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WESTERN AUSTRALIAN GOLF OVERVIEW

by ausgolf writer Selwyn Berg

Sand, undulation and kangaroos typify Western Australian golf. The wonderful limestone base that extends from Yanchep to Busselton is also famous for the grand Tuart gums that thrive only in these alkaline conditions. Sun City Country Club marks the northern tip of this golfing wonderland. The course is set on beautifully undulating sandy scrub country, with generous fairways lined by planted trees. Full clubhouse and practice facilities cater for all golf and social requirements.

Former home to Australia’s richest tournament, the Heineken Classic, The Vines is probably the best known Perth resort golf course, and certainly Joondalup is the most dramatic. Renowned architect Robert Trent Jones Jr himself calls this spectacular site "one of the great golf courses in the game".

Given the awesome reputation of this designer, and having trembled on the tee, one of the purest pleasures in golf can come from discovering that a well struck shot here is fairly rewarded. A stay in the plush resort hotel affords the opportunity to experience all three of the diverse nines. Many of the richly appointed rooms overlook the lagoon-style swimming pool, and there are also self-contained villas set in natural bushland.

Golfers in need of tuition whilst in Perth may wish to visit Collier Park, where Ross Metherell, coach to young Aussie stars Stephen Leaney and Greg Chalmers heads an impressive teaching school. The 27-hole, fully public layout on beautifully undulating sandbelt pampers visitors with many of the trappings of a private club, and offers courses designed by both Thomson-Wolveridge and Michael Coate. Carramar is another Perth public golf course in the resort style with excellent coaching facilities.

Just 45 minutes south of Perth lies a 15-km stretch of coastline rapidly gaining fame as the WA Golf Coast. Residential land development including canal construction on the scale previously seen only in southern Queensland is the driving force. At the heart of this phenomenal growth is the city of Mandurah, a popular seaside destination at the head of the Peel Inlet with an array of accommodation and eateries. With the Harvey River Estuary, the region has an incredible 130 square km of waterways and wetlands where birds from Siberia and Alaska migrate to feed. Well-documented management strategies aim to preserve this precious heritage.

Meadow Springs Country Club at Mandurah is managed by former touring and teaching Pro, tour promoter and media personality John Hadley. This great course reflects architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. at his most mellow as it meanders through avenues of ancient Tuarts. The limestone and sand base means golf carts can traverse the fairways throughout the year on turf which compares favourably with the Melbourne sand belt. The two finishing holes bring sparkling lakes into play in front of the magnificent clubhouse and practice range. Fifty on-course accommodation suites are scheduled for completion by July 2000.

A few kilometres up the Golf Coast lies Secret Harbour "The Links by the Sea" created by Graham Marsh amongst wonderful coastal sand dunes and preserved wetlands. The full eighteen holes are now in play, and have been lavishly praised by Gary Player and Lee Trevino.

At the Northern tip of the Golf Coast lies WA’s newest course and her most authentic links experience, Kennedy Bay. Every links feature is present in this Baker-Finch/Mackay/Coate masterpiece. Revetted pot bunkers, hard, bouncy tight fairways and slick greens designed to be reached with a low running shot that avoids the wind, rather than with a ‘crude pitch’. The coastal heath covering the ever-present sand dunes reminds one of Scotland, and the ocean can be heard for at least nine holes and glimpsed from a couple. There are no lavish trappings yet, but a major resort complex is planned.

Bunbury Golf Club, just two hours South of Perth has always been a highly regarded test of golf, and now the region also offers a resort style course in The Sanctuary at Pelican Point, designed by Michael Coate. With twelve water holes and 64 sand bunkers the course can challenge low markers, whilst the generous fairways and gentle greens cater for all. The resort complex is now open with deluxe on course accommodation, swimming, dining and conference facilities.

Heading further south there are several worthwhile golfing diversions en route to the wine country where Margaret River Golf Club welcomes visitors for a game. There’s even a "hidden gem" of an unpretentious little nine-hole country course at Binningup Beach. Capel is a good test of golf in a healthy club atmosphere on undulating couch fairways and slick bent grass greens. Driving accuracy is crucial, and the thickly wooded bush that divides the fairways houses many kangaroos.

Busselton, home to Stephen Leaney, is a peaceful rural setting with some long holes, especially in the wind. It marks the southern extremity of Tuart country. Dunsborough Lakes features excellent couch fairways and plenty of water in the resort style, but also offers club membership and holds regular competitions.

The Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse overlooks both the Southern and Indian Oceans, and not far away on the elevated cliff tops sits The Augusta Golf Club. Of course they stage an annual Masters Tournament where the prize is a green jacket. There the similarity ends, as this is a genuine Aussie sand scrape course with monstrous, multi-headed, fire-scarred Black Boys adorning the hardy Kikuyu fairways.

The oldest settlement in WA is four hours South of Perth and here The Albany Golf Club on Middleton Beach also has a long heritage, having recently celebrated its centenary. Formed in the true "links" tradition amongst natural sand dunes shaped by wind and sea, man simply smoothed a few areas and called them "greens". The members are rightly proud of what must surely be the most natural links style course in the State, a course beloved by golfers such as Craig Parry because, exposed to the wind, it always provides a new challenge.