What a setting at 18!
One thing I have learnt is there are clearly two types of architects. Those who think that strategy must involve the use of hazards, and those that think that slopes and terrain are an effective strategy in themselves. I had not realized how very different these two mindsets were until we had finished playing Royal Sydney and the comparisons were made by the architects on the trip.
Royal Sydney’s mandate is to provide a championship golf course capable of hosting major events. The golf course is very hard and fairly unrelenting as it unfolds. There is a very solid mixture of lengths and strategies provided by Ross Watson, but the overwhelming impression is how tough a course he has developed for them. The course is tree lined, which struck me as unusual because I didn’t expect to see a semi parkland layout here. There are 135 fairway bunkers that very from deep to incredibly deep (15 feet was quite common for even fairway bunkers!). The bunkering was very reminiscent of Dick Wilson bunkering, looking almost like jig saw puzzle pieces rather than ragged or natural.
The multiple bunker complexes typical of the course
The greens are highly undulating and segregated into some clear and complicated pin positions. The greens were once again surrounded by short grass and there were many hollows and deep swales around greens created to complicate the approach shots. The course is just flat out tough – fair – but tough. There were places where the scale opened up and created some really inspiring holes, and others where the holes were squeezed just a bit too much with trees where I didn’t find the holes as interesting or clever. I felt like the trees squeezed out the architecture at times and made the place a little one dimensional. I liked the course, but I don’t think I would ever want to play it again, nor do I think I would recommend it as a must play.
Trees and multiple bunkers at Royal Sydney
I found in my discussion with the other architects after playing that who believed in the use and placement of hazards as an essential element in design preferred Royal Sydney, and those who preferred the more naturalistic approach, less reliance on bunkers and were enamoured with short grass were clearly in the camp of New South Wales.
We all certainly are different – but that’s a good thing.