The complete redesign of the eighteen-hole course at Yowani Country Club in Canberra, Australia, will go into construction in November 2023. Ben Davey, director of Contour Golf Design Group, is leading the project.
The redesign and course upgrades were facilitated by the sale of eight hectares of the club’s land. That land is currently occupied by the club’s clubhouse, car park, bowling greens, maintenance sheds and motel. This land has now been rezoned for an apartment development on a busy main road that’s leads into the centre of Canberra.
The club has since acquired two hectares of land on the far side of the golf course. “The original plan was for this land to be used for a new clubhouse,” said Davey, who was appointed by the club in 2018. “As it turned out, most of the new land will be used for new lawn bowls greens and the car park, enabling the new clubhouse to straddle the line of the old golf course boundary, with views down the new eighteenth hole.”
With the club wanting both nines to return to the new clubhouse, a reconfiguration of several holes was needed.
“The new first hole occupies the land currently used for the fourteenth and fifteenth,” said the architect. “The eighteenth occupies part of the current sixteenth, but also uses some of the newly purchased land. An existing lake will be drained, reshaped and rebuilt to allow the new eighteenth to work. The tenth plays down the current seventeenth hole corridor but in the opposite direction and the new ninth uses the current eighteenth hole, but, again, will play in the opposite direction with the new ninth green sitting where the current eighteenth tees are.”
Several holes remain in the same location; however, all greens and tees will be rebuilt. The putting surfaces will be expanded to provide more interest and pin positions. “The greens have been designed to have tilts and broad falloffs on their sides, with spacious short grass surrounds often flowing seamlessly through to the following tees,” said Davey. “I want the new greens to be a real highlight. I want lots of variety, lots of movement but not wild contouring. I also want to introduce a few quirky features that the members may not have seen before.”
In June 2023, the architect visited more than 20 of America’s top courses, around northeast USA. “This project is very important to me, and I wanted to go into it inspired and full of ideas,” said Davey. “I don’t think you can create the best greens and golf holes without having first studied some of the best in the world.”
The masterplan includes the creation of three short par fours – the first, eighth and eighteenth. The 335-yard opener will be defended by three bunkers: one centreline around 80 yards short of the green, the second on the inside of the slight left dogleg 30 yards further up and the third near the front-right of the putting surface. Playing out to the right of the 60-yard-wide fairway is the safest way to start a round, but will leave a difficult and partly blind approach over that front-right bunker to a green that tilts away.
The eighth is the shortest of the par fours at 300 yards, with the toughest pin position front left, protected by two greenside bunkers. This fairway tilts sharply from right to left. The green will be approached through a low valley and then the putting surface falls away at the rear – inspired by the third hole on the West course at Royal Melbourne, although this hole bends the other way.
“The eighteenth is a Cape-style hole that plays around the gentle curve of a lake with a tempting drive that can reach the green 290 yards away, if a player dares to hug the edge,” said Davey. “The player that goes safely out to the right beyond a centreline bunker will be faced with a treacherous pitch, especially to a front pin – over sand to a narrow green with water beyond – in full view from the new clubhouse! An iron or rescue club from the tee, that stays as far left as a player dares, will be the sensible play.”
With three par fives and five par threes, Yowani will have a total par of 70. “The par threes vary in length from the new 120-metre twelfth, a pitch across the edge of a lake, to the nearly 220-yard downhill fifth,” said Davey. “A Redan-style sixteenth will also be about 220 yards in length and play very differently to the fifth.”
The club and architect want the course to be less crowded with trees and to highlight native species. Of the trees planned for removal, most are the non-native species of pine, cypress, poplar, oak and elm. “The new course will retain an inland parkland character, but will feel far more spacious with wider fairways, longer vistas across the course and to surrounding hills, with less shade issues for growing turf,” said Davey.
Two lakes will be rebuilt and two more added to increase water storage. A new Toro irrigation system is due to be installed, too. “Water is captured from a creek that runs through the course, and the additional storage will drought-proof the course,” said Davey. “In 2019, the club came close to running out of water and was only watering greens and tees. New water storage arrangements will ensure this will not happen in the future.”
Sydney-based Flemming Golf will complete construction work in two phases, so nine holes remain open at all times, over two to three years.