COURSE REVIEW: BROOKWATER GOLF & CC
GOLF AND COUNTRY CLUB
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 dierently 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 dierent 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.