Date: December 04, 2007

The Australian Golf Club – Hole By Hole

The Australian Golf Club – Hole By Hole Your guide to how the pros will play The Australian as well as where the best vantage spots, cross-over points and Go-Zones can be found. Written by Mike Clayton and printed in Golf Australia Magazine. 1st – 455 metre par-5 When the Australian Open was here in 2004 this hole played as a par-4 with the tee a few metres forward and that made it one of the most difficult opening holes in golf but this year it reverts back to a par five. When Jack Nicklaus redesigned the old course in the late seventies he combined the original par-4 10th and the short 11th to make a par-5 and it was a gentle beginning to what is one of the toughest courses in Australia. The tee is high above the fairway and bunkers on the right suggest a drive moving left to right is ideal and those hugging the corner earn the best line into the flag. The green sets to favour a shot turning the opposite way to the drive. 2nd – 194 metre par-3 Downhill par-3s are often terrific looking holes and this one is one of the more difficult short holes. It is the first difficult shot of the round because the hole is long, the green is narrow, well-guarded by bunkers and the high tee makes for an especially difficult shot if it is windy. Just how hard the hole will play is determined by the wind and the firmness of the green. Given a still day and a soft green it is not so intimidating but if it is windy and firm only the most precise shot will answer the question here. 3rd – 343 metre par-4 One of the classic holes in golf is the par-4 that combines a tee shot that turns left around a guarding bunker on the inside corner of the dogleg with a green that sits on a diagonal from left to right with a significant hazard on the right of the green. The player who challenges the corner is suitably rewarded with the best line to the flag and that principle and strategy works to perfection here. The further you drive safely to the right the more difficult the shot across the lake to the green. The best hole of this type is the great 17th on Royal Melbourne s West course but this one at The Australian replicates its principles very well. 4th – 186 metre par-3 Here is a long one-shotter over water to a green that lies across the player and more than suggests a big high fade is the perfect shot. The front bunker guards the most difficult pin in the right corner and the back left bunker catches the long pull left of the target. Of course, Jack Nicklaus was the master of the high, long left-to-right shot and it is perhaps not surprising he would build holes that suited his eye and his game. On a still day this is not a difficult hole but into the wind it takes a great shot to find the target. 5th – 551 metre par-5 This long par-5 was made famous by Greg Norman in the 1990 Australian Open when he holed a long 3-wood for an albatross two. The game played with wooden drivers and balata balls was different then and Norman was probably the only player capable of reaching the green that year. The winner, however, was John Morse who beat Craig Parry in a playoff and Morse was as short a hitter as Norman was long but he was brilliant with a wedge in his hands. More players will find the 5th within range of two shots even though the tee has moved back since Norman s best days. 6th – 386 metre par-4 From here to the turn players face the most difficult stretch of holes on the course and whilst it may seem odd to have such a difficult run of holes on the front nine, they were the finishing holes before Nicklaus switched the nines for the 1977 Australian Open the first championship on the new course. The tee shot on the 6th turns right, up and over a dune that makes the landing area blind from the tee and the green is set diagonally from right-to-left with a huge bunker lying on the right of the putting surface that catches any shot under-hit. 7th – 382 metre par-4 Encroaching trees on the right further accentuate the reward for those who drive the ball from left-to-right but the real difficulty is at the green end of the hole. A lake sits on the right edge of the green and the green again lies on a left-to-right diagonal making a Nick O Hern or Richard Green draw the ideal shot here. Missing left makes for a difficult chip out of the grass bunker back toward the water and there is not a player in the field who would be unhappy with four pars here. 8th – 405 metre par-4 Back in 1966 when a 19-year-old Bob Stanton was beating Arnold Palmer in a playoff to win the Dunlop International this was an easy par-5 but it has been a par-4 for three decades now and it is both long and difficult. The drive is better placed down the right half of the fairway simply because the front left greenside bunker sits perfectly to make the long second so difficult from the wrong angle. Stanton was the best young player in the world in the late 60s but after a few good seasons in America in the early 70s he disappeared from the game. He came back briefly to play the Australian tour in 1984 and that year he finished second to Tom Watson in the Australian Open at Royal Melbourne. 9th – 422 metre par-4 Another difficult par-4, the 9th plays back to the clubhouse and it is now the narrowest of driving holes at The Australian. Dunk s Hill (I wonder how many of the players this week have any idea how good a player Billy Dunk was) falls down from the freeway on the right and anything flying too far right into the hill is unplayable something Billy found to his cost in the 1975 Australian Open. A fairway bunker sits to the left of the driving area and a pine tree at the end of the bunker makes for a double hazard making the shot from the bunker especially difficult. A few weeks after that 1975 Open, Dunk saved par out of the island of heath in the middle of the front bunker at Royal Melbourne s final hole to win the Chrysler Classic. In the space of a month he had both Dunk s Hill and Dunk s Island named after his exploits. 10th – 378 metre par-4 The run home begins with this medium length par-4 playing from the tee on the high hill by the clubhouse down to the fairway then up to the green. The fairway is not particularly wide and the main feature of the green site is the steep drop off to its right making the second shot look more difficult than it is. After the four previous holes this is a welcome break that can be best explained by the fact this was the opening hole on the old course and the holes from the 6th to the 9th were finishing holes on the post freeway, pre-Nicklaus course that was in play for a decade from the mid 60s. 11th – 175 metre par-3 The short holes at The Australian make for a particularly difficult set because all four one-shotters are quite long. Almost all of the better courses in this country have a hole under 150 metres and the original 13th was a little par-3 but Nicklaus chose not to replicate its principles on his layout. The 11th is a difficult hole with a green suggesting a fade is the best shape of shot and given how narrow the green is there is little room for error. The amphitheatre surrounds of the 11th will be awash with spectators during the Open as it provides superb viewing of play. 12th – 385 metre par-4 This is another tee shot played from a high tee down to a fairway below. Fairway bunkers sit on the inside left corner of this dogleg to the left and the green with fronting bunkers only accepts a high shot carried all the way to the target. This is not a long hole nor is it one of the most difficult par-4s but it s a good hole that needs a pair of decent shots. However, like every hole at The Australian if it s into the wind it can be really difficult. The good news is that if it s into the wind, the 15th, 16th and 18th have it behind and that is not a bad thing. 13th – 349 metre par-4 This is the shortest par-4 on the course but it is not one of those confounding little holes where players are tempted to reach the green with a big tee shot. Instead it s just a long iron to the low point of the fairway at the bottom of the hill and a pitch up to the green that sits quite a way above the player. The green is small and the bunker in front very deep but the 13th is not a difficult hole and good accurate pitching will earn a birdie here. 14th – 510 metre par-5 There was never really any doubt that Tiger Woods was going to be a great player but when he played the Australian Open here in 1996 he had been a pro for only a few months. He had already won twice on the American tour but Augusta and that astounding performance at the 1997 Masters was still five months away. On the last day the 14th was into the wind and most were pitching from about 100 metres away but Woods came here and flew a 3-wood into the middle of the green. Perhaps it wouldn t be so astounding a feat now but a decade ago it was almost unbelievable. He had a bad opening round that week and struggled back to finish in the top-five but anyone who could conquer this hole with that sort of power was bound to earn some attention. 15th – 188 metre par-3 Nothing other than a fine, solid, straight long iron works on this difficult par-3. In the opening round of the 1982 Australian Open, Bob Shearer was playing with Jack Nicklaus and he pushed a long iron into the right bunker. He chunked a shot out onto the fringe and then took a frustrated swipe at the sand. Then to his horror the ball rolled back into the bunker. Shearer had touched the sand while his ball was out of the hazard and all including officials and Nicklaus insisted there was no penalty involved. Shearer was equally insistent he would take the two-shot penalty so to remove any doubt in his own mind and three days later he beat Nicklaus and Payne Stewart by a couple of shots. 16th – 431 metre par-4 This is the most difficult par-4 on the course. The tee was moved back for the last Australian Open and it is a tight drive to a fairway that falls from left-to-right. Hitting the fairway is a priority here because the second shot is not only long but the green cannot be hit with a running approach. The green sits on a left-to-right diagonal with a deep bunker at the front and the perfect shot is a big high fade. 17th – 392 metre par-4 Heading back in the opposite direction to the previous hole the perfect tee shot is down the right half of the fairway as it opens up the green that lies just over the lake, which flanks the fairway all the way along the second shot. The water is not close enough to intimidate a good player from the fairway but into the wind the second shot can be as much as a long iron. Peter Lonard chipped in here for a birdie in 2004 but in 1990 Brett Ogle, with a chance to make the Parry/Morse playoff, punched a long iron out of the right trees that rebounded off a pine tree straight back into his knee, felling him almost instantly. He made a big score that included the two-shot penalty for hitting himself and missed the playoff by a few more shots than he deserved. 18th – 478 metre par-5 The finisher is a death or glory par-5 where pars are easily attained with three straight, and safe, shots but the water in front of the green makes for a confronting decision for those hoping to reach the putting surface in two shots. Shearer hit a wonderful long iron onto the middle of the green in 1982 but in the 1988 New South Wales Open Craig Parry, needing six to win, played his safe 6-iron right into the middle of the lake and made his first professional win a lot more difficult than he needed to. Perhaps Parry s time for winning The Australian Open has past but given he made a career out of moving the ball left-to-right it ought be no surprise he has played some of his best golf at The Australian.