Af­ter un­der­go­ing an ex­ten­sive re­design pro­gram, Brookwater has gone from a once-only ‘bucket list’ ex­pe­ri­ence to a course wor­thy of re­turn vis­its, writes Jimmy Emanuel.

Con­sis­tently rank­ing highly amongst the best Aus­tralian cour­ses since open­ing in 2002, the Greg Nor­man and Bob Har­ri­son-de­signed par-72 Brookwater Golf and Coun­try Club ap­pears on al­most every Aussie golfer’s bucket list. The prob­lem for Brookwater how­ever, was golfers tended to come once and rarely re­turned.

Al­though lo­cated just over 30 min­utes from the Bris­bane CBD and just over an hour’s drive from the golf­ing mecca that is the Gold Coast, Brookwater is far enough away from both that it is of­ten over­looked for many golf trips to the south-east of Queens­land, per­haps con­tribut­ing to the lack of re­turn rounds. How­ever, club man­age­ment and own­er­ship are of the be­lief that the tough chal­lenge the course has pre­sented, par­tic­u­larly the emo­tional and fi­nan­cial cost of lost am­mu­ni­tion of golf balls were amongst the chief fac­tors re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing Brookwater a one­time deal so of­ten. “The prob­lem was it was so tough that peo­ple put it on their bucket list, played it and didn’t come back,” says Gen­eral Man­ager Gra­ham Dale. “And such a great course we wanted peo­ple to come back and play it on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.” The Greg Nor­man Golf Course De­sign team were charged with main­tain­ing the essence that is Brookwater while tweak­ing the course for im­proved playa­bil­ity and aes­thet­ics. With the in­crease in re­turn rounds as the fo­cus, a re­design pro­gram has been un­der­taken at Brookwater that saw close to 18 months of work, en­larg­ing greens, soft­en­ing bunkers and cut­ting back rough ar­eas. The Shark him­self made a visit to what is ar­guably his best de­sign in Queens­land to make his per­sonal rec­om­men­da­tions, with the front nine open­ing in Novem­ber 2016 and the en­tire 18 holes open for play in late March this year.

The greens are per­haps the big­gest change, with resur­fac­ing and re­shap­ing re­sult­ing in much larger greens that have had much of the se­vere slopes and un­du­la­tions soft­ened to make a more playable sur­face with more avail­able pin po­si­tions. Drainage work was also con­ducted on many of the greens to en­sure the qual­ity of the play­ing sur­faces re­mains high. Al­though in all my vis­its to Brookwater I have never been dis­ap­pointed in the con­di­tion of the course, the new drainage work has al­ready proved its worth dur­ing the huge down­pours ex­pe­ri­enced across south-east Queens­land in late March. The week af­ter re­open­ing, the course was lashed with heavy rain and storms. With al­most half the course un­der wa­ter on the Thurs­day many other cour­ses would have been hope­ful of

dry­ing out in a week. Amaz­ingly, Brookwater hosted a full field on the Satur­day, a mere two days af­ter sig­nif­i­cant flood­ing.

The vis­ual chal­lenge of Brookwater and the reg­u­lar com­plaint from golfers of al­most run­ning out of balls has re­sulted in what could be best de­scribed as a cleanout around the course. Mul­ti­ple trees have been re­moved through­out, with many more hav­ing branches and limbs trimmed and re­moved. Whilst still very much a heav­ily tree-lined course, in­deed part of the majesty of the course, trees have been re­moved that caused block­ages in both sight and shots from tees and into greens. The open­ing of vis­ual lines has made pick­ing tar­gets eas­ier as you nav­i­gate your way around the course for the first time.

To rem­edy the al­most golf ball swal­low­ing qual­i­ties of Brookwater, much of the Lo­man­dra and clut­tered grass plant­ings pre­vi­ously found around the course have been re­moved, in con­junc­tion with much of the rough be­ing cut back, mean­ing golfers won’t find them­selves reload­ing so many times when they miss one of Brookwater’s spec­tac­u­lar rolling fair­ways.

It is im­por­tant to note that while wide­spread changes have been un­der­taken the bones of the course re­main the same, for the best. Brookwater has al­ways chal­lenged even the best of play­ers, host­ing mul­ti­ple Queens­land Opens, but from the ap­pro­pri­ate set of tees pro­vides nu­mer­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties to make a good score.

The length of the course has re­mained the same and the hole rout­ing is as it was when the course first opened in 2002. What has been no­tice­able since the front nine opened in Novem­ber 2016 is play­ers seem to be en­joy­ing their round more, as well as ap­pre­ci­at­ing the chal­lenge of the course that wasn’t de­signed to yield large num­bers of birdies.

So many good cour­ses be­gin with a hole that gives the golfer a win­dow into what they will face for the rest of the round, and Brookwater is one such course. Played from an el­e­vated tee, the 1st at Brookwater re­quires an ac­cu­rate drive that avoids the bunkers right and left to set up a mid-iron to an el­e­vated green.

While giv­ing an in­sight into many of the other holes on the course, with its rolling fair­way and raised green, the 1st at Brookwater is now also a good rep­re­sen­ta­tion of what play­ers fa­mil­iar with the lay­out can ex­pect of the changes found through­out the rest of the course. Trees near the tee have been pruned for a friend­lier first tee shot for those of us who feel a slight case of the jit­ters on our first strike of the day, al­low­ing a wider mar­gin for er­ror. The fair­way bunkers on both sides have been re­shaped, with the fur­thest left of them filled in com­pletely. The approach to the green will also ap­pear and play di‹er­ently for re­turn vis­i­tors. The green has been low­ered slightly with the sur­round­ing ar­eas at the front of the green raised to make a more re­cep­tive tar­get, while the trou­ble right of the green, in­clud­ing the cavernous green­side bunker, is no longer.

With the changes made be­ing fo­cused on the sur­faces and sur­rounds of the course, not the de­sign of the holes, the clas­sic holes of Brookwater re­main just that, clas­sics. The back-to-back chal­lenge of the back-break­ing 545 me­tre par-5 4th and the down­hill par-3 5th, which plays far shorter than its stated 163 me­tres, is still one of the strong­est parts of the course. Min­i­mal work has been com­pleted on these two mem­o­rable holes, with vis­ual clear­ing again the main fo­cus.

As with all Greg Nor­man de­signs the player will­ing to take risks and who is good enough to ex­e­cute, is re­warded. Ag­gres­sive lines from the tees lead to longer drives and bet­ter an­gles into the greens thanks to the sloped fair­ways, which when com­bined with the of­ten el­e­vated tees and a well struck shot can be a won­der­ful boost to the ego. While a nice chance to pu‹ your chest out af­ter catch­ing a good drive down­hill, holes like the 4th quickly bring you back to size with your next two shots played up­hill.

The col­lec­tion of par-5s at Brookwater are some of the best you will find north of the Tweed River. Aside from the 4th, both the sig­na­ture 8th and 13th play over 500 me­tres, while the 17th is the short­est of the long holes and presents an op­por­tu­nity to reach the green in two - at 474 me­tres from the tips. Again a cer­tain amount of risk must be bal­anced with the po­ten­tial re­ward when at­tempt­ing to setup an ea­gle chance at 17. The bunker and wa­ter hazard to the right and short of the green join like a beach at the wa­ter’s edge, and have ru­ined many good scores late in the round of golfers who over ex­tend them­selves at­tempt­ing to reach the green.

Brookwater fin­ishes with a clas­sic Nor­man/ Har­ri­son hole that gives the golfer one last test. At 379 me­tres and played up­hill, the par-4 18th

re­quires one last good hit from the tee if you are to make a sat­is­fy­ing par on the dog­leg left hole. The green is set into the side of a hill be­low the club­house and pro­vides a nat­u­ral stage to im­press the mem­bers with a good approach and putt.

Amidst the tall Iron­barks and Gum trees at Brookwater, it is easy to feel alone on many of the holes and as you make your way around the course you won’t sight other holes from the one you are play­ing, adding to the peace­ful feel­ing that you have the course en­tirely to your­self.

Al­though the changes made have been sig­nif­i­cant and un­for­tu­nately dis­rup­tive to the nor­mal flow of op­er­a­tion at Brookwater, the lack of ma­jor de­sign changes mean the course should re­main high on every golfers must-play list. The changes have suc­ceeded in mak­ing the course far more playable and should see play­ers com­ing back more than once to en­joy the qual­ity va­ri­ety of holes.

As with all good cour­ses the va­ri­ety of tees make Brookwater playable for dier­ent lev­els of golfers. And while of­ten an in­tim­i­dat­ing sight from the tee, golfers will be quick to work out that safe layup ar­eas and the new, more gen­er­ous greens are more invit­ing and eas­ier to hold than in pre­vi­ous years. With the clear­ing of trees, branches and much of the ball mag­net-like rough, trav­el­ling golfers will no longer need to go over the air­line bag­gage limits with their ex­cess am­mu­ni­tion when trav­el­ling to Brookwater.

Brookwater re­mains a well pre­sented, stern test of golf and if pro­fes­sional golf tour­na­ments are to re­turn it will prove no easy beat. But it is cer­tainly a more en­joy­able and playable course that no longer gives the av­er­age golfer the feel­ing they have just gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson as they walk o the 18th.

The up­hill 10th hole is one of the shorter par-4s at Brookwater, mea­sur­ing 350 me­tres from the back.

The par-4 9th hole looks de­cep­tively nar­row from the tee set well be­low the fair­way.

The open­ing hole is a great ex­am­ple of the el­e­va­tion changes to come dur­ing the round.

Played up­hill, the par-4 18th gives golfers one fi­nal test be­fore re­tir­ing to the club­house.

Slop­ing fair­ways and el­e­va­tion changes are hall­marks of the long holes at Brookwater.

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