Castle Hill Country Club
Back in 1821, Irishman George Acres received a land grant and is understood to have planted Australia’s first citrus trees. He planted them on the land where the fairways of Castle Hill Country Club now weave up, down and across the slopes beneath a grand clubhouse.
The rolling grasslands of Acres’s property, Heywood, proved well suited to agriculture for several generations and have since turned out to be ideal golfing land. The club’s founding members purchased Heywood in 1951 and invited several designers, including Eric Apperly, to come up with a plan for the site. Al Howard and Prosper Ellis, both prolific designers during the 1950s and ’60s, were consulted on the design of the layout. It has remained relatively unchanged, apart from the addition of several dams, for decades.
Castle Hill’s quality was confirmed in the mid-1980s when it hosted the Australian PGA Championship in consecutive years. World No. 1 Greg Norman won in 1985 and was on track to defend his title in 1986 until asurging Mike Harwood overran him in the final nine holes. In 1992 the design team of Jack Newton, Graeme Grant and John Spencer submitted a masterplan for the course. Over the next 14 years all of their suggested changes, across every hole, were implemented.
Today Castle Hill, about 35 kilometres north-west of Sydney’s CBD, is a charismatic and enjoyable par-72. It boasts good changes of elevation, dynamic bunkering and mounding, and exciting green contouring – complemented by some of the best prepared and most consistent playing surfaces in Sydney.
Before and after the redesign, Castle Hill has always been a driver’s paradise, which helps explain Norman’s success here. The clubhouse occupies the highest point of the layout, and three of the best driving holes – all par-fives – are played to and from the clubhouse.
The 485-metre 1st, named ‘Ghost Gum’, is a wonderful opening hole that sweeps downhill into a valley from the elevated tee, before rising again for the final approach to the green. The fairway is heavily bunkered both in the layup area and around the massive putting surface, which slopes markedly from right to left. There is almost three clubs’ difference between a front and back pin position, so correct club selection from any distance is important. ‘Long Fella’ is the appropriately named 508-metre, par-five 15th. Yet long hitters need to be wary of small ponds left and right of the driving zone, situated at the exact point where the fairway doglegs gently to the right and begins its long climb to the green. Heavily tree-lined on both sides, the fairway is punctuated by several big, deep cross-bunkers positioned about 80 metres short of the green. More bunkers guard the large, undulating putting surface, where a false front can deceive players into under-hitting their approach shot.
If sand dominates the 15th, water is the destroyer of scores on the 18th – a 511-metre par-five called ‘Double Cross’. The tee shot is a tough one, with water down the entire right edge of the fairway. The hole then doglegs sharply right and demands that your second shot be played from a slightly downhill lie, on the right half of the fairway, over a big lake. Once you are over the lake, the fairway rises gradually up to a green protected by three huge sand traps.Castle Hill is a private members’ course, but the club hosts a Monday open-day competition for members of other clubs. For social play, visiting golfers are advised to apply for a tee time through the general manager.
1st, 3rd, 5th, 12th, 15th, 16th and 18th
Where to go
Windsor Rd, Crestwood, NSW 2153
Book a round
(02) 9894 4155
Where to stay
The Hills Lodge Grand Mercure and the Crowne Plaza Norwest hotels are less than 2 km from the course in the adjoining Norwest Business Park.
Before/after your round
Historic Parramatta, only 15 minutes’ drive south, is the home of Old Government House – Australia’s oldest public building, built in 1799.comments powered by Disqus