Review: Ballarat Golf Club – Golf Australia Magazine

His articulate observations on the game always had a passion for golf at their heart. No area of ​​the game has gone unnoticed for the five-time Open champion.

In particular, his opinions and theories on course architecture – gleaned from nearly five decades as a course designer – have been the basis for more than 180 courses designed in 30 countries.

One of Thomson’s last Australian designs before his retirement is at the Ballarat Golf Club – a club which originated in 1895 and remains Australia’s oldest course still played on part of the original course.

With approval given for a large residential development adjoining the club, Thomson and design partner Ross Perrett were tasked with creating an almost entirely new course, covering some of the original layout as well as new pitches adjacent to the property. The result of their work was staked in 2009 and almost immediately earned a position in Australia’s Top 100 Public Access Courses. He’s been there ever since.

In 2021, he climbed three places to 67th in the national rankings.

“The design by Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett in Ballarat is a beauty. Of particular note is the routing with holes playing at all cardinal points, which adds to the variety of shots you play during a round,” said Top 100 ranking panelist Hamish Walker. “This is a good fun golf course for all players.”

The only sand you will find on the slight uphill par-5 2nd is en route to the green. PICTURED: Brendan James.

When asked a few years ago what makes a good golf course, Thomson explained that if a course was playable and enjoyable for all golfers, it deserved praise.

“Hardly anyone is looking to make the courses more user-friendly, relieving the less gifted in the form of more mowed grass and fewer cavernous sand craters, or removing unnecessary trees within the boundaries of the course to let in the light and air,” Thomson said.

“If there is an art to golf course design, it is to make an 18-hole course a source of enjoyment for all golfers, from the best among us to the most incompetent. A course so difficult that the highest handicaps cannot finish is a mediocre course.

The 14th run is the longest of Ballarat’s par 4s. PICTURED: Brendan James.

Thomson and Perrett’s work in Ballarat is certainly appreciated as it is a fun, yet challenging layout for players of all skill levels.

It’s not a long course by modern standards. It spans 6,283 yards from the back stakes (5,817 from the members tees), but Thomson and Perrett ensured that every club in the bag would get a run during the round and good scores would be born from a smart thinking from tee to green.

The designers haven’t completely taken the pilot out of players’ hands but – with the strategic placement of bunkers, rough or watery – they leave you open to suggesting a better option. Intelligent play is always rewarded here, where poorly executed aggressive play is penalized.

One constant adds to the challenge of playing with this design: the wind. There always seems to be a breeze here, which adds to the variety of shots you’ll need to play, especially considering that all the holes have been routed to work in all cardinal directions.

The first and longest of Ballarat’s par-3s, the 6th, can be tricky in the wind. PICTURED: Brendan James.

Of note, however, is the large collection of short par-4 holes. The first of these is the 319-yard par-4 3rd, which plays slightly downhill from the tee and is flanked by out of bounds to the left along its entire length. The rough mounds down the straight cut
into the fairway, creating a wide tongue of rough which was filled with a bunker, approximately 240 yards from the back tee. The best approach to the shallow green is from the right half of the fairway, so players are left with two line of play options – play short of the fairway trap and take a longer approach, or be aggressive and bomb a drive to the left edge of the bunker and leave a short iron in the putting surface.

The next hole, a par 4 of 358 meters, is also worth mentioning here. It only plays about 40 yards longer than the 3rd hole but it’s a much more demanding offering with water, sand and two majestic gum trees defending par. The fairway gently rises and falls over waves of small hills and narrows considerably as it winds past a single bunker cut from the rough right and located just in the driving zone. Both gums, although wide of the fairway, can block any approach that veers too far from the center of the fairway. The best line to the green starts from the right half of the fairway, which has many mounds and dips, making a flat lie quite rare. There are no greenside bunkers, as the green is slightly elevated, with water to the left and swales to the right.

Another hole that is a tough proposition and requires smart play instead of rough hitting opens the back nine. The 471-yard 10th hole might be considered a short par-5 by modern design standards, but it is a true three-shot par-5 for most players. The out of bounds well to the left of the fairway is not the main concern for players here… keeping your ball dry on the way to the green is the real concern.

The par-5 10th is short but it questions your strategy on every shot. PICTURED: Brendan James.

The first of two stream crossings is just 240 yards (it’s about 260 yards from the back stakes) from the tee, meaning any player aiming to get to the green in two shots should be as close as possible of this water. . This is a difficult task as the fairway begins to descend towards the waters edge from around 220 yards. By far the best approach to the right sloping green is from the left half of the fairway. If, like me, you can’t hit two shots nearly half a mile away, it’s best to lay to the left (well away from the lake that borders the right edge of the fairway) and short of the second ‘light’ . This, however, brings into play a large fairway bunker on the left edge of the fairway. Skip the sand and you’ll end up with an 8 or 9 iron or even a wedge (depending on the position of the pin on the massive green) for your third shot.

The club recently embarked on a program to remodel its bunkers using a new bunker liner, called Golflex, which turns end-of-life tires into a granulated rubber, creating a more porous, tough and durable bunker liner. flexible.

“It basically keeps the shape of the bunker, drains it and there’s less maintenance, especially after heavy rains,” said general manager Lloyd Miller. “There is also more consistency from one bunker to another.

“We also have a variety of different sands in use at the moment, but this program will see all the same sand used, all from one supplier, throughout the course.”

Ballarat’s 11th bunkerless par-3 with its enormous two-tier putting surface. PICTURED: Brendan James.

I have been fortunate enough to play Ballarat many times since it officially reopened over a dozen years ago and it has matured well beyond the usual ‘honeymoon’ period for a new course, especially in terms of presentation.

Miller credited the Ballarat greens staff, led by Course Superintendent Jeff Powell, for the outstanding job they do in keeping the course at such a high level of conditioning.

“For the manpower we have, the amount of game traffic and the budget Jeff has, he does a fantastic job,” Miller said.

“He also transmits this knowledge. He’s had two guys win Apprentice of the Year, two years in a row, and it’s a credit to him for his ability to teach them. And, ultimately, the proof is out there on the golf course.

Considering the extreme weather conditions that can be encountered in Ballarat, from the depths of winter to the heights of summer, the playing surfaces have adapted beautifully to their surroundings… which, for Thomson, ticks another box. when it comes to producing a journey of integrity.

“When it comes to golf courses with integrity, I know that’s an unusual word, but to me it means strength of features, proper dimensions, that give a golf course an obvious look, not too d trees, but enough for life enhancement and bird habitat without interfering too much with golf,” Thomson said. “Add to that a high level of maintenance, which just might be the most important to all.”


LOCATION: Sturt Street, West Ballarat.

CONTACT: (03) 5338 3000


DESIGNERS: Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett (2009).

PLAYING SURFACES: Santa Ana Couch (fairways), G2 bentgrass (greens and surroundings), fine fescues including Sheep’s and Creeping Red (rough).


PGA PROFESSIONALS: David Wallis (professional chef), Angela Tatt, Andrew Cartledge, Travis Tatt and Daniel Defelice.

GREEN FEES: $35 (weekdays), $45 (weekends). Carts: $50.

MEMBERSHIP: Due to unprecedented demand, the club has limited vacancies for its membership categories to seven days. There are other categories available with details and application forms to be found on the club website.

REWARDS: Ranked #67 in Australia Golf Magazine Top 100 Public Access Courses for 2021.

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