The Course and Club - Facts
The Governor of New South Wales
The New South Wales Golf Club Company Limited entered into a Leasehold agreement on the 29th day of March 1926.
Officially opened for play by the Governor General of Australia, Baron Stonehaven, on June 23 1928, although incomplete at the time.
Original Course Routing and Bunkering Plan: Dr. Alister MacKenzie, December 1926.
Completion of Dr. MacKenzie's Bunkering Plan and necessary alterations to the routing of the course: E.L. Apperly 1932-37.
Restoration and lengthening of the course to attain AGU Championship Status after Word War II: E.L. Apperly 1948-51.
Other Architects engaged for green site restoration, bunkering and additional teeing grounds since the mid 1980s: Thomson & Wolveridge; Newton, Grant & Spencer; Norman & Harrison;
The NSW Golf Course, is situated on the northern headland of historic Botany Bay, approximately 20 minutes drive from the CBD. Located in the Sydney suburb of La Perouse, it is flanked by the rugged cliffs of Henry Head and the prominent headland of Cape Banks.
Couch fairways with bent greens.
Amateur: Scott Arnold - 64 (February 14, 2009)
Golf Digest currently ranks the NSW Golf Club as the No. 9 golf course outside the United States and the No.1 golf course outside the United States and the UK.
"La Perouse", as the course is often known, is set amongst scrub covered sand hills and valleys that slope down to the Pacific Ocean at secluded Cruwee Bay. This inspiring layout is bounded by water on three sides and has many of the characteristics of true links golf. Occasionally benign and at the mercy of the "young guns", this sleeping giant, with its undulating fairways and small greens, calls for great skill in shot making when the sea breezes blow. It has been written that golf had its origins on unique seascapes similar to this one, where the wind is a dominating factor and the direction from which it blows making any of the eighteen holes comparatively easy or extremely difficult.
"It's one of the great golf courses I've seen, really a fun golf course. You could have some real times out here."
Arnold Palmer – 27 Nov, 2004
On 29 April 1770, Captain Cook dropped anchor just inside the headlands on the southern shore of Botany Bay, part of the traditional lands of the Gweagal people. In seeking to replenish his water supply, he was unable to locate fresh water on the south side of the bay, so he despatched a boat to the northern shores where suitable fresh water was located in what is now known as "Captain Cook's Waterhole". This soak is about 150 metres below our 17th tee and is still visible more than 200 years later, particularly after rain. Cook's party included two botanists of note - the Swede, Daniel Solander and (Sir) Joseph Banks, after whom the glorious bottlebrush shrub "Banksia Serrata" is named.
Subsequently, on 26 January 1788, the very day that the First Fleet of British convicts and settlers anchored at Sydney Cove - now known as Farm Cove - two frigates under the command of Monsieur Jean-Francois Galaup De La Perouse landed on the northern shores of Botany Bay, an area occupied by the Goorawal people, "...for wood, water and specimens, and to build two long boats...". Louis XVI of France had chosen La Perouse to lead a scientific voyage of discovery to the Pacific with instructions to discover what the British were doing in Botany Bay. In March 1788 La Perouse sailed past the future site of the New South Wales Golf Links to his demise at Vanikoro, off the Solomon Islands, where his two ships foundered.
Today, the New South Wales Golf Club occupies the northern headland of Botany Bay (which Cook originally named "Stingray Harbour") on a breathtaking landscape that sweeps down to Cape Banks. Cape Solander and Point Sutherland form the southern headland, and suburb of La Perouse is situated on the N-E shore of the bay.
The NSW Golf Club has been the custodian of an area that is an integral part of Australia's first European settlement and military history for over 75 years. Following the cessation of the 1st World War the Army's use of the northern headland of Botany Bay between Cape Banks and La Perouse was scaled down, and in 1926 the Commonwealth Department of Home and Territories leased the barren windswept property to the NSWGC for the development of a golf links. Prior to WWII a portion of the links was resumed by the Army for the building of Fort Banks as part of Sydney's Anti-Ship Defences. Counter bombardment fortifications consisting of two BL 9.2 inch Mark 10 guns and related observation posts and barracks were completed when WWII commenced, as was the re-establishment of the old Henry Head Battery (two BL 6 inch guns). The NSWGC vacated the leasehold when the property was resumed for the last four years of the war.
The Club, over the years, has had very close links with the Army. It was Brigadier-General Sydney Herring, a real estate agent, who was the first Chairman of the company, and it was he and other foundation members, solicitor Eustace Murphy and accountant T.A. Magnay, who were the driving force behind the original establishment of the club. It was General Herring who assumed the role of Secretary of the club following the untimely death of the first incumbent, Englishman Major A.C. Flint in 1928, and it was Herring, Colonel W.R.Bertram, Secretary of The Royal Sydney Golf Club, and Magnay who accompanied Dr. Alister MacKenzie to La Perouse for the first time. Colonel Bertram would also act as MacKenzie's assistant and initially supervise the implementation of MacKenzie's plans for the NSW Club. Major General Gordon Bennett, became the Club's first President in 1928 and, with the exception of 1937, retained that post until 1945. Later, Major General Ken Mackay played a large part in arranging Army to assist with the construction of the footbridge and "island tee" at the famous Par 3 sixth hole in 1972, and later again with extensions to our car park. As well, during the Club's first fifty years, it was ex-army and naval officers who usually filled the position of Club Secretary.
"At Sydney , I made an entirely new course for the New South Wales Golf Club at a place called La Perouse. This is a sand duned peninsula which overlooks Botany Bay and presents, I think, more spectacular views than any other place I know with the possible exception of the new Cypress Point golf course I am doing on the Del Monte peninsula in California."
Dr Alister MacKenzie, Golf Illustrated, 1927
In 1925 when the golf professional Dan Soutar (Australian Open Champion 1905) looked over the La Perouse site, he gave a favourable report. However, the 27-hole layout that featured in the prospectus issued by the New South Wales Golf Club Company Limited in March 1926 was the work of fellow golf professionals Carnegie Clark and James Herd Scott. The reason for the switch is unknown, but perhaps Soutar had been distracted by his design work at Kingston Heath G.C. at the time. As the initial response to the prospectus was disappointing, T.A. Magnay proposed to invite Dr. MacKenzie to visit La Perouse when he arrived in Sydney on December 4, 1926. General Herring conceded later that the promoters were pursuing a 'wonderful boost' to the Company's stocks by approaching MacKenzie. Their esteemed visitor did not disappoint them, giving 'a wonderful report and a splendid layout' during his four weeks stay at Royal Sydney G.C, albeit for a considerable fee of 250 pound. 'La Perouse is a magnificent piece of country,' the famous architect excitedly told a group of businessmen at a luncheon in the city in December, and by the middle of 1927 construction was in full swing with Carnegie Clark's brother-in-law, Norman Bissett, as head greensman. The original Par 73 layout was officially opened by the Governor-General Baron Stonehaven in July 1928, and included three Par 3s, four Par 5s and eleven Par 4 holes, five of which were less than 300 metres (330 yards) long.
"Since the inception of golf in (the State of) New South Wales, few occasions have been historically more important than the opening of the new golf links at La Perouse which has been specially constructed for the New South Wales Golf Club. An ideal course in a most beautiful situation and convenient to the city, the new links is undoubtedly destined to play an important part in the future history of golf in the State..."
Extract from Golf in Australia 1928
The New South Wales Golf Club had it's origins in buoyant economic times, but was soon faced with the reality of completing MacKenzie's layout and bunkering plan after the stock market crash of October 1929. It would be late 1931 before the Club requested MacKenzie's main man in Melbourne, Alex Russell, 'to assess the progress made with MacKenzie's routing and bunkering plans'. Russell offered a detailed report, highlighting the fact that, since the lifting of the R&A ban on steel shafts in 1929, there were too many holes in the 'drive and pitch' category.
In common with many courses built before WWII, the New South Wales golf links evolved through several distinct phases. Over the first decade of play, changes were, of necessity, made to MacKenzie's original routing. In 1932, Eric Apperly, the noted amateur golfer and golf course architect, offered his services and quickly found himself working with Norman Bissett on the job of best implementing MacKenzie's original bunkering plans and responding to Russell's critique of the course. By 1935, Apperly, now an Honorary Member of the Club, had drawn up a scheme of alterations that would address not only Russell's concerns, but also the loss of the 'drop-down' par 3 fourth hole and the cliff line 5th tee, when the land on which they were played was resumed in preparation for war. At both NSWGC and Newcastle GC (2nd nine/1935), Apperly demonstrated an understanding of MacKenzie's approach to course architecture; let the land dictate the holes and create the excitement, and build hazards and greens in the spirit of the land assigned to them. By 1937, ten years after it's opening, NSWGC had been completed to the satisfaction of its foundation members. Significantly, MacKenzie's three original par 3s had been replaced by four new par 3s which Apperly designed to play to the four points of the compass, as would the par 5s when Apperly converted the current 8th into a par 5 and reduced par on the current 4th to 4. It is of note that the course routing at that time was substantially as it is today.
When WWII spread to the Pacific in December 1941, the golf course and property was resumed and occupied by the Army until a new lease was granted to the NSWGC in 1946. Restoration work began immediately under the supervision of R.G. Gale and club professional G.C. Kay on a landscape laid fallow and scarcely discernable as a golf course. By 1949, Eric Apperly was once again overseeing another phase to bring the course up to championship status, this time ably assisted by George Kay. Post war restoration of greens and tees continued and the course lengthened, and when Eric Apperly died suddenly in 1951, Kay completed his work. By 1952 the course had been fully restored in readiness for the Club's Silver Jubilee (1953), which was to be marked by the hosting of the Australian Amateur Championship. Apart from the 3rd hole, only minor routing changes had been made; the ability of Eric Apperly to interpret MacKenzie's design strategies when completing and modifying the Doctor's layout had served the NSW Golf Club well.
Other course designers were to come, Thomson & Woolveridge in the 80s, Newton,Grant & Spencer 80s & 90s, and subsequently Greg Norman, ostensively to renovate green sites and add tees in order to maintain the sternest of golfing tests in the face of the rapid advancement of golf equipment technology. However, MacKenzie's original routing (1926) and Apperly's necessary changes (1937 & 51) still form the basis of a scenically breathtaking, powerful, and ever-changing golfing masterpiece.
"The routing is what makes the course and that has MacKenzie's imprint all over it." (2003)
"I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that beauty means a great deal on a golf course; even the man who emphatically states that he does not care a hang for beauty is subconsciously influenced by his surroundings. A beautiful hole appeals not only to the short but also to the long handicap player, and there are few first rate holes which are not at the same time, either in the grandeur of their undulations and hazards, or the character of their surrounds, things of beauty in themselves."
Dr. Alister MacKenzie
For a more comprehensive history of NSW Golf Club since 1928, copies of "Golf at La Perouse" (108 pages) can be purchased at the Club for $49.95. This publication includes an exciting variety of photography, editorials and anecdotes.