WE ARE SPOILT FOR CHOICE

Since ar­riv­ing on these shores in 1983 I’ve been priv­i­leged to ex­pe­ri­ence some of the finest cour­ses around, and it’s given me a real pas­sion for course ar­chi­tec­ture

Golf Monthly - - Your View -

he golf­ing ter­rain of the Bri­tish Isles is some of the best to be seen any­where. Be­ing Aus­tralian, though, I have to get some­thing in for us! We have some pretty cool golf cour­ses down un­der. Some of the places you prob­a­bly haven’t played are the sand­belt lay­outs in and around Mel­bourne. They are a must play at some point in your life. Se­ri­ously. They are rem­i­nis­cent of your Sur­rey and Berkshire clas­sics; heath­land lay­outs that are to­tal mas­ter­pieces in their own right. And that is com­ing from a Syd­ney lad!

As you might have guessed, there is a lit­tle bit of a ri­valry be­tween Mel­bourne and Syd­ney. Our cities don’t com­pare. We win that one, but when it comes down to golf play­grounds, they win do­ing hand­stands. We have some nice cour­ses, but there’s only one clas­sic in our ter­ri­tory: New South Wales Golf Club, a semi-links over­look­ing the birth­place of my na­tion, Bot­tany Bay.

When I first ar­rived onto your shores back in 1983 – gee whiz, has it re­ally been that long? Have you good peo­ple re­ally been putting up with me for that long! – I was so look­ing for­ward to ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the cour­ses I’d seen on TV watch­ing The Open Cham­pi­onship and read all about in Golf Monthly.

Golf course de­sign has al­ways been a pas­sion of mine. Back when I played, I got as much sat­is­fac­tion see­ing a great golf course as I did play­ing one. Re­gard­less of whether it was a links, park­land or heath­land lay­out, I was al­ways in­fat­u­ated by what the de­sign­ers were try­ing to achieve. Did they suc­ceed, or did they to­tally stuff up and botch a great piece of land? I just love walk­ing and analysing cour­ses, it gives me a real buzz.

I re­ally like park­land cour­ses and I have played many good ones, es­pe­cially in Amer­ica, that the ar­chi­tects and mem­bers should be proud of, but they aren’t my favourites. When it comes to links golf, who isn’t a fan? It’s man against the el­e­ments. Some say it’s the truest form of the game, but I beg to dif­fer. It’s cer­tainly the old­est form of the game, and the hard­est, but the truest? Maybe yes, maybe no. There can be a lot of luck in links. Don’t get me wrong, I won the Scot­tish Open around what many con­sider to be the hard­est links out there – Carnoustie – so ob­vi­ously I’m a huge fan of it, but when it comes to my

Tpref­er­ence, I find it very hard to beat heath­land golf. It has an in­land links and park­land feel all rolled into one. Heath­land cour­ses are syn­ony­mous with rhodo­den­drons and ob­vi­ously heather, and when they are in bloom it just brings the wow fac­tor. A lot of re­design­ing ar­chi­tects are get­ting their way with the boards that rep­re­sent the mem­bers of great heath­land cour­ses. They are con­vinc­ing them to take a lot of the heather, a lot of the rhodo­den­drons and a lot of the ferns out. Yes, this helps the course and the greens to breathe bet­ter, but we need to make sure we’re keep­ing a rein on it.

Sure, it’s im­por­tant for cour­ses to evolve, like a Sun­ning­dale, like a Swin­ley For­est, like a New Zealand Golf Club. I truly be­lieve there should be some form of man­i­cur­ing here and there, but let’s not go crazy. Tak­ing vast swathes of heather out isn’t a man­i­cure. Let’s go easy on these greats. Let’s nur­ture them. Let’s play these cour­ses and recog­nise the great men who brought na­ture to the fore. Be­cause let’s face it, there isn’t an­other game that is blessed with the beauty that golf is. Oh sorry, that’s un­til you hit a drive straight into the jun­gle off the first tee.

If you’re push­ing me for my favourite heath­land cour­ses, I’d have to say Sun­ning­dale, which is heaven on earth. If you wanted to play golf ev­ery day of the week, that’s where you would choose, for sure. Swin­ley For­est is also right up there, and what an amaz­ing lunch by the way, as is The Berkshire. All these bril­liant places just of­fer the quin­tes­sen­tial English golf­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

As I men­tioned, golf course ar­chi­tec­ture is some­thing I’ve been in­ter­ested in for a while, and I’ve ac­tu­ally re­cently been ap­proach with re­gards to de­sign­ing a course out in Sri Lanka. I can’t let on too much at the mo­ment, and I’ll keep you up­dated as things progress, but it’s def­i­nitely an ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity. It’s a 128-acre plot and I’ll be fly­ing out to have a look at it af­ter the Se­nior Bri­tish Open. It’s a beau­ti­ful part of the world and it’s com­ing on leaps and bounds, so I’m very much look­ing for­ward to it.

“If you’re push­ing me for my favourite heath­land cour­ses, I’d say Sun­ning­dale. If you wanted to play golf ev­ery day of the week, that’s where you’d choose”

Wayne Riley is a for­mer mem­ber of the Euro­pean Tour and two-time win­ner who is now part of the Sky Sports Golf Team. Wayne writes ex­clu­sively for Golf Monthly

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