CATHEDRAL LODGE / Greg Norman opens Australia’s newest golf course

A spectacular, exclusive golf course has opened in country Victoria with hopes to become Australia’s Augusta National.

The spectacular Cathedral Lodge Golf Course. Image courtesy of instagram.com/cathedrallodge

Greg Norman was on hand over the weekend for the official opening of Cathedral Lodge, the newest Australian golf course that sits on the private property of former Essendon Football Club president David Evans.

A host of famous faces joined Norman, Evans and his wife Sonya to cut the ribbon and open Cathedral Lodge including Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne.

Tony Wright at The Age has reported that Evans conjured up the idea of building the golf course on the family property during a trip to the US Masters with his father in 1997.

“I just fell in love with what Augusta is, what it stands for,” says Evans jnr. “That trip triggered the idea of planning for what has become Cathedral Lodge. I asked myself whether it could be done in a way that created a unique recreational place for Australian families with golf at its core.”

Augusta’s great claim to fame is as the home of the Masters, and Evans wants, somehow, to emulate it.

Greg Norman has suggested it may be his best Australian golf course yet and Wright wrote that this suggestion may already sit uneasy with some.

“Cathedral Lodge is very special to me as there is nothing else like it in Australia, or the world for that matter,” Norman has declared, ruffling feathers of aficionados not convinced that a new course in a little-known Australian country district could deserve such lofty praise.

A quick look at the Cathedral Lodge Instagram account and few could deny that Cathedral Lodge looks spectacular.

The golf course looks amazing with Norman designing the course with minimal changes to the property’s topography and routing it around the natural creeks and gorges.

Planet Golf, an authority on golf course architecture has offered its own initial thoughts on the golf course, (albeit without having seen the site yet) with some interesting comparisons to Norman’s most recent Australian golf course design, Eastern Golf Club.

Norman was apparently much more hands-on in the design phase here than at the nearby Eastern Golf Club, which opened back in 2015. By contrast to Eastern, Cathedral Lodge is shy on superfluous bunkering and enjoys a more private, intimate feeling both from an overall club ambience perspective through to the actual golf course routing. Initial reports from those who have played the course have been quite positive.

Cathedral Lodge Golf Course. Image courtesy of instagram.com/cathedrallodge

Golf Industry Central also ran a piece that included some comparisons and remarks from Norman on his other exclusive, privately owned golf course, Ellerston.

Norman and his design partner at the time Bob Harrison were commissioned by Kerry Packer to build a golf course on his property near Scone in New South Wales.

“The Cathedral Lodge property is unique in that it’s a canyon shape with a ridge running through the middle of it, where you go up the ridge on one side of the valley and back down it on the other side of the valley,” says Norman. “Ellerston, meanwhile, was so spread out, so vast, so big and a totally different story.”

Adding to the contrast, Norman says the design blueprint for both projects couldn’t have been further apart.

“Kerry just said, ‘Build me a f—ing great golf course,’” he recalls. “Playability wasn’t an issue for Kerry. He just wanted a tough course, a course that even I would find difficult as the world’s No.1 player at the time. I remember he’d stand there and say, ‘OK, son. How would you play this hole and how would you make it tougher for yourself?’ That was Kerry. I built a course to match his personality of wanting to challenge anything and everything.

“Conversely, David wanted playability with Cathedral Lodge – and he was there every step of the way, walking with me during the entire design process.

“The easiest thing in the world to do is build the hardest course in the world. The hardest thing to do is build a balanced golf course. Catering for someone who only carries it 80 metres and those who bomb it 300 metres – these are the complexities of being a golf course designer in today’s game. But I enjoyed the challenge with Cathedral and I think the end result could be one of my favourite courses.”

Cathedral Lodge Golf Course. Image courtesy of instagram.com/cathedrallodge

Cathedral Lodge may end up attracting more golfers than Ellerston with Evans opening the course up to around 170-180 members and their families, 60 of which have already been filled.

But it’s going to be an exclusive, expensive club to join though with The Age reporting that membership sign-on fees will cost in the order of $50,000.

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