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Exploring the majestic New South Wales GC

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Our Australian adventure comes to an end and we finish on a high note with the crown jewel: New South Wales GC.

One of the greatest golf architects ever, Alister Mackenzie (1870-1934), designed New South Wales Golf Course back in 1928. Laid out on a beautiful piece of land located on the east side of Sydney, this is an exceptional spot for a golf course with a roaring, wild coastline framing the playground. This project must have been sky high up on any golf architect’s wishlist at that time. While looking back at it and knowing our history, who could have done a better job than Alister Mackenzie?

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The design is so pure and it has a lot of character, for example you’ve got some crazy, quirky holes that you never will forget about just based on how different they are — I am thinking of the blind tee shot on the dogleg at the third, and the 17th hole with an enormous hill that breaks the par 5 right in the middle.

Then you’ve got those majestic, scenic holes with views over the ocean to (almost) kill for. To mention just one: when you are walking up to the top of the hill on the par-5 fifth hole and looking down to the green and seeing the par-3 sixth running along the sea, it’s a real treat for your eyes and something you will never forget. Let the photo here below give you an idea.

5th Hole, Par 5 – New South Wales GC – Sydney / Australia – (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

We should not forget about the fun and short par-3 17th with a slippery dancefloor — a hole where it almost feel like you throw darts for the bullseye.

Add some good strategic challenges along the way, and together with the jaw-dropping tee shot on the sixth, you start to understand that you’ve ticked plenty of boxes for playing a fantastic bucket list course.

There isn’t a single part of me regretting I’ve played this course. On a clear blue sky day, we headed out and faced this big challenge, a bit of wind and looking out over the beautiful ocean on almost on every hole. It was clearly an emotional journey with a couple of double bogeys and one eagle (the short par-4 14th) and most importantly such an tremendous adventure that I will always carry with me as a sweet golfing memory.

So, if you are in Sydney, you should definitely try to get on here. In my opinion it’s a world golf bucket list course.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

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Since 2010, the tall Swede Jacob Sjöman has established himself as one of the premier golf course photographers in the world. Shooting from the ground, special high tripods, hanging out from helicopters and operating advanced drones, Jacob brings both fresh and amazing results to each project he undertakes. He has captured and left his own creative mark on some of the most recognized tracks around the world including Lofoten Links, Trump International Golf Links and now recently Gary Player's masterpiece in Bulgaria, Thracian Cliffs.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Ryan

    Dec 13, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    This is GOLD! Adding this course to my bucketlist.

  2. freowho

    Dec 7, 2018 at 4:06 am

    It’s a shame most of your photos are of the one green. Admittedly it is probably the signature hole but the rest of the course is also worthy of some photos.

  3. Richard Tucker

    Dec 6, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    Used to be a member there when I lived in Sydney. One of the best kept secrets in world golf. Golfers talk about a 1 to maybe 3 club wind. At NSW we sometimes had to contend with up to a 6 club wind.

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Courses

Ari’s Course Reviews: Bethpage Black

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Bethpage’s Black course was designed by A.W. Tillinghast and opened for play in 1936. It was immediately considered one of the best tests of golf in the world, and it has tested golfers coming from all over the world in its 83-year history. Bethpage State Park itself has five courses. The Green was the first course built and was originally called Lennox Hills Country Club. In the early 1930s, the Bethpage Park Authority purchased Lennox Hills CC and other adjacent property and turned the whole thing into what is now known as Bethpage State Park. Course architect A.W. Tillinghast was hired to remodel what would become the Green course as well as build the Blue, Red, and finally the Black. The Yellow Course was designed by Alfred Tull and opened in 1958.

Bethpage first hosted a major championship in 2002 when it hosted the U.S, Open. What is somewhat forgotten 17 years later as it hosts its third major, is how much the course had fallen into disrepair by the mid-1990s. Luckily, the USGA could see through all of that and helped fund a complete restoration that was overseen personally by Dave Catalano, the larger than life (in both stature and personality) head of Bethpage State Park. Dave had been working at Bethpage since he was a kid in 1967, picking up papers in the picnic area. It was his baby, and with Rees Jones by his side, they painstakingly restored the Black to its former greatness and into a true championship test of golf. After the PGA Championship, the Black will be back in the spotlight 2024 as host of the Ryder Cup, joining a very short list of courses to host a U.S. Open, a PGA Championship, and a Ryder Cup.

Playing the Black is one of the most unique experiences in the game because of what it takes to get a tee time. There are a very limited number of tee times. They are easier to get if you are a NY resident, but for most of us, it’s first come, first serve. Which in practical terms means they have a parking lot with numbered spaces and people start showing up the day before to sleep in their cars to play. In fact, I can proudly say that the last three times I slept in my car it was just to play at Bethpage. One of those times I didn’t even get out on the Black and had to settle for playing the Red! Should have eaten dinner in the car I guess….

Every time I have slept in the car I have had a great time. It’s a party in the lot with a bunch of golfers hanging out all excited to play the next day. There’s usually a few beers around and one of the times, someone called a cab and went and got 50 cheeseburgers from McDonald’s at 1 a.m. to show us all some top-notch NY hospitality! That’s definitely not an experience you will have going to play any other top courses!

Once you finally do get to sleep, the staff wakes you up around 4 a.m. to go get in line and get your tee time and course assignment. Then you can go back to sleep or go eat breakfast or hit balls or whatever you want until it’s your turn to tee off. On your way to the tee, you see the famous WARNING sign telling you that the Black Course is an extremely difficult course which they recommend only for highly skilled golfers. Hopefully, you didn’t lose your tee ticket because you will need that to get onto the tee and trust me, they aren’t messing around with the rules!

The golf course itself sits on a huge, sprawling, fantastic piece of land with abundant elevation change and lots of random contours. The bunkering is big and bold and not to be messed with. There is abundant long fescue and numerous trees off to the sides of the holes which combined with the beautiful bunkering makes for a very beautiful setting.

The first hole is a downhill, almost 90-degree dogleg right. The fairway is pretty flat and so is the well-bunkered green. The key for the player is to put their drive into the right place in the fairway to get a good angle to the hole location. From here you cross Round Swamp Rd and head to the second, which is a short, uphill par 4 of 389 yards. The fairway slants a little right to left and the green is elevated and can be a challenge to hold. The third is a par 3 that plays about 160 yards normally but has been brought back to 230 the PGA. This is one of the more interesting greens on the course; it’s wide on the right and falls away as it gets to the back and tapers to a smaller, more narrow section on the left. Bunkers flank the short left and right side of the green.

The fourth hole is vintage Bethpage Black and probably the most photographed on the course. A huge bunker flanks the left side of the fairway off the tee of the 517-yard par-5. Another, even more huge bunker looms at the end of the fairway cut into the from right to left. The tee shot is downhill but the rest of the hole is uphill. There is a second fairway to layup over the big bunker where you will have a partial view of the small, flattish green that falls away slightly and is protected by two more deep bunkers to the front and left. The fifth is a monster par 4 of almost 480 yards. A massive fairway bunker guards the right side of the fairway which is also the best angle to come into the small, elevated green guarded by two deep bunkers short and one over the green.

FARMINGDALE, NEW YORK – MAY 15: A general view of the fifth green is seen during a practice round prior to the 2019 PGA Championship at the Bethpage Black course on May 15, 2019 in Farmingdale, New York. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

No. 6 gets back into the more open and less tree-lined part of the property. The tee shot is semi-blind and over a hill. The landing area is pinched by bunkers on both sides. The long hitter who can carry the hill should have a very short shot into the flattish, oval shaped green that’s open in front and protected by bunkers on both sides. No. 7 is a converted par 5 that plays as a par 4 for the PGA. At 524 yards, it’s very long and the tee shot requires a long poke over another large fairway bunker. The green is again pretty flat and protected by deep bunkers in front.

The eighth hole is unique for the Black as it’s the only hole with water in play. A 210-yard drop shot to a green with some slope from right to left and front to back and a ridge running on a diagonal angle through the middle of the green. The shot must carry the pond short of the green and there is a deep bunker left and a hillside right. Nine is a 460-yard hard dogleg left that drops down off the tee and back up to the green. Another very deep bunker guards the left side and can be carried by the longer hitter. The right side of the fairway is the safe play off the tee but leaves an awkward shot out of a gully up to the green. The green is heavily guarded in front again by deep bunkers.

As the players make the turn, they are confronted with another long, tight par 4 of just over 500 yards. Hitting the fairway is key here as the fairway is heavily guarded by bunkers and fescue. The green sits on the other side of a little gully and is guarded once again by a set of deep bunkers. The 11th hole is 435 yards and has probably the most interesting green on the course. It has a little false front and two distinct tiers with some nice internal movement. A really good green on any course it stands out on the Black amongst what is mostly a flatter set of greens. 12 forces the players to carry it 285 over a massive cross bunker on the 515-yard par 4. The green is back to the more typical flattish oval, and characteristically is guarded in the front on both sides by deep bunkers. 13 is a par 5 of over 600 yards. One of the least bunkered holes on the course, there are a few bunkers on the left and a great little cross bunker about 60 yards short of the green that obscures the view of the green and will make the players think twice about going for the green in two. 14 is the best chance for birdie on the course. A par 3 that plays only 160 yards over a valley to a narrow, long green.

After walking off the 14th green the players cross back over Round Swamp Road to the home stretch of the course. 15 is always the hardest hole on the course for me when I play the Black. The hole plays 460 yards. The tee shot is flat to a fairway that bends slightly right to left and has no bunkers. The second shot is massively uphill. Over a hillside set with bunkers and a small section of fairway to a green set into the top of the hill and guarded by the deepest bunkers on the course. A very hard hole to make par if you miss the fairway or miss the green. The 16th has a downhill tee shot that will test the player’s judgement of the wind if there is any present. The green is well guarded especially to the right and is small with a little slant to it. The 17th is an uphill brute of a 210-yard par 3. The green is 45 yards wide and is huge. However, it does not look big from the tee as it is set amongst a veritable minefield of bunkers waiting to swallow up any wayward shots. The players walk up a hill to the 18th tee and stare down at a fairway that gets severely pinched in the middle by the huge bunkers on both sides. The green is then back uphill, it’s medium sized with a slight kidney shape and two deep, artistically shaped bunkers set into the hillside short.

All of this adds up to a great test of championship golf.  The course is pretty straightforward. There is not a ton of strategy other than hit it long and straight and make as many putts as you can. The greens are mostly pretty flat so there should be a lot of chances for birdie for those that can reach the greens in regulation. That said, the course has a ton of character when it comes to the land movement and elevation changes as well as the massive, artistic bunkers. New Yorkers are VERY proud of the Black and for a very good reason. It’s a fantastic golf course. Golf needs more top courses like the Black that are accessible to everyone and challenging to even the best players in the world.

 

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole (Ep 79): Miura’s new HB wedges and the Art of Golf

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Miura Golf COO Bill Holowaty talks about the new High Bounce wedges and other offerings from the legendary clubmaker. Also features Lee Wybranski, renowned artist and creator of the official posters for golf’s major championships.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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Making the Weekend: PGA Championship 2019

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Ryan Barath from the “On Spec” podcast breaks down the leaderboard of the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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19th Hole

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