It’s where most of us start our golf, on the lesser-known, lesser-liked golf courses we sometimes refer to as goat tracks.
I’ve just rediscovered a love for the golf courses that no one ever talks about. A love for the small, suburban, country-style, dare I say, unkempt golf course that you wouldn’t see on anyone’s list top-100 golf courses let alone a top-100 list some magazine may publish.
Some golfers disparagingly refer to them as goat tracks.
You know the ones. The ones where it’s often a challenge to find a flat spot to tee off, where a good lie is rare from the middle of the fairway, and where you’re putts spend more time in the air than they do on the ground.
It’s most likely the type of golf course you played your first game of golf on.
I’ve been lucky enough to play on some of Australia’s best golf courses where there are few excuses to be made after a poor round. No bad lies; slick, smooth greens and bunkers where each grain of sand looks to have been hand-picked before arriving at the golf course.
But it’s through playing with beginner golfers (as well as parenting Australia’s next Masters champion) I’ve begun to grow a huge appreciation for the lesser known, but no less loved golf courses.
While often disregarded or unmentioned by most us experienced golfers, these golf courses not only play an integral role in breeding new golfers, they are the site of plenty of enjoyment.
Geoff Ogilvy remarked last year that it was a game of golf with his buddies on the par-3 course at Turnberry where he rediscovered his love for the game. No one in their right mind would call the Turnberry course he is referring to as a goat track, but his point has stuck with me as I’ve embraced these lesser known golf courses.
I’ve seen some good friends take to the game like a fish to water at these golf courses when the thrills of hitting a straight drive or draining a long putt are celebrated with as much vigour than you will see anywhere else.
Playing outside of club competition times on these courses, some of the formalities of golf are thrown out the window in favour of new golfers getting to know the game, its associated etiquette while getting a crash course in anger management.
It’s a place where no one cares about course design, the state of the bunkers or the bare lie from the middle of the fairway. In fact these issues are often met with raised eyebrows as if you’re talking about a foreign country.
Shorter courses, shorter rounds and lower green fees combine to make for a fun day out. I’ll say it again. A fun. Day. Out. It’s entertainment. Interactive entertainment that rarely fails to bring a smile to the faces of the contestants.
In stark contrast, there are several Australian golf courses that seem to have been designed and constructed to specifically dishearten the average golfer. Of course, it’s more likely that the average golfer was the furthest thing from the course designer (and property developers) mind but undulating, expansive greens, surrounded by gigantic quarry-like bunkers that complete holes that are too long and arduous for the beginner golfer.
You may get a perfect lie on every fairway but I’ve seen many golfers lose their desire to play the game anywhere on some of the country’s most difficult tracks.
Golf is a fun, cerebral challenge that can get serious and disheartening very quickly. By recently playing on these golf courses the purists may dismiss, I’ve been reminded that despite playing the same game, golf can be played with many different formats, in many different ways and in many different mindsets.
The lesser known Australian golf courses should be praised and not forgotten. It’s where nearly all of us first found our love for the game and unlike nearly every other country in the world, these courses keep golf accessible for everyone.
I’ve had some wonderfully fun days on some of Australia’s best golf courses, but my recent days with friends and family on those lesser known golf courses have given me no less of a thrill. Long live the goat track.