Bonville Golf Resort

The 9th at Bonville – ‘Australia’s Augusta National’, Brendan James

Bonville is Australia’s most beautiful inland course. Carved from 250 hectares of flooded gums and blackbutt forest, with small pockets of subtropical rainforest, Bonville is often described as Australia’s Augusta National, home of the US Masters. And the resemblance is uncanny. Designers Terry Watson and Ted Stirling were given exactly that brief by the original owners: to create a course like Augusta.

There remains only one Augusta, but Watson and Stirling did a fantastic job. They incorporated most of the features Augusta is famous for – great elevation changes between tee and green, natural watercourses, demanding bunkers, large and undulating putting surfaces. Visit Bonville in the spring and you will even witness the course burst into colour with azaleas and other native flowering plants in full bloom.

Since opening in 1992, Bonville’s design has impressed every golfer who has teed up there. But there have been times when its conditioning has let it down. The course was a victim of its own beautiful setting, with the tall trees that isolate each fairway casting shadows over many of the greens for long periods each day. The lack of sunlight put stress on the penncross bent greens that were originally laid down when the course was built. These were converted to the more resilient Bermuda 328 grass nearly a decade ago and, with the help of some tree clearing, the greens have thrived ever since. Today they are a dream to putt on. Recent changes to the maintenance program have assisted the growth rate of the putting surfaces, allowing for lower cutting heights and faster speeds.

One of the most memorable aspects of a round at Bonville is the high quality of its par-fives. Each requires attention to strategic detail. Just like at Augusta, putting your shots in the right position from the tee and in lay-up areas will reap benefits.

The 485-metre 4th is a great driving hole with a saddleshaped fairway, funnelling even slightly off-line shots back to the centre of the mown portion. Aggressive players may consider going for the green in two shots here. To do so, they must hit solidly and shape the ball right to left around the dogleg and a wall of flooded gums flanking the fairway. Two fairway traps and a huge swale, both about 60 metres short of the green, are in play and can complicate any errant lay-up shots. There is no better example of a riskand- reward par-five than Bonville’s closing hole: a 460-metre journey up and over a hill, between deep rows of massive flooded gums that line the way to the green, which sits just beyond a pond and a stream. Standing on the crest of that hill, looking down towards the green, the azaleas in full bloom, you can imagine the view that confronts players on the famous 13th or 15th holes at the Masters. For many at Bonville, there is never any question as to whether or not they should go for the green in two – amid such wonderful theatre as the 18th provides, it is hard to resist adding to the drama by throwing off the shackles and risking a dropped shot or two. Some re-routing of holes has taken place in recent years. The original par-four 2nd has been dropped from regular play and replaced by a par-three, which is now the 17th. Measuring only 142 metres from the championship markers, the 17th is a drama-charged hole where your tee shot must carry a small lake that shields the entire front edge of a wide but shallow green.

The bunkers on 17 of the 18 holes were also reconstructed during 2009. These new bunkers are visually dynamic and easier to maintain. They have been filled with stark white sand – drawing further comparisons with Augusta.

Memorable holes

3rd, 4th, 7th, 10th, 12th, 17th and 18th

Where to go

North Bonville Rd, Bonville, NSW 2441

Book a round

(02) 6653 4002

Where to stay

Bonville Golf Resort has 30 resort and executive rooms overlooking the pretty 1st fairway. Several playand- stay package options are available.

Before/after your round

Coffs Harbour is home to plenty of attractions – including the iconic Big Banana, about 25 minutes’ drive north of the course, where you can relive your childhood by having fun on a toboggan ride, frolicking in the water park or going for a spin on the ice rink.

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