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.
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 clitop 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 diculty 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).