Bonnie Doon Golf Club: course review

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Here is out Bonnie Doon golf course review after the first stage of a full course redesign.

Bonnie Doon

Just 20 minutes south of the Sydney CBD, Bonnie Doon Golf Club has always been considered a good golf course. Always in great condition, a round at Bonnie Doon is an enjoyable experience with a fine layout, without any particularly memorable golf holes. For a highly regarded course situated on land that is remarkably similar to Melbourne’s sandbelt, it was a little surprising it wasn’t one of Sydney’s premier courses.

In recent times Bonnie Doon has fallen off the lists of Top Australian golf courses thanks largely to new Australian courses and significant redesigns to others. Bonnie Doon has recently attempted to add some spark to a tired layout and make it more memorable thanks to a redesign by the Ogilvy-Clayton golf course design team.

I’ve been lucky enough to play Bonnie Doon Golf Club a number of times throughout the changes and I can safely say that not only have they added seven very memorable golf holes but they are some of my favourites in Sydney.

Bonnie Doon
The par-4 7th hole at Bonnie Doon Golf Club.

In addition to the seven new holes, the course has drastically changed its routing. The opening nine holes consists mostly of the old back nine and the old 10th hole is now the 1st.

It means Bonnie Doon now opens with three consecutive holes that feature out-of-bounds on the left. You’d better not be trying to iron out a hook early in your round.

Both the 1st and 2nd holes are good short par-4s. Both are a little similar but a nice way to ease yourself into the round without opening your shoulders too much.

Crossing the road, the par-5 3rd hole typifies the older holes in the back part of the golf course. It requires three straight, cramped shots to a long narrow green. The bail out area is front and right but it’s not exactly an easy up and down from anywhere.

One of the major criticisms of the golf course has been the straight-up-and-down, similar layout of these holes over the road. The current par-4 5th, 6th and 7th are exactly that. Each begins with an elevated tee shot requiring a straight drive to a tree-lined fairway in the valley below, and ends with an uphill approach shot to a perched green.

The course is always in spectacular condition and these holes are individually quite decent golf holes (especially the 7th) but they have tended to feel a little monotonous one after the other.

Bonnie Doon
The short uphill par-4 17th hole.

As a fan of short par-4s, the 8th (and the nearby 17th hole) are tight tree-lined short par-4s are my favourite of the ‘old’ holes at Bonnie Doon but they now feel a little tight in comparison to the 9th, the first of the new holes.

The 9th looks drastically different from any of the previous holes on the golf course. A wide, expansive fairway rolls off into the distance as it winds its way past bunkers (some seriously big bunkers) down the right hand side.

Bonnie Doon Golf
The brand new par-5 9th hole is the first of the new golf holes you’ll encounter at Bonnie Doon.

A good drive gives longer hitters a good opportunity to go at the green in two but the bail out area is most definitely short. Anything left and right can lead to a bogey or worse. It is a brute or a very sweet golf hole depending on how you choose to play it.

The short par-4 12th is a shade of its former self. A wonderful view out towards Sydney’s CBD is now visible from the tee with the hole now clear of low lying scrub and the out of bounds fence that formally marked the western boundary of the golf course.

Bonnie Doon
The drastically different par-4 12th hole.

An iron off the tee leaves a formidable looking but short, uphill approach shot. The green is deeper than it looks from the fairway but like all the new holes at Bonnie Doon just finding it doesn’t mean you can’t rack up a few more shots before the ball is in the hole.

The new 14th and 15th holes were built on wasteland that previously lay outside the western boundary fence and are two of my favourite (read: fun to play) golf holes in Sydney.

The 14th (505 metre par-5) is bordered by out-of-bounds on the right and large dunes on the left, and the fairway is split by a central wasteland area upon approach to the green.

The narrow, more distant left fairway is a good approach for pin positions on the left side of the green with the natural sloping terrain feeding balls toward the green. The prevailing southerly wind will dictate that most golfers will come in from the right or over the central bunker that eats into the large rolling green.

There aren’t many uphill par-3s I’ve taken a liking to quite as quickly as the short par-3 15th at Bonnie Doon. The hole exudes fun with a green that at least from the tee looks to have more swales and rolls than a slalom ski course. While not overly large, these multiple tiers provide tricky pin positions. Try and get yourself on one as near to the hole as you can to avoid any putting disasters.

Bonnie Doon
The view from behind the undulating 15th green.

Bonnie Doon is one of the few golf clubs in Australia that has managed to buck the trend of decreasing membership, thanks largely to a proactive, contemporary take on club management and a focus on junior golf that is sadly missing from many other Australian golf courses.

I believe the second stage (of three) of the redesign will start later this year. If the entire golf course finishes up looking and playing anything like the new golf holes, Bonnie Doon will soon rate as one of Australia’s best courses and will find itself back in the Top 100 with a bullet.

For more information on the next two stages redesign, check out the Bonnie Doon Golf Club website.