Royal Queensland Golf Club

The 9th hole at Royal Queensland, Brendan James

Of all the golf courses in this book, Royal Queensland has undergone the most dramatic changes in recent years. Originally opened in 1920, on reclaimed mangrove swampland on the north bank of the Brisbane River, Royal Queensland was created with the input of various designers. Among these were the legendary Dr Alister MacKenzie, who submitted plans to the club during a brief visit in 1926. His suggestions for improving the bunkers and greens were implemented. But this par-72 layout has been altered so much since that the MacKenzie touch got lost long ago.

Major remodelling, especially of the back nine, was forced upon the club in 1981 when the Queensland Government revealed its Gateway Bridge proposal. The new bridge would cross the Brisbane River and cut through the golf course. Holes had to be re-routed to run under and away from the arch of the bridge. Change was in the wind again in 2005: the government announced plans for a twin bridge to sit alongside the original. With the loss of six holes imminent, Mike Clayton was commissioned to come up with a new layout.

Clayton had a soft spot for Royal Queensland; he’d won the Australian Amateur Championship here in 1978. He felt there was sufficient spare land to build the new holes. It would then be a matter of tinkering with the existing holes to create a consistent design. ‘Royal Queensland is a wonderful old club but unfortunately the course has altered a great deal,’ says Clayton. ‘The new course reflects the understated, low-profile nature of the original that was influenced by Alister MacKenzie. Part of MacKenzie’s vision for the course were “flashed sand-style” bunkers, similar to those found on Melbourne’s sandbelt.’

Clayton’s redesigned Royal Queensland opened for play in 2007. Some saw it as a radical departure from the course where Greg Norman honed his skills as a young pro in the late 1970s. But since reopening it has risen rapidly in the national course rankings, suggesting that experts and critics like what Clayton has done. The bunker styles – varying from expansive and wasteland, to small and deep around the greens – are now a highlight. So are the putting surfaces, many of which feature tiers or contours leading to steep greenside drop-offs or bunkers. The green contouring and shaping is at its most dramatic on shorter holes, including the 3rd, a 292-metre par-four. At the tee, players have a wide range of choices depending on the wind. Long hitters can go for the green, and this is a tempting option given the difficulty of employing a conservative strategy and contending with the bunkers and water spanning the right side of the fairway. Accuracy and precise control of distance is needed to hit a green where the contouring is heavy and the putting difficult.

Two tiers provide another stern putting test on the par-three 8th, the shortest hole on the course at only 125 metres. Your tee shot has to carry a sandy wasteland to find the slightly elevated green. The key to making par is to get your ball on the same level as the flag, otherwise a three-putt becomes a distinct possibility. Among the new additions to the course is the 411-metre, par-four 14th. The fairway is wide but the ideal spot to land your drive is quite small. The right half of the fairway leaves you needing to smash a long iron over four bunkers to find the green, while a tee shot favouring the left edge sets up a blind approach. The trickier tee option – skirting the right lip of a large fairway bunker on the left – presents you with a clear view to the flag. Fantastic hole!

Royal Queensland sets aside a restricted number of tee times for visiting golfers, who can organise a round by prior arrangement with the club’s general manager.

Memorable holes

2nd, 3rd, 8th, 11th, 12th, 14th and 15th

Where to go

Curtin Ave West, Eagle Farm, Queensland 4009

Book a round

(07) 3268 1127

Where to stay

Royal Queensland is close to several motels along Kingsford Smith Dr, which runs from the course towards the city centre.

Before/after your round

For spectacular views, a planetarium and exotic plants, spend a few hours at the Mt Coot-tha Lookout and Botanic Gardens.

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