Newcastle Golf Club

Eucalypts on the 7th, Newcastle, Brendan James

Long before American Tom Doak became the revered course designer he is today, he travelled the world playing and studying more than 800 courses. He made notes on every one, before compiling them into what he called his confidential guide. It was meant to be a critique of courses that his golfing friends could use to plan their holidays. Instead it found its way into the hands of a publisher, and today Doak’s Confidential Guide to Golf Courses is a cult classic, with copies fetching upwards of $500 each. Some of the world’s most famous courses were panned by Doak. He also lifted the veil on a host of hidden gems – among them, Newcastle Golf Club. Golfers had been enjoying the Newcastle course in its current form for more than 60 years by the time Doak’s book hit the shops. While the layout was highly regarded by golfers in the know, it had not gained enough of a reputation to put it on the national radar.

Then the club started getting phone calls from America and Europe. Thanks to Doak, the secret that Newcastle golfers had held so close for so many years was out. Now the hidden gem is no more. Newcastle is firmly entrenched among the top 15 courses in the country.Newcastle began life as a nine-hole course in 1915. It wasn’t until a car ferry across the nearby Hunter River made the course more accessible that Eric Apperly, a former Australian amateur champion, was commissioned to design an 18-hole layout. It opened for play in 1938. Four years later the course was taken over by the army during World War II and covered in barbed wire and tank traps. It recovered well, and over the past 65 years it has evolved into the fine course it is today.

Carved from rugged bushland and dense ti-tree, the fairways of Newcastle bend, twist, roll and sidestep their way over sandy terrain that is often dramatic and was barely disturbed by the designers. The routing beautifully traverses the contours of the landscape, resulting in some blind tee shots and a wide variety of awkward lies for approach shots into the greens.

One of the blind drives comes at the 368-metre, parfour 5th – the first of three holes singled out by Doak as world class, and few would disagree. The ideal drive here is a right-to-left shaped draw (for right-handers) over the highest dune in front. The ball will then get a generous kick down into a small valley, leaving a short iron to the green. Being cautious from the tee, and taking a fairway metal or long iron, leaves a mid-iron approach from a difficult downhill lie. Lurking on the left edge of the green is the deepest bunker on the course.

The 6th, despite being of similar length, heads in the opposite direction, so when the southerly is hurting on the 5th you get some respite here. Ranked in the top 500 holes in the world, your drive must be straight to skirt by the steep hill and trees to the left of the driving area. The right half of the fairway also slopes down into deep rough – so accuracy from the tee is paramount. The green is elevated, and poor club selection and mis-hit approach shots get penalised severely, with balls rolling 30 or 40 metres back down the fairway.

The 7th, at 143 metres, is a classic short par-three. The tee offers no room for error. Your shot must be nailed through a chute created by tall eucalypts, and care must be taken to avoid a pod of bunkers short right and another long and left. Missing the putting surface makes for an extremely difficult chip and putt to save par. Newcastle is a private club, but members of other clubs with an official handicap can book a tee time.

Memorable holes

3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 10th, 11th and 15th

Where to go

Vardon Rd, Fern Bay, NSW 2295

Book a round

(02) 4928 1365

Where to stay

Newcastle Links Motel is a short iron from the 1st tee. It offers affordable play-andstay packages for Newcastle and other courses in the region.

Before/after your round

Visit Shipwreck Walk at the base of nearby Stockton Breakwater. There are 16 wrecks and scuttled vessels to be seen on the 2 km walk along Newcastle Harbour.

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