The redeveloped Scone Golf Course should be in the conversation as one of the best nine-hole golf courses in Australia and a template for how to keep costs down, and the fun up.
The best way to play some without disrupting the flow of a family road trip is to get up before dawn and whip around nine holes so you’re back before anyone really knew you were gone.
So when I heard about the new golf course in Scone, that’s exactly what I did.
Scone is a town of just under 5,000 people that is well-known for its breeding of thoroughbred racehorses that is just over a three-hour drive from Sydney.
At least it is now.
It used to take longer to drive to Scone, but the new New England Highway has made the trip much quicker. But it was the construction of this freeway that has changed the face of the golf course.
The new bypass cut through the old golf course, and a grant to redevelop the new golf course was thoughtfully used to employ the Pacific Coast Design team.
The result is a fabulously fun, environmentally friendly, 6038m 9-hole golf course that sits perfectly, into the flat natural landscape.
The first thing that struck me was the stripped back, simplicity of the place.
A clear example of golf course design where less is more. Less on-going maintenance, fewer bunkers and fewer frills but more fun, more possibilities, and more golfers wanting to get back and play again. Myself included.
Green fees are paid through the ticket machine at the first tee. And in a sign of things to come, multiple teeing options allow for a very different opening tee shot depending on where the markers are each day.
Like all good first holes, it eases you into the round with a fairly straight forward par-4. The second hole ramps things up with a solid par-5 that finishes with a wonderful green complex that will test your short game if you miss the green.
The 3rd and 4th holes are top-quality golf holes that you’ll remember on the way home.
The dog-leg right, par-4 3rd will have golfers contemplating their tee shot for the ideal approach shot to the green. If you haven’t hit the ball far enough, you’ll have more water to carry for your approach shot.
The par-3 4th hole is a classic Redan across Parson Gully that would fit perfectly in any of the top golf courses in the big smoke.
The long par-4 5th hole is a fantastic hole that requires some accuracy both off the tee and to green.
But for mine, it was the par-4 6th hole that had me intrigued even after the round.
Constructed on land outside of the boundaries of the original golf course, the 6th could easily have been a ho-hum golf hole that would swing you back to the closing three holes.
But instead, we’ve got a short par-4 that will only improve with time as the surrounds grow out.
A single, simple bunker on the inside corner of the dogleg will leave you wondering if that shorter, tighter line is worth the risk. The undulations protecting the green are wonderful and it will require some skill with the shorter sticks to negotiate your way to the multitude of tricky pin positions.
I suspect the 6th will be overlooked by golfers their first time around Scone Golf Course but will offer more questions, and become more loved with time.
The two par-5s on new land out the back of the golf course are great tests for the longer hitter.
The small gully between trees that guard the approach to the 7th hole is fabulous on the eye and make for some interesting club choices and the bunkerless, undulating green proving again that you don’t need to force undue maintenance on the golf course for the sake of complexity.
Perhaps the best example of what can be designed when you have enough land and creativity is the par-3 8th hole.
While not as visually pleasing as the other holes at Scone GC, this par-3 has several different tees, laterally separated by 50-60 metres that offer several different angles to play the hole.
You want people to enjoy playing the course so much they want to return and play? Here is your answer right here.
Combined with a big green offering 3-4 pin locations, it’s not just a hole that takes you from the 7th to that 9th, but a fun short hole that asks different questions every time you play.
Scone Golf Club is a good template for many 9-hole, short courses across the country and perhaps a good template for 18-hole golf courses occupying small sites or those feeling the squeeze from local developers, or big city councils.
Anyone thinking anything less than 18 holes is not the benchmark for a good golf course should go and see Scone Golf Course.
Sticking to the uncluttered, minimal design will provide decades of fun not just for the local community but a place that will see golfers from across outside the region travel to come and play.
I returned to the hotel after my round thinking I’d just played one of the best nine-hole golf courses in Australia.
And my family barely knew I’d left.