Feature Interview with Gary Lisbon
Gary Lisbon is the owner and managing director of GOLFSelect. A chartered accountant by profession, Gary worked as a financial controller at a large Australian corporation before being approached to join with Ian Baker-Finch and Steven Bann in the Pure Golf Academy. During his time working at Pure Golf, Gary saw the opportunity to offer big business a more substantial and quality focused product offering relating to corporate golf both in terms of supply of product and event management of corporate events. This business, GOLFSelect, now runs in excess of 50 corporate events throughout Australia and New Zealand each year and organises golf holidays for many visiting golfers from outside Australia as well as clients within Australia. Gary’s other passion is golf course photography and the photographs within this Feature Interview are indicative of the high quality (!) of his work.
1. You’ve played golf all over the world….how is golf in Australia and New Zealand different? The same?
The wonderful thing about golf in Australia (in particular) is that there are so many different golf regions all offering a different golf experience. Without going into the details of every golf region in Australia (which I am sure would bore the visitors to your site) the courses in Australia offer a diversity of styles and design influences which means you encounter a different golf experience depending on the region you visit.
Our key golfing regions also offer a large number of golf courses located within close proximity of each other. The Melbourne Sandbelt by way of example offers around 15 championship courses located within a 10 mile radius meaning that the visiting golfer can happily stay in one hotel for the duration of their stay and not be herded around from hotel to hotel to play different courses as the Irish golfing experience,in particular, entails.
Australia has its fair share of world class private member courses where the experience is generally one of walking the course. Increasingly though new golf courses are being built which are catering moreso to the needs of the middle aged, generally reluctant to walk golfer. By that I mean there is rarely a new course which has been built in the last 10 years (Barnbougle Dunes and The Golf Club St. Andrews Beach are two exceptions) which does not have a focus on motorized carts being the preferred (and often mandatory) form of travel around the course.
Studies have shown that we have an ageing population and one that is heavier than it used to be (a nice way of saying “fat”) requiring courses and the method of travel around these courses (ie. motorized carts) to be built which cater for this.
In many ways this follows the line of many new North American courses and courses throughout Asia so I suppose you could say this is one way in which golf in Australia is becoming similar to other countries around the world (not necessarily for the better in my opinion).
One of the often overlooked qualities about Australian golf is the ability to play 12 months of the year. Australia has a wonderful climate for outdoor activities allowing this to happen. I often laugh at some of my North American friends from the northern states who are lucky to get a 6 or 7 month golf season and still pay lots of money for the privilege.
The general cost of golf in Australia and New Zealand is also inexpensive relative to the rest of the world with annual subscriptions at the top private courses generally under AUD$3,000 per annum (around US$2,200). Green fees at some of the lesser known courses (that are still fun tests of golf) are less than AUD$20 (US$15).
So we have some similarities and many differences which makes Australia an exciting golf destination to visit.
2. For most, getting to Australia requires traveling a significant distance. Why should golfers plan on trips that far away with plenty of quality destinations much closer?
Australia is not that far away! When you consider an overnight flight from Los Angeles will have you landing in Australia the next morning it really is manageable. Logistically it is also very stress free as many of the flights are direct to either Melbourne or Sydney.
A short answer to your question is variety. Many of our overseas clients (primarily from the USA) have been to Ireland and Scotland on multiple occasions and are looking for a different golf experience. They have heard in the press about the great variety of golf courses we have in Australia and are starting to be convinced it is worth making the trip.
I like to think of Australia offering a number of key points of difference from some of the other well populated golfing regions:
- Quality of courses. Australia and New Zealand have some wonderful examples of world class golf courses scattered throughout. Currently there are 5 Australian courses and 2 New Zealand courses inside the world’s top 60 courses (including Royal Melbourne which sits inside the top 10 courses in the world). There are an increasing number of people who want to play the best courses the world has to offer and if this is the case it means a visit to Australia.
- Generally good weather. We do not have the extremes of temperature that exist in other countries and our courses are all very playable 12 months of the year.
- Close proximity of quality, championship courses to capital cities and also to each other. This means you can stay in one hotel for a large part of your trip and then simply transfer out to each of the courses scheduled (generally only a 30 min drive). Where you do need to travel to a region that is away from the main city (such as the Mornington Peninsula 80 minutes south of Melbourne) again one accommodation location can be organized and the drive to and from each of the courses is generally a maximum of only 15 minutes (and often less)
- Unique wildlife on the course. I can’t think of any other country in the world which boasts golf courses that have kangaroos as a moving hazard on the golf course. There are an increasing number of golf where large colonies of kangaroos roam courses (Joondalup in Western Australia, Pacific Dunes in New South Wales, Anglesea in Victoria, Kooralbyn Valley in Queensland, Sunset Cove in South Australia by way of examples) and actually watch you hit your shot. They tend to bound out of the way when an errant tee shot skirts past them. Gives a new twist to the definition of moving gallery I suppose.
- Excellent restaurants and other sightseeing activities to balance your whole trip and offer more than just a golf trip (but if you want to just play golf and lots of it then we can offer that also).
- Ability to combine your golf trip with other major events that might be happening during the year (for example the Formula One Grand Prix, Australian Open Tennis, Spring Racing Carnival etc)
- Safety. In this increasingly dangerous world we live in Australia presents a relatively safe destination compared to other parts of the world.
Additionally with New Zealand emerging as a standalone golf destination with courses such as Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers rocketing into the World’s Top 100 courses, Australia is just a small hop further on from New Zealand. In fact we are finding it an increasingly popular itinerary to combine both Australia and New Zealand in the one trip.
Golf in Australia and New Zealand is not necessarily something you are going to do every holiday. Rather it might a trip you decide to do as a special once off. Or it might be that you decide to visit certain regions of Australia on one trip and then come back again and do the rest. It is entirely up to you.
3. Please tell us about the approach and goals of your travel company GOLFSelect.
The development of GOLFSelect was borne about as a result of discussions with many of my US golfing buddies over the years who came out to play our top courses and have been amazed that there are so many world class courses within such an easy reach of the main capital cities and all at reasonable prices as well.
Our overall approach is to offer a complete, memorable golfing experience to help our clients experience the wide range of courses we are fortunate enough to have in Australia.
The large number of top quality private member courses creates logistic challenges as these courses have very restricted availability. Over the years as a result of our excellent relationships with the various private member golf clubs we have been able to secure additional playing times not available to anyone walking off a plane.
It is one of our goals to help our clients experience the courses they should be playing without any fuss and bother and leave us to worry about putting together the pieces of the puzzle.
Our ultimate goal is to become the most respected and trusted golf holiday company within the Australasia region. This does not necessarily mean the biggest (because I don’t think we ever want to become the biggest) and we have found that over the last 5 years our use of technology in the business has enabled us to grow quite well meant that we can grow quite significantly without necessarily just putting on more employees.
On a personal level I want to be able to balance the company’s growth with maintaining a family life that allows me to spend lots of time with my wife Maureen and our 3 fast growing girls (Alex, Danielle and Grace). This is of primary importance to me and I believe that running a successful business and having a meaningful family life can co-exist.
4. For golfers who like to plan trip themselves, what are some recommendations on making arrangements? What access hurdles face a self-arranger?
Plan well ahead! As I mentioned above the private nature of many of the top courses in Australia means that non member access is very limited and only on certain days of the week. The main challenge therefore is making this “matrix” fit together so they can experience all the “must play” courses within a reasonable time period.
The other main access hurdle that faces the self-arranger is the requirement by a number of golf clubs to be a member of a recognized golf club with a registered handicap.
Do your homework in determining where you want to play (State and regions) and then look at how this itinerary will fit together. A good US friend of mine planned his first trip to Australia without our involvement (initially) using a less than ideal route that had him flying all over the countryside gathering frequent flyer miles when with a bit of discussion and local knowledge it could have been that much easier. We rescheduled his itinerary and managed to cut off a number of days and yet still allow him to experience the best courses.
So overall it is still doable to arrange the trip yourself but doing your homework would be my primary recommendation.
5. Do you see golf architecture becoming more of a driving force in people setting up their trips?
People travel for different reasons. It is true that golf architecture and the analysis thereof is becoming more and more popular. Buzz names like Doak and Coore, Crenshaw have started to excite people with their design styles and have produced some wonderful golf courses.
As a broad guide we find when planning trips for visiting golfers that they fit into a number of different categories:
- Architect driven â€œ that is they strive to play every course designed by someone like, for example, Tom Doak. With the work Tom has completed in the Australasian region we are getting more people wishing to play the “Tom Doak Trail.”
- Top 100 chasers. There are many people out there looking to play the World’s Top 100 courses and they tick off the courses as they play them. Invariably their trips to Australia focus on those Australian courses in the list (of which there are currently 6) and often they will miss playing a great golf course because it is not on the list.
- Golf lovers â€œ these people want to play good golf courses for no other reason than they love golf! They are interested in different courses without going into too much analysis about why one course might be better than another and generally want to combine their visit with a variety of non golf related activities such as sightseeing, wineries, restaurants etc.The reality is that golfers, when planning trips, take into account a whole variety of factors and golf architecture is certainly one of them for many visitors.
6. Do you see golf travel moving away from ‘golf-only’ trips?
I believe there will always be that group of people who just want to play golf wherever they go. So rather than golf travel moving away from “golf only” trips we are seeing a new type of client who loves their golf but is interested in doing so many more things whilst they are here.
We have recently starting planning a forthcoming golf holiday for 2 couples from the USA who are visiting Australia and New Zealand for 3 weeks but only playing 5 games of golf. In between they will be combining a range of other non golf activities so that by the time they leave they will have experienced more in Australia and New Zealand than just golf.
If I were to be so bold and pigeon hole groups of golfers into certain categories then I would say, based on our experience, the male only golf trips tend to be pretty much golf only (and a little bit of red wine here and there!) whereas the couples trips tend to encompass a lot more than just golf and often include a variety of sightseeing options and non golf.
7. The wineries and associated restaurants of the Mornington Peninsula are delightful. What are some other area attractions for the golfer after his round?
The Mornington Peninsula is probably best known for 3 main activities however there are some out of the way things to do to help round your whole experience. Golf, Wineries and Beaches are the 3 main reasons people come to the Peninsula.
The other activities really depend on how energetic the golfer is. There is everything from horse riding along the beach, hang gliding off cliffs nears Flinders, strawberry picking at Sunny Ridge strawberry farm (which is actually quite fun), catching the ferry from Sorrento across to the Bellarine Peninsula (where you can stroll around the streets and grab a nice meal in one of the many restaurants), book a spa treatment at one of the many spas in the region, take a dip at the Mornington Peninsula Hot Springs facility or drive to the top of Arthur’s Seat for a glorious view of the whole Mornington Peninsula (until recently there was a functioning chairlift which provided a 20 minutes ride to the top and offered some great views also). The list is endless.
As you mentioned there are some great restaurants scattered throughout the Peninsula and we often find golfers who have had a morning game relaxing in a local restaurant or cafÃƒ© just reflecting on life!
8. Your company’s website www.golfselect.com.au is full of stunning photographs from all your travels but it does beg the question: are we beginning to confuse vistas and design?
Thanks for the compliment! My golf course photography has certainly developed over the years and it is something I really enjoy and I have been fortunate enough to capture images from some great golf courses around the world.
In relation to your question I believe most definitely we are confusing the two. People like images for different reasons â€œ it may be that the image is aesthetically beautiful or it may bring back a memory of the hole when it was played.
This may not necessarily be a bad thing â€œ it all depends on what “hat” you are wearing when you view the images.
I am the first to admit that I am guilty at times of confusing vistas and design when I have my “golf course photographer” hat on. I will get all excited about an image that I have taken and upon showing it to a variety of people (golfers and non golfer) will get different feedback with some people complaining that it does not really show the hole for “what it is.”
Greg Ramsay (the founding inspiration for Barnbougle Dunes in Tasmania) really hit home with this when I was down taking some photos of Barnbougle recently. He said that when he looks at photos of a golf hole he likes to see the start and the end of the hole (particularly with par 3 holes) to give the viewer a real idea of how the hole has been setup by the architect and what challenges face the golfer in completing the hole. This has been something I have tried to take on board.
The great thing about imagery in general (a bit like painting) is that people interpret and like images for different reasons. You generally cannot please everyone. An illustration of this is on our website where each week we feature one of my photos that people can download as a golf wallpaper for the week. We have a large number of people who download the image (around 12,000 from last check) and we have recently introduced the ability for people to rate the images and make a comment. The ratings and comments are very interesting (and humbling sometimes) and just go to uphold my comments above that people interpret images differently.
9. Fees for visiting golfers in Ireland/Scotland have risen precipitously over the years. Do you see the same happening to Australian courses? What are some of the best values?
So I have noticed! Supply and demand I suppose. In relation to Australia I think this will probably happen to a degree but hopefully not to the same extent of Ireland and Scotland.
Many of our top courses are private member courses offering very restricted availability for non members. The golf clubs try to balance the revenue making opportunities from visiting golfers with the increasing demands of members. Accordingly if the members are placing more demands upon the course then to earn the same amount of revenue with less visiting golfers the visiting green fees need to increase.
This has started to happen with a number of courses and time will tell if this continues.
The non member or resort courses raise green fees in accordance with the normal cost pressures that exist in any business. In doing so they generally seek to add value which, in their eyes, justifies the price increase. At the end of the day these courses rely primarily on green fee business (because they have no members) so are more sensitive to increasing their price than a member club which draws its primary revenue for member subscriptions.
There are still some great value courses out there that are certainly worth a visit. A public access course on the Mornington Peninsula called The Dunes provides a good “Scottish golfing experience” for less than US$50 for a round. Down in Tasmania Barnbougle Dunes, currently rated 49 in the world, is expensive by Tasmanian standards but an absolute bargain at less than US$75 for a round. And scattered through Australia (particularly in the country) are good country courses where green fees will set you back the huge sum of around US$10.
10. Overseas members are becoming a mainstay at many Irish/Scottish clubs. Do you see the same trend happening at Aussie clubs? What’s the process and general fees associated with becoming an overseas member?
Overseas membership is something which is not that common in Australian golf clubs. There are however a number of equity based member clubs which have an overseas membership category. This generally involves purchase of a share, completing an application to become a member and then paying a significantly reduced annual subscription (to reflect your expected lack of playing the course).
Many of the traditional private member clubs do have an overseas membership category however this is generally reserved for existing club members who by reason of work or another valid reason, will find themselves living out of the country for an indefinite period of time. They generally also pay a reduced annual subscription.
I do not really see this trend occurring at traditional member clubs at this stage but maybe in a few years when we convince a lot more overseas visitors to grace our shores will the golf clubs themselves identify that this is a good way of raising funds without impacting adversely on the local golf course membership. For equity based clubs I believe this is something they will start to actively promote in a more aggressive manner.
11. How did you become interested in golf course architecture?
My love of golf course architecture started in a fairly basic way. I had learned to play this game called golf (somewhat badly in my initial years) and was interested in playing as many different courses as possible. This was more for the sake of variety than anything else.
I became intrigued by why I enjoyed some courses more than other and why I found some more challenging than others beyond just the length of the holes or the way it looked on the scorecard. Certain courses had me thinking more than others and I began to develop an appreciation of what certain golf course architects were trying to achieve when they designed certain courses.
This was further extended when I first had the privilege of playing Cypress Point in 1987 and I fell in love with the course (including the much maligned 18th hole) for a number of reasons including the anticipation created as I approached every hole with a feeling of “wonder what this hole will offer?” and really feeling my heart pump just a little bit faster.
This was particularly apparent when we finished the 14th hole and crossed 17 mile drive for the 80 metre or so walk to the 15th hole â€œ the first of a series of incomparable ocean holes that many of your readers would have seen pictures of. I could really feel the anticipation building and I was blown away with the absolute beauty of the 15th, 16th and 17th holes and how they provided a wonderful contrast to the parkland and dunes holes encountered earlier. Cypress Point provided that beautiful variation to the style of holes and in a routing which I felt provided variety and would retain the golfer’s interest time and time again.
Over the years I was then fortunate enough to play more of the top courses around the world as well as many in my own backyard â€œ the Melbourne Sandbelt and my appreciation of different courses grew. I noticed how architects achieved effects in different ways from significant earth moving on certain courses to minimal moving of earth on others depending on the site itself.
So my interest has really developed over time and with my golf photographer’s hat on I think this has been further developed with me now including aesthetic beauty as an important element to the overall quality of a golf course.
12. What are some of the most interesting design features you have seen?
Three courses containing design features that have stuck in my head for a variety of reasons are outlined below. I find each of them interesting in their own way and generally adding to the golf experience.
Riviera Country Club, Los Angeles, CA – 6th hole â€œ bunker in the middle of the green
Many of your visitors would be familiar with this hole and the very noticeable bunker which has been positioned in the middle of the green. This hole really gets you thinking off the tee because now you do not only have to think about hitting the green but playing to the correct side of the green where the pin is. I played this hole once and found myself on the green in one yet without a direct putt to the hole because of the bunker which was in the way. 3 putts later I walked off with a bogey.
Yeamans Hall, Charleston, South Carolina
The course in general is one that makes the golfer think a fair bit about the best way to play a particular hole. And having only played it once I am sure a lot of subtleties were lost on me. The areas that stood out in particular were the variety and interest of the putting surfaces â€œ from the horseshoe contours in the middle of the 3rd green, the spikes or spines in the putting surfaces of 4 and 15 (effectively dividing the green in two with a likely 3 putt if you land on the incorrect side of the spine) to the square cutting of a number of the greens which was the first example of this I have seen.
St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
I suppose this is more the accountant in me (from many years ago) but I have always found it kind of interesting that the majority of the greens at St Andrews are double greens where the addition of the hole numbers for the double green adds up to 18.
Furthermore the ability for the Old course to be played in reverse (as is done on 3 days each year) is a great way to see different parts of the golf course and appreciate the subtlety of the layout even more.
13. What is your favorite ‘hidden gem’ in Australia and New Zealand?
Oh boy this is a hard question! There are so many good courses that are becoming more and more well known as more overseas golfers visit our shores. I know that if I can give you an answer you will be inundated with people claiming otherwise.
So at the risk of being inundated with reasons why this or that course is not a hidden gem I have proposed a number of courses that I like playing and which I think in many ways are hidden gems.
Newcastle Golf Club, Newcastle, NSW â€œ highly regarded on the Australian golf scene yet not really known overseas, excellent layout with some standout holes including hole 5, 6 and 7. Cut through dense bushland with a real Australian feel to it (including the tiger snakes in the rough!)
Flinders Golf Club, Mornington Peninsula, VIC â€œ a very enjoyable experience. I have played the course many times in different conditions and always walked off feeling satisfied (not necessarily with my score). It is a fun golf course where you can just enjoy playing golf on moderate and short length holes with some great coastal views.
Portsea, Mornington Peninsula, VIC â€œ a course I grew up playing regularly and one which has recent work undertaken by Mike Clayton to improve it ever more. Many holes are carved through native tea tree scrub. The course features a number of high tee elevations inviting the golfer to hit the ball for all they are worth as well as some short, thinking par 4 holes.
14. Enniscrone, Portsalon, Dooks, and Ardglass are examples of some of the more out-of-the-way and lesser known second echelon Irish clubs. What are some parallel examples in Australia?
The Melbourne Sandbelt is a fairly famous golf region within Australia and increasingly around the world. It has a number of signature courses that roll off serious golfer’s tongues including Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath, Metropolitan and Victoria.
Yet the region also contains a number of courses that locally we refer to as the “second tier clubs” and yet are still great courses which just happen to be surrounded by better ones!
Yarra Yarra, Woodlands, Spring Valley and Peninsula (North) are four which come to mind in this region that are certainly worth playing if you are in town.
So whilst these courses are not out of the way in a geographic sense they are lesser known on the world scene (and even within Australia) and so would probably qualify as parallel examples to the clubs mentioned above.
15. Please cite examples of strategic Aussie courses. Penal courses. Shot-making courses. Match play courses. Scenic courses.
I think the great thing about a number of the top Australian golf courses is that they are formed not entirely of 18 holes which can be considered solely strategic or penal or shot making but rather a combination of each style to create an end product that is of interest due to its variety.
So rather than talking about courses which are classed as any of these categories above I feel it is best to describe a number of holes which cover the strategic side of things for the thinker and the scenic side of things for the visualist.
I used to wonder why when I played some courses (or some holes on those courses) that I would almost walk away with a headache. Years later I have worked out the reason â€œ these courses or holes always had me thinking about the best way to play them.
It is so easy in this day and age of big hitting drivers to simply stand up on the tee, blast away and then play a standard approach shot to a green, two putt and walk off with a par or birdie (on a good day at least). I personally don’t find that very exciting.
What I do find exciting (even though it does give me a headache) is to be able to walk up to a hole and then think to myself that there are a number of ways of playing this hole and be rewarded with anything from an eagle to a double bogey or worse – as I can attest to in the case of Kingston Heath and its 3rd hole.
Invariably these holes tend to be the shorter par 4 holes where length is not the main defence of the hole and a good driver can reach the green (albeit with a high degree of accuracy needed).
RM (West) â€œ 3rd hole – Dog leg left short par 4 with a long iron drive required to a slightly raised fairway and followed by a 100 yard approach to a large green which falls away from front to back. A well positioned hollow short of the green catches any lofted shots which are not exact in their distance. An alternative approach is to play the ball through the swale in front of the green.
Woodlands â€œ 4th hole – A short par 4 playing to a fairly open fairway and requiring an approach to an inverted saucer green which is best attacked from the side of the fairway where the pin is not located. Missing the green requires touch (and a bit of luck) to get close to the hole.
RM (West) â€œ 10th hole – Wonderful example of a “go for broke” kind of hole. Uphill dog leg left par 4 featuring an enormous bunker running the majority of the left hand side of the hole. The heroic (and somewhat foolhardy) shot is to go for the green depending on wind conditions whereas the more conservative shot is to play for the fairway and be left with a short iron approach to another largish green protected by a swale in front of the green.
Kingston Heath â€œ 3rd hole – A short, relatively flat par 4 protected greenside by bunkers left and right and with a swale short of the green. A slightly pushed drive finds trees on the right and a drive too far left finds heavy tea tree. The largish green runs from back to front and comprises two halves where putting from one area to the other often results in a 3 putt. An overhit approach shot carrying the green is fed down into a hollow at the back of the green where a deft touch is needed to get close to the hole.
There are some beautiful examples of scenic courses in Australia and wearing my hat of golf course photographer these get me excited because they provide a real wow factor to the images that I take. Below are a couple of my favourites.
New South Wales Golf Club
Set on Botany Bay this course features a series of holes that provide alluring ocean views. From the reachable par 5 5th hole that builds your anticipation from the tee shot which climbs to the top of a hill and then watching the rest of the hole flow down to the ocean and the speck of a green in the background to the par 3 6th where from the back tees it is all carry over the water to a green appearing to perch on the edge this course excites and inspires.
The National Golf Club (Old Course)
The 7th hole of this course provides an example of one of the most spectacular holes in Australian golf. A par 3 of moderate length you are faced with a club selection of anything from a pitching wedge to a 3 wood (depending on the wind) over a ravine to a green which sits sideways and at times (generally!) does not look very large. Running down the complete left hand side of the shot is Bass Strait a body of water which separates mainland Australia from Tasmania. Many of the other holes at The National provide this kind of feeling.
The Cut at Port Bouvard
A new addition to the golf landscape over in Western Australia was designed by James Wilcher and has a number of holes with absolute ocean frontage. The 12th hole in particular is one such hole. A longish par 4 the tee shot plays to a valley flanked by tall natural sand dunes. The hole then winds slightly to the right and rising uphill to a green perched at the edge of the water providing a wonderful backdrop.
Set on a site that most architects would die for this course features a number of absolute beachside holes (in fact if you are not careful you can hit it onto the beach on a number of holes) that really frame these holes and provide a great scene to photograph.
They also leave the golfer with a clear memory of the course they have just played which is one of the ultimate aims of a scenic course.
16. To what do you attribute the emergence of this new flock of Australian contenders on the PGA Tour (Scott, Allenby, Appleby, Baddeley et al)?
Greg Norman did a lot for Australian golf back in the 80’s. He took a game that was not really dominated by anyone and held the number one ranking for quite a long period of time. This really stirred the desire of young kids (including myself) to get up and play golf and it has snowballed since then.
Furthermore the establishment of the Australian Institute of Sport and the various State Institutes (of which the Victorian Institute of Sport has been the most successful from a golf point of view) also provided a structured environment where talented students could develop everything that is needed to take their golf game to the next level.
Of the four top Australian golfers you mention above all but Adam Scott (Queensland based) came through the Victoria Institute of Sport where coaches such as Steven Bann (Allenby, Appleby) and Dale Lynch (Baddeley and Geoff Ogilvy) took this raw talent and refined it to allow these guys to be able to perform on the world stage. Their development of programs that encompassed more than swinging a golf club meant these guys were well equipped to compete on the overseas tours.
Areas such as strength and conditioning, psychology, maintaining statistical information on your golf game (as an aside this was how I first got into the golf scene by developing a comprehensive golf stats package called the Cypress Golf Analyser that the VIS and other elite player bodies started using to track their players statistical performance) and a general focus on helping these golfer develop to the elite level created a very strong and ongoing program.
17. What stresses are the classical Australian courses feeling due to the length issues?
I remember playing certain courses a dozen or so years ago and being challenged with certain fairway bunkers or water hazards being positioned a certain distance from the tee. It raised the question â€œ do I go for it or do I play away from it? This decision making process was part of the challenge of the golf course.
Now I am finding in many cases that these same bunkers are no longer in the picture. One can pull out their latest Callaway driver and just blast it straight over the top of them taking them completely out of play.
A classic example here is the 4th hole on the West Course at Royal Melbourne. I am sure many of your website visitors know the hole but for those who don’t it is an reachable par 5 (increasingly so with technology) which offers a tee shot needing to be hit up an inclining fairway featuring a series of imposing bunkers at the crest of the hill. Nowadays the modern golfer can generally just blast the drive straight over the top and then benefit from the other side of the incline propelling the ball towards the hole setting up a mid iron approach to this par 5.
With older technology though I am sure the golfer would think seriously about attempting to hit over the bunkers or playing around it and leaving a much harder and longer second shot.
Royal Melbourne in its heyday was a testing golf course. However because of the length issues we are talking about here all of its par 5 holes are reachable and a number of the par 4 holes are also within reach or provide at worst a flop wedge to the green. The main defence Royal Melbourne now has is its greens (and the speed at which they play), the weather conditions and the precarious pin placements on a number of the holes. The course record is now 60 by Ernie Els which is 12 under par and it is a clear example of the challenge many of the classic Australian courses face.
18. Many visiting European and American golfers want to know what courses in Australia they have the best chances of seeing Kangaroos and Wallabies. Suggestions? On the other hand the flies of Australia and Tasmania are legendary. What are your suggestions of best times and locations to avoid them?
Kangaroos on a golf course has to be an Australian thing. I don’t know of any other place in the world where you can grace the fairways with these generally polite creatures. To help everyone out here is a snapshot of where you are likely to encounter kangaroos and I have provided it state by state:
- RACV Country Club in Healesville
New South Wales
- Pacific Dunes
- Royal Canberra
- Federal Golf Club
- Sunset Cove
- Kooralbyn Valley
Avoiding flies is easy. Arrange your midnight tee time in the middle of winter and I will personally guarantee there will be no flies. But seriously flies are something to contend with at certain times of the year. They generally become a real nuisance for Summer but at other times of the year do not really pose a problem. They generally exist in warmer climates.
19. There is a prospect of a second course at Barnbougle Dunes. What’s the potential? Who do you think should design it? Why? Will a second course force a resort hotel to be built?
Bandon Dunes set a precedent â€œ build a golf course and they will come. Located in a fairly remote part of the USA it generated a lot of word of mouth business and then just snowballed. From what I understand the addition of the Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trails has created somewhat of a mini golf destination.
I see Barnbougle as being similar but to a lesser degree and with a greater underlying challenge. Whilst Bandon Dunes can draw from a local population base of 200 million Barnbougle only has a local population base of 20 million (and around 1 million if you consider just the Tasmanian population). Having said that the cost base from what I understand is quite low and their current bookings for both accommodation and golf is very strong so these are both positive signs.
In terms of who should design it this is a hard one. There are a good crop of Australian golf course architects and one part of me says that this is the way we should go. People like Tony Cashmore, James Wilcher or Mike Clayton spring to mind as architects who would do justice to the wonderful land that exists on the other side of the Tamar River.
But the more commercial side of me says that for this to become a truly world class “must go to” place you probably need to have a name designer such as Coore, Crenshaw, David McLay Kidd etc. I have mentioned these architects because they have worked with similar land as exists at Barnbougle and would be sympathetic to the land and the lack of need to move vast amount of dirt.
I believe the accommodation situation needs to be addressed. If I put my golf holiday hat back on we always find it difficult to find availability for clients staying at the Barnbougle Villas (which is great for them!) so an increase in the amount of onsite accommodation is certainly needed. Whether that would extend to a resort hotel I am still unsure of. Having two courses would create more of a golf destination and be likely to increase the average length of stay which could justify the decision to build a resort.
The sleepy town of Bridport (3 minutes from Barnbougle) does not really offer much for non golfing partners so yes maybe a resort with a spa or retreat of some kind with other activities nearby (wineries, lavender farm etc) could create a complete getaway. I am sure the accountants will do the sums and projections and arrive at an answer soon.