of position the second shot is really difficult. There will be a range of numbers on that hole, as there will be on the three par-5s, all of which feature water hazards. Sounds like fun.