CLUB OF THE MONTH: BONVILLE GOLF RE­SORT

Hav­ing re­cently hosted the ALPG Tour’s Aus­tralian Ladies Clas­sic, one of this coun­try’s most spec­tac­u­lar in­land cour­ses has rarely looked bet­ter and is jus­ti­fy­ing the de­scrip­tion of­ten made by vis­i­tors as Aus­tralia’s Au­gusta.

Golf Australia - - CONTENTS - WORDS & PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BREN­DAN JAMES

Bonville is of­ten re­ferred to as Aus­tralia’s Au­gusta. Bren­dan James trav­elled to NSW’s north coast to find out why.

It’s not of­ten that the beauty of a golf course can sim­ply take your breath away, or at the very least make you stop for a minute to soak in the scene. If it was by the sea, dis­card that one be­cause any course or hole, no mat­ter how good or bad, can look world class and amaz­ing with an ocean view.

Let your thoughts drift away from the ocean to lush strip-cut and un­du­lat­ing fair­ways – lined with ma­jes­tic stands of flooded gums as well as vast ar­eas of sub-trop­i­cal for­est – and punc­tu­ated by white sandy bunkers. In the spring, blos­som­ing aza­leas and flow­er­ing na­tives add touches of pink, red, white and pur­ple to the colour pal­ette.

If you’re now think­ing of Bonville Golf Re­sort, you’ve been for­tu­nate enough, like me, to ex­pe­ri­ence ar­guably this coun­try’s most beau­ti­ful in­land golf course. If you haven’t played Bonville, there’s never been a bet­ter time to ex­pe­ri­ence what some are moved to de­scribe as Aus­tralia’s Au­gusta Na­tional.

There is some re­sem­blance to the fa­mous home of the Masters Tour­na­ment and all credit must go to the de­sign­ers, Terry Wat­son and Ted Stir­ling, whose brief from the orig­i­nal own­ers was to cre­ate a course like that found in

Ge­or­gia. How­ever, there is only one Au­gusta.

What Wat­son and Stir­ling did was cre­ate a dis­tinctly Aus­tralian course that has the some fea­tures Au­gusta is fa­mous for, in­clud­ing holes with great el­e­va­tion change be­tween tee and green, holes in­cor­po­rat­ing nat­u­ral wa­ter­courses, large un­du­lat­ing putting sur­faces and, of course, the aza­leas.

“The 17th is very sim­i­lar to the 12th at Au­gusta. It’s a sim­i­lar length, it has an el­e­vated tee. We don’t quite have the swirling winds they have at Au­gusta, but we have the back bunkers and the big wa­ter carry in the front,” says Bonville Chair­man Pe­ter Mont­gomery.

“There are some other holes that have sim­i­lar­ity in some of the shots, but we get told that all the time. It’s not re­ally proper busi­ness prac­tise to com­pare your­self to the heaven of golf, but in our own lit­tle way we like to think we re­sem­ble that beau­ti­ful course.

“We are happy to think that if peo­ple can’t get to Au­gusta they can at least get to Bonville. They’d be wel­comed here with open arms.”

Bonville opened for play 26 years ago and its de­sign in a beau­ti­ful set­ting has al­ways been its strength.

Dur­ing the past dozen years Bonville’s pre­sen­ta­tion has con­tin­ued to im­prove, year-on-year. The con­ver­sion of the greens to the more re­silient Ber­muda 328 grass more than a decade ago was a mas­ter stroke. All the bunkers were ren­o­vated as well a few years back and have never been bet­ter.

More re­cently, slight tweaks to the de­sign have seen a bunker moved near the 1st green to cre­ate a wider en­try to al­low shots to run onto the green, while the cart path that used to skirt the edge of the green on the par-3 8th hole has been re-routed well away from the play­ing area.

It is the lit­tle changes like this that con­tinue to en­hance the play­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at Bonville.

Then, of course, there are the holes you will long re­mem­ber, with Bonville’s par-5s be­ing par­tic­u­larly mem­o­rable.

Each of the par-5s re­quire at­ten­tion to strate­gic de­tail and, just like Au­gusta, putting your shots in the right po­si­tion from the tee and in lay-up ar­eas will reap ben­e­fits.

The 485-me­tre 4th is a great driv­ing hole with a sad­dle-shaped fair­way fun­nelling even slightly o”-line shots back to the cen­tre of the

WE ARE HAPPY TO THINK THAT IF PEO­PLE CAN’T GET TO AU­GUSTA THEY CAN AT LEAST GET TO BONVILLE. – PE­TER MONT­GOMERY

mown por­tion. The ag­gres­sive player may con­sider go­ing for the green in two shots here but it is a shot that must be solid and shaped slightly right-to-left around the dog­leg and the wall of flooded gums flank­ing the fair­way. Two fair­way traps and a huge swale, both about 60 me­tres short of the green, are in play and can com­pli­cate the er­rant lay-up shot.

There is no bet­ter ex­am­ple of risk-and-re­ward par-5 strat­egy de­sign than that found on Bonville’s clos­ing hole – a 460-me­tre jour­ney up and over a hill be­tween deep rows of tow­er­ing flooded gums that line the way to the green, which sits just beyond a pond and stream. Stand­ing on the crest of this hill look­ing down to­ward the green, with the aza­leas in full bloom, you can imag­ine a sim­i­lar view con­fronting play­ers at the Masters when play­ing the fa­mous 13th or 15th holes. For many play­ers, there is never any ques­tion whether to go for the green in two shots or not. In such a won­der­ful theatre that the 18th pro­vides it is hard not to add to the drama by throw­ing oˆ the shack­les and risk­ing a dropped shot or two by go­ing for it.

As you walk oˆ the fi­nal green you might agree with my be­lief that one round at Bonville In­ter­na­tional is never enough. The re­sort has ac­com­mo­da­tion over­look­ing the 1st fair­way, while the Queens­lan­der-style club­house boasts the multi-award win­ning Flooded Gums restau­rant where you can dine on great food as you over­look the course. So there are re­ally no ex­cuses not to stick around and play at least one more round.

Bonville lays the chal­lenge squarely at your feet from the open­ing tee shot.

The beau­ti­ful par-3 8th hole has been fur­ther en­hanced with the re-rout­ing of a cart path.

De­spite com­mon sense sug­gest­ing to lay-up, few can re­sist go­ing for the green in two on the 18th.

There are a va­ri­ety of ways to play the par-5 4th hole can be played ef­fec­tively.

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