Major rebuild plan for Bonnie Doon


Major rebuild plan for Bonnie Doon
Sean Dudley

Scott Warren reports on an exciting renovation in Sydney.

Design firm Ogilvy Clayton is set to break ground on a comprehensive renovation of Sydney’s Bonnie Doon Golf Club.

The project will be the first undertaken by the new firm, formed last year as a partnership between golf architect and former European Tour player Mike Clayton and 2006 US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy.

The pair, along with associates Mike Cocking and Ashley Mead, have planned an extensive redesign to the Bonnie Doon course, which located alongside The Lakes Golf Club – itself redesigned by Clayton before hosting last year’s Australian Open, which Ogilvy won.

Bonnie Doon general manager Nick Bowles said the acquisition of undeveloped land adjoining the front nine and a desire to remove boundary issues on the current ninth and eleventh holes led the club to embrace a full redesign by Ogilvy Clayton.

“Mike was very clear about his vision and we were really impressed with the focus he put on the natural environment, given the native East Coast Banksia Scrub on our property, and his feelings about creating options through angles rather than just asking the golfer to hit the ball straight down the middle all day,” said Bowles.

“Mike really wanted to return the land to a more natural state, which meant enhancing the scrub and removing exotic tree species that not only created an unnatural environment but made a relatively small course feel even smaller by creating a corridor effect on many holes. Geoff Ogilvy wasn’t associated with Clayton Golf Design at that stage, but obviously when he came on board it just added to the excitement.”

Ogilvy walked the course with Clayton, Cocking and Mead last year and made recommendations relating to several holes, including the driveable third (currently the second), which will be one of four short par fours on the revamped layout.

Bowles, who visited a number of Clayton’s successful redesigns in Melbourne with his board before signing with the architect, identified the seventh hole at Peninsula (South) and the fourteenth at Victoria Golf Club as examples of what the club wanted to achieve.

While Clayton believes the course can rocket from outside the Australian Top 100 into the Top 25, Bowles said the club was not driven by ranking positions, but added: “Obviously dropping out of the Top 100 gave us a clear message that we had slipped and there was a realisation that we had to do something significant.”

The plan sees most playing corridors retained, with two brand new holes on the site of a former garbage tip allowing for the land currently housing the ninth, tenth and eighteenth holes to accommodate just two holes and the sixteenth hole dropping out to allow a semi-blind short par five to be created as the highlight of the five holes to be located on the club’s southern outer paddock.

Stage one, which begins on 5 May, will see the current first to fourth and eighth holes redesigned and two new holes (a par five and a par three) and a new practice facility built, at a cost of about A$3 million.

The work is expected to take eleven months, after which the club hopes to move immediately to stages two (the current fifth-seventh and seventeenth) and three (the rest), creating an entirely overhauled par 71 course measuring just over 6,000 metres (6,561 yards).

The majority of the total cost is attached to stage one, owing to the mining of sand on the first, fourth and eighth to cap the land for the new holes.

“There is no set plan for the second and third stages,” Bowles said. “But we hope to continue at the pace of at least one hole per year, and hopefully faster than that. At the completion of State One we will have 21 holes, allowing the rest of the work to be undertaken without any inconvenience on our members.”

Scott Warren is an Australian journalist and golf writer.