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Bad Drive

Tiger has made the news for non-golfing reasons this weekend.

For someone who has avoided any bad press this little episode at least let’s us know that life is not always perfect for the world’s greatest golfer.

When most of us have a bad drive no-one knows. For Tiger it meant front page all around the world. Such publicity is the price of fame. Unfortunately not all media outlets are committed to objective truth, and speculative or imaginative reporting ends up being far more damaging that contact with a fire hydrant. Why not back off and just report the facts as they are known? It’s about selling newspapers, and nothing helps that more than a little salacious and unfounded gossip.

Tiger could help himself now by fronting the media, and the police, and making a statement about what happened. Until he does others are going to fill in the blanks with whatever beats this thing up even more.

Colac

It is ten years since Craig Spence won the Australian Masters.  His home course was Colac, and it was a delight to play on that course a few days ago.  No doubt there have been some adjustments on the course over the last ten years, and they have recently redesigned the 14th green and surrounds.  There is still a little way to go with this change, but it looks promising.  With water on the right, and a bunker guarding the left side of the green it will raise the stakes on the approach to the hole.

Unseasonal November weather had seen 30 mm of rain overnight, but the course coped well. It was a delight to play on the lush and well maintained fairways, and to putt on quick greens. Rain meant that the greens were holding well, and that may have made my day a little easier.

Colac GC 18th and 9th greens

Colac GC 18th and 9th greens

There are eight holes that dogleg left. On a number of occasions drives are played over a rise and it is not possible to see where a good drive will finish.  With those two factors in mind the 1st,2nd, 5th,6th, and 17th  are holes that require good placement off the tee to score well. Of the four par 3’s on the course the 3rd is perhaps my favourite, as the green is guarded by trees right and left of the narrow fairway.

Having played well for 15 holes a good score was on the cards, it was there that the game could have fallen in a hole.  It seems that the mental side of the game needs to be worked on almost as much as the technical side. Fortunately things got back on track with little damage. Thinking about the score rather than the shot being played is not a good way to go.

Thanks to the staff at Colac for a well prepared course, and an enjoyable round of golf.

A question of balance

Balanced?

There are times when golf is a struggle. You love playing but things just don’t seem to be working out. Your drives are a bit inconsistent, and the normally reliable short game lapses into that of a beginner. All the tinkering with grip, set up, alignment and swing doesn’t bring sustained improvement.

Balanced?

After a three-month layoff my game was off.  I was still hitting the ball OK at times, but ball striking was inconsistent. There were too many fluffed shots. Despite my efforts I could not find the answer.

Sometimes another set of eyes, or a different perspective, is needed.  I got that when my wife chronicled a round with our digital camera.

On poor shots one of two faults were obvious  – my balance was poor, or my head came up too early.  I now know what to work on.

Tiger Woods and $3 million dollars.

There is no doubt that getting Tiger Woods out to the Australian Masters was a marketing winner.

Tiger drew the crowds, gained the publicity and even won the tournament. For winning he got less than $300,000. For being here he got ten times that amount.

Tiger is to be admired for his achievements, golfing skills and work ethic.  He is, without doubt, the best golfer in the world at present.  He is also one of the richest golfers in the world. $3 million is simply icing on a very large cake. I hope he does something worthwhile with the little bonus.  Lots of schools, orphanages, refugee centres and medical facilities in the developing world would welcome even half of his after-tax return.

One question I have from this comes from a pre-tournament interview.  Tiger competed in the President’s Cup in Australia a few years back, but it is over the years since he last competed in an Australian tournament.  He openly praises the sand-belt courses as among the best in the world, yet it is ten years since he deigned to play in an Australian tournament.  The reason it has been so long – his schedule would not allow it!

OK, so Tiger takes November as his holiday break. He didn’t this year! Why? His scheduled allowed it.

Who controls Tiger’s schedule? Let’s face it – if Tiger had really wanted to come to Australia and play on our wonderful courses he would have been here years ago. As one of the world’s great ambassadors for the game of golf it must be hard to be straight up and say – I would have liked to come here earlier, but your sponsors wouldn’t come up with enough money for me to bother!

I,  too, would love to play at Kingston Heath, at Royal Melbourne, or any number of great golf courses… I can be straight up and say, “On my income, I can’t afford it”.   Tiger doesn’t have that problem.

If an invitation came and it was not possible to accept the invitation I am happy to admit to a conflict where work or family must take priority.  Tiger could have done that, but chose to say his ‘schedule’ would not allow it. In ten years he could not find the time to play golf in an Australian tournament. Let’s face it, Tiger chose not to come.

You know something, I do not mind that he did not come. He has his reasons, and that’s OK,  just don’t give us the line that for the last ten years a visit down under wouldn’t fit in the schedule.  It’s not about the schedule;  it is about the money!

The Longest Golf course in the World

Balladonia FairwayIf you are serious about your golf you must play this course.  Do not try to play it without a buggy/car. The holes are not long, but the distances between holes can be up to 200 kilometres. Stretching between Kalgoorlie and Ceduna (or Ceduna  and Kalgoorlie if you start in the east) the course is made up of a variety of holes strategically located on the Nullarbor Highway. Many are ‘purpose built’ holes while seven are on pre-existing courses at Kalgoorlie, Kambalda, Norseman and Ceduna.

Ball striking needs to be crisp and clean, and allowances must be  made for the unpredictability of the bounce. In a little bit of sand there will be no run, hit some hard pan or rock and you may have a seriously challenging recovery shot to play.  On the fairways preferred lies (within a club length) may be taken. A portable mat is available to protect your clubs, but off the fairway it is play the ball as it lies, with local rules protecting native vegetation .  It is not clear how a 15 cm preferred lie will protect the native vegetation that is on the fairways.

Kalgoorlie – Hannans Golf CourseKalgoorlie Kangas

1st = Hannans 10th.  Par 4.

A 350 metre slight dogleg left this is a straightforward hole. Best position is right of centre off the tee which opens up the approach to a flat sand green.  My visit followed an overnight storm in Kalgoorlie. The ‘green’ was firm and flat, but the scraper was no where to be seen.  Kangaroos along the fairway added to the  experience and distracted from the swarms of small ants that were active the rain.

Kalgoorlie 2 DSCF56962nd = Hannans 18th. Par 4.

This downhill par 4 is ostensibly shorter than the first, yet the local markers tell a different story unless you play from the yellow forward tee. Opting for the back markers means the tee shot must clear the short trees about 60 meters from the markers, or be directed to their left and faded back to the fairway.  Trees along that side provide a few challenges if you then fail to get the needed shape on your ball. The ‘green’ slopes gently towards the front and here short is best.

Kambalda

3rd = Kambalda’s first hole. Par 4.

The Nullarbor card reads 392 metres, local signage says 400 metres. What’s a few metres between friends?

A good drive is required off the tee on this log dogleg left. The best drive is over the tree on the left of the fairway (about 180 metre carry) which will set up a short iron to the green.  Anything further right or short will demand a very good long iron shot to a green protected left and right by dirt mounds some ten meters short of the green.  Once on the green judgement of distance is key. These sand greens are slower than Kalgoorlie, and the challenge is to strike the putt hard enough to make the distance.

Norseman

4th = Norseman’s 1st Par 4.

The legend reads 346 metres. Looking down the fairway that is hard to believe. After playing the two holes it is clearly a mistake. Maybe the original plan called for it, but this is the 436m hole  that is next on the card. It is another dogleg left where the best drive is on the right of the fairway. A drive too close to the left will require a long second shot over tree to the green where the next challenge begins. This is the first of the artificial greens and distance judgement here is crucial. A nice fringe of about a metre is provided, but the putting surface itself can be a little slick, especially compared to the sand greens.

5th = Norseman’s 18th Par 4.  436m.

This hole is only 346 meters. Here the best position is left of the fairway – go too long down the right and scrub awaits. A look at the green reveals one of the great challenges of this course. Each approach requires courage, judgment and luck. Around the green and approach is a  metre of sand, clearly part of the base on which the green was laid. Land in it and the ball may stop dead, land on the green, and it is likely to bouce through. Fortunately there are no bukners here. There is enough sand around this green to make them unnecessary. The good thing is the preferred  lie and the portable ‘fairway’ on which to place your ball.

Fraser Range.

6th  Par 3 141m.

First of the par 3’s this is a little downhiller with no hazards to see. Beware,  there is a dry creek bed over the back. Play short of the green as a well struck shot will continue down the hill much further than you might expect.  Once on the green the surface is slick. The slight rise developing aournd the cups means that putts must still be struck firmly if they are to go into the hole, so even little downhill putts can be treacherous.

Balladonia

7th Par 3 175m

A straight shot with a carry of 165 meters will put your ball around the green. Anything else and there is fun to be had. Piles of dead trees right and left guard the green, with a ‘generous’ 10 metre opening available to run the ball through. Trees to left and right of the green, a road, and saltbush behind complete the secutiry system for this little ripper of a hole. The artifical green is fairly level, and a nice respite after bush bashing.

Caiguna

8th Par 4 310 m.Caiguna Approach

A small tree in the middle of the fairway marks the line, play your tee shot a little to the left and you will be in good shape for the second.  Two hundred meters on this line is to long, so the shot needs to be drawn around the corner, or played to the fairway you can see.  Hit your tee shot too and the scrub awaits. Take my advice – lay up off the tee.  Playing the second to the green may still require negotiating a few small stands of trees that add character to the hole, and prevent an off line bump and run from getting anywhere near the hole.

Cocklebiddy

9th Par 4 347 m.

After the demanding tee shots of the previous two holes this is a piece of cake, if you can clear the 170 metres of grass the sits between you and the fairway. Don’t worry too much, the grass is spindly and sparse, and gives way to a flat neatly groomed dirt fairway that will offer metres of roll to a well struck drive. The green has an extended fringe (about three metres). It was the first two tiered green I encountered. Naturally enough the hole is placed in the back left third of the green which requires a chip or putt up over a slight ridge. After previous experience on these greens the challenge is magnified. Just how hard do you hit this approach shot?

Nullarbor Links 2

Border Village

13th Par 3 160 metres
Starting near the big kangaroo this par three requires a sound tee shot through the narrow fairway. The elongated green has space at the back for the long shot, but trouble awaits on the right hand side.  Sand blown over the back of the green will slow the putt or chip on this two-tier green

Nullarbor Roadhouse
14th Par 5 538 metres

Keeping the drive on the fairway is a challenge when playing into a headwind. The fairway narrows and turns right at about 200 metres. A rabbit warren located on a good line at about 220 metres offers a good target.  Left and right of the fairway the saltbush awaits, with limestone rocks also on the right.  Once on the green your troubles are over if you can putt. This long hole is made very difficult if you play military golf,  i.e. left, right, left, right!

Nundroo Roadhouse
1Nundroo search5th Par 5 520 metres
Carved out of the paddock adjoining the roadhouse this challenging par 5 requires a strong tee shot up the rise, and a well placed second. From the tee two trees hide a bank set to trap a long drive down the right hand side of the fairway. A 200 metre drive should clear the trees, and the result is then dependent on the bounce of the ball. For the second over the rise it will be best to have a spotter, as trees are again aligned to trap or block the result of a good shot. About 20 metres short of the green a narrow furrow of rocks crosses the fairway creating some danger for a bump and run approach shot.

Penong
16th Par 4 260 metres
Distances can be deceiving, and this uphill hole plays shorter than it looks. Good run on the fairway give a good drive the chance to reach the green if the trees that shape the fairway can be avoided.
The hole is on the site of the old Penong Golf Course, but there is no evidence that this was once the local links.

Ceduna
17th Par 5 485 metres
Back on to a golf course for the final holes this straight par 5 offers welcome relief. A good drive will finish short of the narrowing portion, but there is danger behind the sand green. Grass in front is spongy and will hold the ball well, as will the soft sand green. Putting on these surfaces requires the confidence to strike the ball firmly, no small task after 13 holes of the slick artificial turf.

18th Par 4 370 metres.
Out of bounds on the right, trees on the left and a fairway in between. Hoping for a good finish the drive needs to hit the fairway or the green will be out of reach when a southerly breeze is in play. Again the grass around the green will hold the ball and any approach needs to be struck with confidence and firmness.

And that’s it, apart from a trip to the local visitor centre to get your Certificate.

The world’s longest golf course – 1395 kilometres. It took four days – and all of them were warm. As the round progressed the temperature increased.  As we crossed the Nullarbor the temperature was unseasonably warm, but 40 degrees is manageable when you pay one hole at a time, and can retreat to the local roadhouse for a cold drink before jumping into an air-conditioned car.

It was a great experience that I would recommend to any golfer.  Just don’t take it too seriously, just enjoy the journey and have fun.

Now… I wonder how much it would cost to entice Tiger Woods to play a round?

Golfing at Guilderton, W.A.

Sand scrapes are not my preferred putting surface, but in some parts of Australia they are the only affordable and manageable option for golf courses. The choice is simple – sand greens or no greens. Sand greens win every time.

Guilderton is a small holiday/farming village about 100 kms north of Perth. It is a delightful little spot right on the beach at the mouth of the Moore River, and they have a golf course.

This nine-holer winds around the top of a small hill and offers a very interesting challenge for holiday makes, and good golfers alike. Distance is not an issue on this course, direction is!

From a number of tees you cannot see the green. It is either over the hill, or around the corner. Tee shots need to be placed carefully or will be in the tea tree – lost or unplayable.

Approach to the 6th green. Note the sloping fairway in the foreground.

Par 5’s should be meat and drink for long hitters. Watch out for No 2! A severely sloping fairway winds along the side of the hill, and a well-placed drive down the left could well end up in the scrub on the right – lost or unplayable.

Consecutive par 3’s follow. Number 3 requires a blind shot over the rise to a green just 150m away. Number 4 is just 110m, but is all uphill. A neat little par 4 follows where a gentle slice or a big fade will be required to get a long drive anywhere near the green on this 300m hole. Undulations on the remaining holes offer enough difficulty and variation to keep the good golfer interested. On all these holes judgement of distance and placement of shots is a key ingredient to a good score.

The sand greens were consistent,  tees and fairways have a good coverage of grass, and the course is well maintained. For $10 a day it is great value.

Conclsion: a neat little golf course that is worth exploring.