COURSE RE­VIEW: MONA VALE GOLF CLUB

GOLF CLUB Ly­ing be­side the Pa­cific Ocean on Syd­ney’s North­ern Beaches, Mona Vale Golf Club will cel­e­brate its 90th an­niver­sary this month as one of the most pop­u­lar cour­ses to be found in the Har­bour City. Here’s why.

Golf Australia - - CONTENTS - MONAVALE•NS W WORDS JIMMY EMANUEL PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BREN­DAN JAMES

Jimmy Emanuel vis­its Mona Vale Golf Club ahead of its 90th an­niver­sary and shares why it has long been one of the most pop­u­lar cour­ses in the Har­bour City.

Play­ing by the sea has at­tracted golfers to Mona Vale for 90 years. It is an idyl­lic lo­ca­tion to play the game, get some ocean air in your lungs and soak in the views from the club­house.

But the club was forced to ne­go­ti­ate a rocky path be­fore firmly es­tab­lish­ing it­self as the pop­u­lar lay­out that can be found to­day.

Vol­un­teer labour built the orig­i­nal nine holes and the club­house be­gan life as a re­lo­cated am­bu­lance sta­tion. The club had to ne­go­ti­ate with War­ringah Coun­cil dur­ing the 1930s to lease land and a deal to ac­quire more land from the Sal­va­tion Army turned sour. Then, once World War II started, the gov­ern­ment ap­pro­pri­ated the course to es­tab­lish a camp as the course’s cli‚top lo­ca­tion pre­sented an ideal look­out for sea-borne en­e­mies. The pres­ence of the de­fence forces saw the course take two full years to re­cover af­ter the war. Later, in 1961, fire razed the club­house just one year af­ter the course fi­nally ex­panded to 18 holes.

Fifty years on, the club has a strong mem­ber­ship and there al­ways seems to be a steady flow of vis­it­ing golfers ea­ger to test their skills. The im­prove­ments made at Mona Vale in re­cent times saw the course climb back into Golf Aus­tralia’s Top-100 Pub­lic Ac­cess Cour­ses in Jan­uary this year.

Now ranked No.67, the 18-hole lay­out has be­come known for the ex­cep­tional con­di­tion in which it is found year round. With that rep­u­ta­tion set to spread far and wide when Mona Vale Golf Club hosts some of the world’s best am­a­teurs for the 2019 stag­ing of the NSW Am­a­teur.

And while re­turn­ing play­ers look out from the club­house, which sits high above the course and just a driver from the Pa­cific Ocean, to see the fa­mil­iar lay­out dot­ted with stands of Nor­folk Is­land Pines, gums and other trees.

Closer in­spec­tion un­earths some course changes that have im­proved playa­bil­ity as well as giv­ing the par-72 some ex­tra bite at both the start and con­clu­sion of the round.

Perched high above the rest of the course the open­ing tee o ers stun­ning vis­tas over Mona Vale beach to the ocean, but once you have struck your drive on the 485-me­tre dog­leg right you bid farewell to the sight of ocean for much of the tree-lined front 10 holes. The ever-present smell of salt in the air and al­most con­stant sea breezes en­sure, how­ever, that you won’t soon for­get you are in the heart of what the lo­cals re­fer to as “God’s coun­try”.

Af­ter nav­i­gat­ing the 1st hole, which is reach­able for the long hit­ters and where the main trou­ble is pre­sented by a pond on the left of the fair­way, play­ers will ar­rive at the site of the first of the changes.

The up­hill par-3 2nd plays 172 me­tres from the back tees and is more men­ac­ing than in pre­vi­ous years thanks to the con­struc­tion of a new green that is more than dou­ble the size of the pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tion. The new putting sur­face was the first of a num­ber of greens sched­uled to be re­placed and, de­spite set­tling in well since its 2016 re­build, the other greens have been put on the back burner for the time be­ing.

The new green on the first of the short holes o ers an in­creased num­ber of hole lo­ca­tions and to­gether with re­worked bunker­ing gives the open­ing at Mona Vale some added men­ace. Dra­matic slopes through the mid­dle of the green make find­ing the cor­rect level from the tee or with a green­side sec­ond shot cru­cial.

Al­most 30 me­tres shorter than the 1st hole,

the sec­ond of the par-5s is the next o er­ing a gen­uine early birdie chance. A slightly claus­tro­pho­bic feel­ing greets golfers at the 3rd tee thanks to the dense stands of trees that re­quire play­ers to find the mid­dle to right half of the fair­way to give them­selves a chance at knock­ing it on the green in two. Make no mis­take, how­ever, if like my­self you slightly mis­fire with your sec­ond shot into the nar­row green, two bunkers wait in readi­ness to cause diculty in se­cur­ing your par and a pond short left of the putting sur­face swal­lows any badly hooked miss cues.

Mona Vale’s early tree-lined fair­ways put a pre­mium on straight driv­ing and first-time play­ers will of­ten make their way through nu­mer­ous holes be­fore notic­ing the rel­a­tive lack of fair­way bunkers on the course.

In fact it isn’t un­til play­ers reach the up­hill par-4 10th tee that they are faced with the first of the course’s five fair­way traps. Hit less than driver to the left side of the fair­way, avoid­ing the bunkers right and long left, to leave a wedge or short-iron to the green, which has been re­designed and moved in re­cent years to take play away from bor­der­ing Golf Av­enue.

When you reach the No.1 ranked par-4, 15th, which plays as a par-5 for the ladies, you will be em­bark­ing on a four-hole stretch that is the best on the course. It is one that is sure to pro­vide ex­cite­ment dur­ing the clos­ing stages of the 2019 Am­a­teur.

Played up­hill to a green cut into a steep hill, the 15th re­quires ac­cu­racy from the tee with wa­ter right and trees left to be avoided. If your ap­proach shot is a lit­tle shy it can roll back down the hill, leav­ing some­thing sim­i­lar for your next, while long of the green is no bet­ter on this 408 me­tre hole. With a patch of long grass and a shelf be­hind the green, leav­ing a chip or putt back down onto the putting sur­face that re­quires nerves of steel as the mem­bers watch on from the club­house above.

Next is the pick of the one shot­ters and is Mona Vale’s sig­na­ture hole. Mea­sur­ing just 133 me­tres from the tips and play­ing al­most a full club down­hill, the 16th can bear its teeth and re­quires al­most any iron in the bag when the wind is into and o the right, par­tic­u­larly with a back left flag. The long green fea­tures a ridge through the mid­dle, en­sur­ing the job of mak­ing par is not done even if you find the green with your tee shot.

Like the 2nd, the 17th has ex­pe­ri­enced ma­jor changes in re­cent times, with drainage and safety prob­lems re­lat­ing to a pub­lic path re­quir­ing the club to amend the hole. A new tee, the ad­di­tion of fair­way bunkers left and the re­moval of trees right have opened up the hole. Out-of-bounds bor­ders the left of the fair­way, which has ben­e­fited from the drainage work and solved wa­ter re­tain­ing is­sues. New mound­ing and the large chal­leng­ing green make what was per­haps pre­vi­ously the weak­est hole of the out­stand­ing stretch, one of the best.

Fi­nally play­ers ar­rive at the par-4 18th that re­sem­bles the 15th hole, but like the 1st and 11th, re­verses the large wa­ter haz­ards po­si­tion to present a choice from the tee for the long­est play­ers. In the right con­di­tions, bombers can chal­lenge as much of the wa­ter as they dare to cut the cor­ner and leave a shorter club into the up­hill green. The safe play though is to the fat part of the fair­way leav­ing a mid-iron into a green sur­rounded by a bowl form­ing a nat­u­ral am­phithe­atre.

Ac­cu­racy is para­mount from the tee on the long par-4 15th hole, with wa­ter flank­ing the fair­way.

Wa­ter left of the ap­proach on the par-5 3rd hole will catch even the slight­est mis-hit.

The down­hill par-3 16th of­fers mem­o­rable ocean views.

The huge bunker left of the 8th green is best avoided, as is the lake left of the 18th fair­way (be­low).

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