Coonamble Golf Club
If you read our Golf in Australia page, you know that Coonamble Golf Club was a surprise to us. COVID-19 had dramatically altered our travel plans. And we came across Coonamble strictly by chance during our trip through The Hinterland of New South Wales. It was a long driving day and we were looking for a place to pull over so that we could make something to eat.
Menekse was the first to spot it, and the car park at Coonamble Golf Club sounded like the perfect place to rest for lunch.
Climbing out of our campervan Putu, we could see what we guessed was the ninth green. Being in the middle of woop woop Australia, we were not surprised to see that the greens were sand. So back into Putu we went, and we finished making something to eat.
While enjoying our lunch, we noticed the Coonamble Jockey Club sign hanging next door. But it wasn’t until the second inspection that we saw that the golf course seemed to surround the horse track. We have played on many sand green golf courses in our travels. We have even played on a golf course in the Czech Republic that plays inside a horse track. But, we wondered, could this be a sand green horse track golf course? We knew that we had to find out!
A Sand Green Horse Track Golf Course
As we entered the clubhouse, we noticed the hand-drawn sign on the door that said it all- Keep Bush Clubs Alive. We chatted with a gentleman behind the bar who said that there are 2 courses in the area that have closed in the past few years. Keep in mind that “in the area” in this part of Australia includes towns that are hours away. A lack of interest in the game as well as the fleeting of the younger population has taken its toll on the outback of Australia. Sadly, that has become the same problem in many rural communities. However, he was able to confirm our question- Coonamble IS a sand green horse track golf course!
Coonamble Golf Club offers 18 holes that circle the Coonamble Jockey Club twice. First on the front nine, and again on a wider loop on the back. The course measures 6204-yards, par 67, from the back tees, and 5574-yards, par 70, from the forward tees. Since we arrived late, we only had time to play the 2998-yard par 34 front.
After sliding our $15 for all-day play into the honesty box, we made our way to the opening tee. There was a strong wind blowing from the east that made the sunny June winter’s day feel bitter.
And They’re Off!
The first time the racetrack comes directly into play is on the 179-yard par 3 second hole. With a big swing, Menekse easily hurdled the track, landing just short of the sand green, while I settled pin high left. But to reach the green, you first walk across the actual racetrack. We were surprised at how soft and thick the grass on the racetrack was. I guess I have always imagined the grass on a horse track being firm and mowed tight, something like Augusta National. But this was more like the fat thick rough found at a US Open venue like Oakmont!
Having both missed our putts, we raked the green and searched for the third tee. But first, we know what you are wondering. And, yes, the greens are raked counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere!
Menekse appeared to have split the middle of the fairway on the 322-yard par 4 third. But as we walked, we were not able to find it anywhere.
They must have some serious mower problems because the grass on the fairways resembled something more like a salad than grass! But in defense, as we chatted in the clubhouse, we were warned that it was “a little hairy” out there! When we finally did find it, it was laying in the salad like an egg. But it was right down the middle!
Coming Around the Corner
There is a small dirt mound short of the green on the 166-yard par 3 fourth that made seeing the hole from the tee difficult. I was able to make a decent swing with an 8-iron that left me about 1 foot right off the sand green. Sinking the 20-footer, it felt good to have my first birdie in my last couple of rounds of golf! But I must ask- does that count as a sandy?!
The tee box of the 377-yard par 4 fifth sits directly below the halfway marker of the horse track. I climbed the tower and proudly watched Menekse crack one up the middle. The tower was quite rickety, which probably wasn’t the smartest thing I have ever done on the golf course, but it did offer a spectacular view!
With the sun low on the horizon, I thought I hit mine down the left side, but we found it in the middle of the dirt fairway. And we mean dirt fairway!! Mr. Ben Hogan famously wrote that the secret is in the dirt. Coonamble took the secret literally!!
Leaving five, we walked towards the next tee, but Menekse noticed that it was the seventh hole, not the sixth. Searching, we saw a sign behind the green pointing us to the sixth tee, but we never did find it. Nor the green!
Down the Stretch They Come
The 437-yard par 4 seventh plays around the third bend of the horse track. The perfect target is the three-quarters tower that sits outside the track, on the right side of the fairway. Taking aim, Menekse threw one nicely down the right side, coming to rest just around the stretch.
I aimed at the same tower hoping to fly the corner of the racetrack, which I executed, I thought, with perfection. As we approached the fairway, however, my ball was nowhere to be found! Menekse spotted it way over in the middle of fifteen, well left of the fairway. One of the best things about circular golf courses is that there is often space for errant tee shots! It might be in another fairway, but we will always take a fairway hit! I wasn’t able to see the green from there however and hit 7 iron just short. But it was a well-struck ball considering!
By this time, it was getting dark and we were chasing the sun. Our round took longer than we had planned, most likely because we had to spend too much time searching for golf balls, greens, and even holes!
We spent the evening back at Putu, admiring the slow movement of the constellations. We fell asleep under a star-filled sky and dreamt of the vastness of the Milky Way and the Southern Cross. And sand greens! With both sand greens and a horse track, Coonamble Golf Club must be one of the most unique golf courses we have ever played. But could it be the only sand green horse track golf course in the world? We are sure to continue our journey traveling the world playing golf to find out!