New South Wales Golf Club: Sydney Golf at it’s Very Best
I started traveling for golf in 2013.
And ever since that time there’s a course that’s been on my personal bucket list: New South Wales Golf Club in Sydney, Australia.
I mean, an Alister MacKenzie design set within a national park on the Australian coast? If that’s not a recipe for a memorable golf course, I’m not sure what is.
Well in an unexpected turn of events, my dream finally came true last week.
Every 5 years my wife gets a 6 week sabbatical from work. She’s forced to take the time off, so we always try and make the most of it.
Last time we did a 2 month round the world trip that took us to New York, Oktoberfest in Munich, the Dolomites, Tuscany, a Panda Reserve in Wulong, China, before finishing in Hong Kong, and Shanghai.
Safe to say, this sabbatical had a lot to live up to.
But a lot has changed since 2017.
We now have a 2-year-old.
The original plan? Head to a resort in Mexico for a week, and call it good.
That’s great, but is something we could pretty easily do anytime we wanted.
What would be something truly memorable, that we could manage with a toddler, that we couldn’t do without more time off?
Australia? Sure, why not!
So 2 weeks before Tate’s sabbatical started, it was decided: a 3-week road trip through Australia.
We started with a week in Sydney. And NSW Golf Club was the only round of golf I played there, but man was it worth it.
How good was it? Let’s find out.
First Impressions of New South Wales Golf Club
It was about a half-hour drive from our AirBnb in Bondi to NSW Golf Club.
And as soon as you turn off the main road, you’re transported to a different world.
You leave suburban Sydney, and you enter, well, nature.
NSW Golf Club is located within the La Perouse National Park area, and the setting is gorgeous. There’s a half mile or so drive through the forest before you get to a fork in the road.
Go to the right through the gates to get to the clubhouse, or go to the left and follow a rough road to get to a bunch of nature trails, a gun range, and heliport.
The NSW clubhouse is perched up over the course giving you a wonderful view of what’s to come with fantastic views of holes 1, 2, 9, 10, and 18.
First thought? This isn’t going to be a walk in the park.
The land NSW Golf Club is built on couldn’t be more perfect for golf. Rolling dunes, ridges, and ocean views abound.
Not to mention the sandy soil.
I briefly met the GM after my round and he said the rain they had for 1 hour just a day before I played was a once-in-20-year event.
That’s how hard it rained.
24 hours later? The course was in perfect condition. There was some standing water in 3 bunkers. Otherwise, you’d have no idea.
The driving range is located a short walk down the hill from the clubhouse, and is first-rate.
There’s an excellent training facility, and the hitting bays for the range are very nice.
They also might have the best acoustics of any range I’ve been to. Even a mediocre drive hit on this range will make you sound like Tiger Woods.
And allow me to spoil the surprise…it only gets better from here.
Front 9 at NSW Golf Club
The opening hole at NSW is exactly what I like to see when it comes to first holes.
It’s generally, quite easy. In fact, it’s rated the 18th handicap hole on the course.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t strategy involved.
You can hit just about any club you want on the downhill tee shot to the uphill approach.
It’s just over 300 yards, so even a long iron will give you a wedge into the green.
But go too far right and you can find trouble. And you have to be careful with a left pin placement as there’s very little room left of the hole to miss.
But after a nice warmup hole, NSW Golf Club starts to show it’s teeth.
The 2nd is a long par 3, that was playing about 200 yards the day we played.
There’s a big false front, and anything short will end up in a swale and a tricky pitch up.
All 3 of us hit the same shot: short.
On 3 is where things start to get really interesting for me.
The tee box is set at about a 45-degree angle directly behind 2 green. It’s a blind shot that feels like a less severe version of the tee on the 4th at The Country Club in Brookline.
The hole is a dogleg left, and you can significantly shorten the hole by cutting the corner. However, anything with a fade or slice is going to leave a long approach to an uphill green.
This is the kind of hole you just don’t see built anymore and is one of my favorites on the course.
The fourth is a solid long par 4.
My Favorite Two Holes at NSW Golf Club: 5 and 6
And then you hit the spectacular 5th hole.
This is probably top 20 favorite golf holes I’ve ever played. Maybe top 10.
How the wind shows up when you play the 5th will dictate a lot about your experience.
It’s just over 500 yards, but if you clear the ridge off the tee, you can get a significant amount of roll, making getting home in 2 very doable, if not relatively easy.
The reveal as you’re walking up the fairway on 5 is all-world. When you crest the ridge and see the green, and peninsula jutting out towards the ocean and Cruwee Cove – it truly is a special sight.
The day I played NSW was very benign, and the wind never got super crazy. But watching my 2nd shot launch up into the sky, down across ocean, and landing just short of the green was one of the most fun golf shots I’ve played.
When the wind is down and conditions are like we had it, the true student of golf architecture might knock the hole for being too easy for a par 5.
But for me as an average 11 handicap? I love the chance to get home in 2. It’s fun, it’s scenic, and it’s not trying to be overly penalizing – which makes for a hole that’s immensely enjoyable to play for all levels.
And then you get to the signature 6th hole.
The walk over the bridge to the 6th tee should be on any list of “best golf bridges.”
The green was redesigned and softened a bit by Tom Doak a few years back.
But any shot playing nearly 200 yards over the ocean is still no walk in the park.
The views lived up to all expectations, and 5-7 is clearly one of the most memorable stretches on the golf course.
7 is an uphill par 4 made even more difficult by a challenging green with significant undulations and a tricky false front.
While the most dramatic views come on 5th and 6th, I think the course continues to build from here.
8 is a difficult par 5 with a blind second shot, to a beautiful green site defended by two bunkers short right and one long left.
The 9th takes you down to the halfway house and is a shorter par 4, with fairways that slant significantly right to left.
The bunker left of the green is one of the most brutal bunkers you’ll find. Hint: don’t be in it.
5 and 6 are likely my favorite spots on the golf course, but I think the back is home to some even better holes from a strategic standpoint.
When we hit the halfway house I was introduced to the Australian Meat Pie.
I had no idea this was a thing.
And safe to say, the one at NSW was excellent and unexpected.
I can safely say this was my first meat pie on a golf course, but you better believe I’ll be ordering one every time I play here from now on.
The Back 9 at NSW Golf Club
You can see the 10th green from the clubhouse, and I was excited to play the hole ever since I first set eyes on it.
The pin location can really dictate where the ideal drive should be.
In nearly all cases, me being on 18 fairway was likely not the ideal position, but still totally playable.
The pot bunkering at NSW feels like it was lifted straight out of Scotland, and the 10th is a great example of this with 3 bunkers guarding the green on the right, and a sneaky one short left.
For 11 you head back over the ridge and are met with a wonderful view and a fantastic mid-length par 3. There’s a big false front and 4 bunkers guarding each of the corners of the green. The wind can absolutely make this hole much more difficult, and by the time we hit this point in our round the winds had picked up and were directly into us.
The par 5, 12th felt like one of the easier holes on the course, and once you know what’s to come in the subsequent holes you’ll be happy for it.
The Best 2 Holes at NSW Golf Club: 13 and 14
I mentioned that 5 and 6 were my favorite stretch of holes at New South Wales Golf Clube
13 and 14 are a very close second, and I’d argue are probably the better golf holes. It doesn’t hurt that I played these two the best of the day going par, birdie:
13 is a big dogleg left and the more aggressive you are off the tee, the more you’ll be rewarded with a shorter approach.
The infinity green is stunning and rivals the views on 5 and 6 for best on the course.
14 is a wonderful cape hole that immediately felt reminiscent of the 5th at Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda.
In fact, a lot of this course felt similar to Mid Ocean. Similar blind shots, land movements, and water views.
Bite off as much as you want.
I went further left than I anticipated, and expected to be short. If it were 5 at MOC, I definitely would have been short.
Fortunately, my 233-yard drive left me with a gap wedge in, which I hit to a foot, for my one birdie of the day.
The Closing 4 Holes at NSW
In my book, 15 is hands down the toughest hole on the course.
You’re lined up towards the right, but this 400ish yard par 4, moves towards the left at first before bending back right on your approach shot.
This means even the slightest fade is in the native grass and will be very difficult to find.
Not to mention that it plays directly into the wind.
None of us cleared the ridge off our tee, and I took a triple, as everything about this hole I found to be challenging.
The 16th feels reminiscent to the 13th in that it’s a big dogleg left with excellent ocean views from the green.
From the green, you also see the “bonus” hole at New South Wales Golf Club which can be used as a “bye” hole or as a replacement hole if maintenance is being done elsewhere on the course.
This is likely one of the best extra holes in golf. Or at least it certainly looked that way based on the views.
17 is the final par 3 on the course and is deceptively tricky. From the tee, it looks pretty benign. But missing both left or right results in a steep bank which will repel your ball. Not to mention a green that isn’t very receptive to your recovery shots either. If you’re going to miss, miss short, because anything else is likely a bogey or worse.
Finally, 18 is an excellent closing par 5. This one feels a bit different than many others, and that’s likely due to the fact it was re-designed by Greg Norman a number of years ago.
That said it’s a wonderful hole, with very strategic bunkering, and a perfect location perched just below the clubhouse. I can imagine some fantastic heckling can take place here on Medal days.
Final Impressions of New South Wales Golf Club
NSW Golf Club is quite simply an excellent golf course. The land is spectacular, as are the views.
But for me one of the best hallmarks of a great golf course is memorability.
Can I remember every hole? Or do they blend together?
I’m a week removed from playing the course, and I can clearly remember every single hole on the course.
NSW Golf Club has a little bit of everything. There are some absolutely insane views, but it’s not an all-out attack on your senses for 18 holes, like say the Sheep Ranch is.
There’s some wonderful elevation change, but it’s not as difficult of a walk as say Bethpage Black.
Getting to play here was a special experience, and one of the better golf days I’ve had in recent memory.
It was my first of 7 rounds in Australia.
At the time of writing this, it’s the night before my second round in the country where I’ll be playing Royal Melbourne West. Widely regarded as the best course in Australia and top 10 in the world. I look forward to seeing how it stacks up.
But no matter what? New South Wales Golf Club is a special experience, and a place I hope to visit many times in the future.