CLUB OF THE MONTH: LONG REEF GOLF CLUB

Oc­cu­py­ing a slop­ing head­land on Sydney’s North­ern Beaches, Long Reef boasts more than just mag­nif­i­cent ocean views. The golf is good enough to have the course ranked in the Top-100 Pub­lic Ac­cess Cour­ses in Aus­tralia.

Golf Australia - - NEWS - WORDS MICHAEL JONES PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BREN­DAN JAMES

Michael Jones dis­cov­ers why this lay­out has been de­scribed as one the best golf­ing prop­er­ties in Sydney.

The last thing you want when you have a tee time at one Sydney’s best golf cour­ses is for your car not to start. Well, lo and be­hold, the ever-re­li­able 20-year-old Subaru Im­preza had cho­sen this day, of all days, to go into a deep slum­ber; un­able to be wo­ken.

I had been look­ing for­ward to my round at Long Reef for some time now af­ter hear­ing all about its stun­ning panoramic ocean views. Not to men­tion its high-qual­ity play­ing sur­faces. There was no way I was miss­ing this. My auto-me­chan­i­cal skills are rudi­men­tary at best, so thank­fully I stum­bled upon a far more com­pe­tent and ex­tremely kind man, who was only happy to help a fel­low golfer. Fi­nally, and for­tu­nately, I was on my way to join my play­ing part­ners.

Af­ter leav­ing Sydney’s CBD I had a pleas­ant 30-minute drive to re­flect upon what I al­ready knew about Long Reef. It ini­tially opened as a 9-hole course in 1921 be­fore the links-style 18-hole course, de­signed by Dan Soutar, opened in 1931. Its lush kikuyu fair­ways and flaw­less poa an­nua greens are well-main­tained by Peter Donkers and his team, and its po­si­tion on the head­land oŒers ocean views north and south. With my hands at the wheel of a much live­lier car, I made the turn onto An­zac Av­enue and was im­me­di­ately smit­ten by Long Reef’s prox­im­ity to the wa­ter. It truly does oc­cupy an in­cred­i­ble piece of land. And if my word isn’t good enough, take five-time Bri­tish Open cham­pion Peter Thom­son’s, who re­designed sev­eral holes in the mid-‘90s and says it cov­ers “the best site of any golf course in Sydney.”

De­spite cold-top­ping my first tee shot in front of more peo­ple than I care to men­tion, I was un­der­way and ex­cited to ex­pe­ri­ence a place I’d been hear­ing so much about. The first thing you’ll no­tice, apart from its ter­rific

con­di­tion­ing, is how ex­posed the lay­out is to the wind. The more you can con­trol your shots and keep them down, the bet­ter you’ll per­form dur­ing this en­joy­able test.

The open­ing hole is a chal­leng­ing up­hill par-5 that doglegs right and fea­tures a stream cut­ting across the fair­way about 200 me­tres, at its clos­est point, from the tee. Depend­ing on the wind, which is a phrase you’ll hear of­ten dur­ing a round at Long Reef, you’ll be hit­ting any­thing from driver to a long-iron to pull up left and short of the lat­eral haz­ard, be­fore en­joy­ing your first view of an el­e­vated green.

Mov­ing to the 2nd hole, a beau­ti­ful 122-me­tre par-3, you’ll be­gin to ap­pre­ci­ate the ex­ten­sive ocean views and to­pog­ra­phy of the course. Again, the wind plays a ma­jor role in club se­lec­tion and you could be us­ing any­thing from a wedge to a mid-iron. You’ll also no­tice, if you hadn’t al­ready, the in­trigu­ing look to the col­lars of the greens. The al­most bluish tinge of Sea Isle pas­palum grass has re­placed rye grass in the past 10 years and adds dura­bil­ity to the greens’ sur­rounds, which is vi­tally im­por­tant as Long Reef hosts more than 60,000 rounds per year.

The par-4 3rd hole will con­fuse first timers, who will be ba‰ed by an in­tim­i­dat­ing blind tee-shot. Thank­fully, the carts here are fit­ted with GPS sys­tems that tell you ex­actly where, and how far, you need to go. Not that it helped this writer, who found one of the course’s im­mac­u­late, al­beit sneaky fair­way bunkers be­yond the sharp dog­leg left. It cer­tainly has the po­ten­tial to ruin a promis­ing start.

Once you ar­rive back at the club­house, which sits across the road from the 9th tee, be sure to pop across and sam­ple some of its won­der­ful food. And, if you’re plan­ning a wed­ding or event, you’ll see just how ter­rific the pri­vate beach­front ter­race would be for the big day.

As you walk to the 10th tee, you may have to swal­low your pride and pull out the big stick in or­der to reach the el­e­vated green of a 200-plus me­tre par-3 (from the back tees). But once you do ar­rive on the short stu•, you can look back to be greeted by a mar­vel­lous ocean view all the way south to Manly.

De­spite the en­joy­ment of the out­ward nine, it’s the jour­ney back in that makes this place so mem­o­rable. The stretch of holes from the 13th to the 17th is, for mine, the high­light of a round at Long Reef.

My first im­pres­sion of the par-3 13th was its peace­ful­ness – it feels some­what se­cluded from its fel­low holes and plays a con­stant sound­track of crash­ing waves and chirp­ing birds. At 138 me­tres from the tips, it seems

LONG REEF CLAIMS TO BE ‘SYDNEY’S FINEST BEACH­FRONT COURSE’ AND IT RESTS ITS CASE ON THE 17TH TEE.

fairly de­fence­less. But don’t be fooled, it can bite hard. The tee box is pro­tected from strong winds that of­ten leave the green a long iron away, and writ­ing a three on your card will have you feel­ing sat­is­fied.

Leave plenty of space on your phone for pho­tos from the tee at the par-4 14th. In front of you is a birds-eye shot of the en­tire lay­out and views over Dee Why and Manly, and be­hind you and to your right you’ll be able to see all the way to Palm Beach on a clear day. While the 15th hole, a 462-me­tre par-5, takes you back up the hill and – wind al­low­ing – is reach­able in two for the longer hit­ters. Its slop­ing green is one of the most in­ter­est­ing at Long Reef with a steep false front that will spit any shots short of the flag back down the hill.

Beauty awaits as you leave the point of the head­land for the last time and move down the par-4 16th. A hooked tee shot here will end up on Long Reef Beach and a green­side swale will of­ten catch er­rant ap­proaches of that same na­ture. Any­thing less than par on this hole would be quite the ac­com­plish­ment.

The 400–me­tre par-4 17th hole is the jewel in the crown of this ter­rific stretch of holes. Long Reef claims to be “Sydney’s finest beach­front course” and it rests its case on the 17th tee. Take a mo­ment to en­joy the beauty of this hole be­cause you’re in for your tough­est test yet. With out-of-bounds loom­ing left and the self-pro­claimed “Mounds of Sin” to the right, you’ll do well to es­cape here with par. As I packed my clubs away and set o’ home, I off’ered a sin­cere thank you to the man who re­sus­ci­tated my car and al­lowed me to ex­pe­ri­ence the bril­liance of Long Reef Golf Club.

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Bumps, humps, hol­lows and bunkers add to the test of the 393-me­tre par-4 4th hole.

The par-4 16th lets you go wild with driver but you have to be straight with your ap­proach.

Long Reef of­fers great views on ev­ery hole but this is ar­guably the best of all of them.

Cross bunkers about 60 me­tres short of the 14th green can wreak havoc on the un­wary.

The 6th (be­low) and 12th (above) are among Long Reef’s best in a fine col­lec­tion of short par-4s.

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