Date: October 18, 2006

Royal Sydney, Home of The 2006 MFS Australian Open

In his latest column for Golf Australia, Course Consultant for the 2006 MFS Australian Open and renowned golf writer, Mike Clayton, takes us on a tour of Royal Sydney and tells us why this course is a perfect venue for championship golf. Make sure you visit this site regularly for further articles from Mike, along with a host of other contributing writers in the lead up to the 2006 MFS Australian Open. Royal Sydney is not a course of fireworks or dramatics . There are no death or glory shots, no heroic carries and practically no water on the course. Great grandfathers, grandfathers, fathers and sons enjoy playing the same course. A friend of mine, a member of Royal Sydney, wrote this before the 1999 Australian Open and it perfectly sums up the site of this year s MFS Australian Open. It is an old course and although it has been given a modern makeover the basics of one of the oldest clubs in the country are still there. The first hole plays from a championship tee right alongside the dining room window and although you wouldn t want to bet against a twenty-seven marker with a driver in his hand lobbing a soft whiff into the nearest bowl of soup it makes for a terrific hole for viewing. Will Geoff Ogilvy and Adam Scott be flying at the green with their power drivers that hit the ball distances Alister MacKenzie (the great Scottish architect who had significant influence over Royal Sydney) would find unfathomable? Can Greg Norman keep up with the new generation or be tempted to keep up or does he lay back with a long iron from the tee and pitch a sand wedge into the big wide green? The wind will be the determining factor but there is a chance at an early birdie and if the wind is behind at the second hole that is a par five, many will be reaching in two shots. The first four holes march out in a line to the south, then the – 6th,7th,8th and 9th – loop around the bottom end of the course and the 10th turns back to the north and the long road home begins. Played into the wind the back nine can be as difficult a nine holes as there is in Australian championship golf. When Gary Player won the Open here in 1969 he finished in an extraordinary storm that sent his score and his nerves haywire. He made an eight at the usually simple par five 13th hole then confronted by a 80 kilometre wind into his face at the par three 17th he reached the green only after hitting a driver and a full wedge. He scrapped a five-footer into the hole on the 72nd green for a 77 and a one shot win over Guy Wolstenholme. In fifth place the father of Australian golf, the 55 year-old, Norman Von Nida. The Von is now living just south of Brisbane and you know he wishes he was fifty years younger so he could have a go at the young blokes. The Open didn t come back to Royal Sydney for a long time as The Australian took the limelight with its redesigned course. This showcased a very different style of championship golf then we had been used to at the traditional clubs of the Melbourne sandbelt and the famous old courses of Adelaide, Perth and Sydney. When the Open did come to Royal Sydney in 1988 Mark Calcavecchia was half a year away from beating Norman and Wayne Grady at Troon in The British Open and he showed just how brilliantly he could play when he played four fabulous rounds and finished at 19 under par. Six years later Robert Allenby was well on his way to avenging his loss to Wayne Riley at Royal Melbourne in 1991 when he holed a pitch at the wonderful little short par four, 8th hole. He was being chased by Brett Ogle who might have been the only other pro in the field with a 28 inch waist but they both managed to stumble back to the clubhouse like a couple of nervous members tyring to win the club championship. The last few holes can be difficult but Allenby and Ogle made them look a lot more difficult that they truly are. The 1999 Open was won by a nineteen year old kid who was entitled to feel intimidated just walking into the enormous old clubhouse that stands right behind the final green. Aaron Baddeley was not the favourite but the week before he was playing in Adelaide and he boldly predicted that he could win the Open next week. Most thought him mad or deluded but the few who had seen him dominate amateur golf in Victoria had high hopes for him. Certainly he was entitled to feel intimidated by Colin Montgomerie and Norman as they fruitlessly chased him home that week but he kept hitting wonderful shots and making the putts he needed. His final test came at the long par three 17th and there he ripped a perfect two iron into the middle of the green and the final doubters who thought the kid couldn’t possibly stand up to the strain of winning were silenced. Any teenager who could hit that shot surely had a future in the game. Baddeley s partner in the first couple of days was a young pro just starting out and this year Geoff Ogilvy comes back as one of the best players in the world and the U.S Open champion. With Scott, Ogilvy, Allenby, Stuart Appleby, Norman and the rest it will be a terrific Open where Norman will play the role of the grandfather, Allenby the father and our best young talent Jason Day almost young enough to be the son. Now if only we could get Norman Von Nida down for the week