Royal Hobart Golf Club

Royal Hobart, par-three 11th – ‘short and hazardous’, Brendan James

Royal Hobart Golf Club has come a long way from humble beginnings. It started out at Sandy Bay, not far from where Wrest Point Casino stands today, in 1896. Known as the Newlands course, it was an incredible par- 89: it boasted one par-seven, four par-sixes, six par-fives and seven par-fours.

A move to the eastern shore of the Derwent River followed in 1915, and the royal charter was attached to the club a decade later. Hobart’s expansion forced another move in 1956 to the club’s present site at Seven Mile Beach, about 20 minutes’ drive from the city centre. Vern Morcom – the long-time course superintendent at Kingston Heath, renowned for his design work on the courses of Melbourne’s sandbelt – was the choice to build the new layout.

Half a century on, there is no mistaking Morcom’s touch. The fairways of this par-72, laid out over sandy and slightly undulating land, have a Melbourne sandbelt feel about them. Each fairway is lined with wide bands of rough, with tall gum trees mixing with thick native shrubs and the occasional pine tree. On many holes this creates a sense of isolation, and a challenge: to keep your ball on the fairway and out of trouble.

This might partly explain why Royal Hobart’s testing layout has spawned several world-class players, including the legendary Peter Toogood and the Pearce brothers, Clyde and Bruce, who both won Australian championships. It took the player of the 20th century to prevail when Royal Hobart became the first, and unfortunately last, Tasmanian course to host the Australian Open in 1971. Jack Nicklaus was never headed after opening rounds of 68 and 65, finishing eight shots clear of Bruce Crampton.

The course has matured considerably since then. Well groomed bent-grass fairways and greens are arguably the best conditioned in Tasmania. And Morcom’s design throws down the challenge from the opening tee shot of the day.

The par-four 1st is rated Royal Hobart’s hardest hole, and for good reason. At 402 metres it is long, yet it is also narrow, a thin path stretching from tee to green. A rifle-accurate drive is required to miss the fairway bunkers left and right, followed by a long iron to a small, well-trapped putting surface. A hollow short of the green gives the impression that the flag is closer than the yardage might suggest.

Accuracy and control are also the order of the day at the 331-metre 2nd. The key to this par-four is choosing the right club from the tee to avoid a huge bunker on the right without hitting through the end of the sharp dogleg left. Laying back with a shorter club from the tee actually gives you a better chance of birdie, as a full, hard-hit approach shot will hold better on the small and well-bunkered green. Some length has been added to the par-five 9th since Nicklaus’s Open win, making it a tougher proposition at 491 metres. The Golden Bear stars in a famous photograph from that final round in 1971. It shows him threading a five-iron between two huge eucalyptus trees to save his par en route to victory. Royal Hobart has some wonderful par threes, with the 127-metre 11th being both the shortest and one of the most hazardous, particularly in the wind. In still conditions little more than a short iron is required. But when the prevailing breeze gets up you’ll need a considerably longer club to find the small putting surface, which is ringed by six bunkers. Royal Hobart is a private members’ club but visitors and members of reciprocal clubs are welcome to play.  

Memorable holes

2nd, 4th, 5th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 18th

Where to go

81 Seven Mile Beach Rd, Seven Mile Beach, Tasmania 7170

Book a round

(03) 6248 6161,  

www.rhgc.com.au

Where to stay

Wyndham Vacation Resort is within walking distance of Royal Hobart. It has more than 60 architecturally designed and self-contained units, surrounded by native gardens.

Before/after your round

If you are fond of a beer, no trip to Hobart would be complete without a visit to Cascade Brewery – Australia’s oldest brewery, founded in 1824. With Mt Wellington a picturesque backdrop, the brewery tour includes beer tastings and a walk through gorgeous gardens.

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