Avondale GOLF CLUB

Tall timbers of Avondale, 14th hole, Brendan James

When 19th-hole conversation turns to discussing the best places to play golf in Sydney, one course often slips under the radar. Avondale Golf Club quite rightly ranks among the harbour city’s finest courses. Yet its ‘hidden’ location on the leafy upper North Shore and its exclusivity have combined to maintain a low profile.

In 1926 a consortium of leading businessmen wanted to establish a private club on 200 acres of rugged bushland in Pymble, adjoining what is today the upper reaches of Lane Cove River National Park. The course was officially opened the following year and the original clubhouse still stands. Despite several extensions, the old architectural style remains.

Both the clubhouse and course were designed by Eric Apperly, who split his time throughout 1927 between Avondale and La Perouse, where he was implementing Dr Alister MacKenzie’s design plans for the New South Wales Golf Club. Pockets of the Avondale site were cleared by members wielding axes, enabling Apperly to create a superb routing across the area’s heavily timbered slopes, rocky outcrops and stony ridges.It is a testament to his ability that, to this day, the routing remains largely unchanged.

Acclaimed designer Ross Watson was recently commissioned to redesign the course, a decade-long program completed in 2008. Watson incorporated the best of Apperly’s routing into his reshaping of fairways and greens, as well as remodelling and adding new bunkers to the landscape. Some trees were removed to open up the playing lines. But the fairways remain densely tree-lined, maintaining the traditional character of the layout and placing a premium on accuracy – with every shot.

Watson also constructed four new tees, adding distance to and accentuating the playing lines of several holes. This has stretched the layout beyond the 6000-metre mark and brought strategy back into play, as players attempt to negotiate numerous hazards.

The front nine consists mostly of doglegging fairways covering the ridge lines. The most undulating holes are to be found on the inward half. Particularly exciting is the 338-metre par-four 10th, known as ‘Chasm’. Here, confronted by a blind tee shot over the crest of a hill, with tall trees lining the edges of the fairway, players must make a decision. Blasting a driver over the hill will leave a short but difficult approach from a downhill lie into a kidney-shaped green cut into the side of a hill; a second shot from the crest of the hill, on the other hand, is longer but the lie is flatter.

The 288-metre 17th, a short par-four known as ‘Bob’s Nob’, is another terrific hole, giving you a glimpse of the distant green from its elevated tee. In between is a hogsback, contoured fairway, which turns slightly right and then suddenly dips, before rising again to meet the green. Long hitters anticipating a big finish to their round by finding the smallish green with their tee shot need to be wary of the deep bunkers situated short and right. Watson’s redesign, along with the near-flawless presentation of Avondale’s couch fairways and relatively new bent-grass greens, has made a very good course even better. Golfers would be hard-pressed to find a better conditioned layout, all year round, anywhere in Australia. In time, it will earn Avondale much wider fame.  

Memorable holes

2nd, 3rd, 9th, 10th, 11th, 15th and 17th

Where to go

Avon Rd, Pymble, NSW 2073

Book a round

(02) 9449 6455

www. avondalegolfclub.com.au

Where to stay

Killara Inn is a boutique hotel with 39 deluxe rooms and apartments. Located on the Pacific Highway, it is less than five minutes’ drive from the course.

Before/after your round

Take a cruise on Sydney Harbour, just 25 minutes away via the Pacific Highway. Several charter companies, including Captain Cook Cruises, offer guided day and night cruises.

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