Darwin Golf Club
Established in 1930, Darwin Golf Club is the oldest golf club in the Northern Territory. The original course was near the Fannie Bay Goal (jail). The Chief Gaoler was a keen golfer and he helped with the maintenance of the course. But that original location didn’t last long because in 1936 the Club was forced to move. A third relocation took place in 1974, which gives us the current layout, designed by famed Aussie golfer Mr. Peter Thomson.
To be honest, Darwin Golf Club, or even the city of Darwin for that matter, never was in our original plan. After all, Darwin is a very long way from our intended Australian route. A 4-hour plus flight from Melbourne or Sydney, Darwin is actually closer to Bali than to most of Australia!
But, after COVID-19 completely altered our travel plans, we had decided to travel up to Australia’s Top End. However, traveling slowly as we do, we arrived in Darwin about a month later than we had hoped. Why is that important? Because the tropical monsoons that are simply called “The Wet” bring a lot of rain to Darwin from November through April. Not only does it bring rain, but the humidity can be repressive. It was mid-October when we finally rocked up into town, and it was already hot and muggy and had been pouring rain for 2 solid days prior.
Threat of Rain
The tropical fragrance of the frangipani wafted in the humid air that felt damp, even at 8:30 in the morning. We played a lot of golf in Malaysia last year and it was the weather like today that reminded me why I wear a golf glove. Hot and humid.
Entering the pro-shop under thick darkening skies, Rob greeted us with a friendly “how-ya-goin’”. We asked him a little bit about the course, and if he could assure us of a rain-free round! He grinned at our request, told us some history of the club, and said that the greens had just been aerated on Monday and Tuesday of this week. It was Friday today, but it still could be a little bumpy. Undeterred, we paid our green fees and headed straight for the first tee. Darwin has great practice facilities, but we were more worried about the skies than we were about mulligans.
With a par of 72, Darwin Golf Club plays 6642-yards from the Men’s Blue tees and 5746 from the Women’s Red tees.
The 510-yard straightaway par 5 opening hole is one that could provide a birdie opportunity right out of the gate. Both of us found the middle of the fairway off the tee. With a pair of fairway bunkers that frame the fairway, Menekse fired a great 3 wood just short of the green. The first was a great opening hole and we were eager to see what lie ahead.
With bunkers strategically placed on the right side of the fairway, and easily within reach of the tee, the 396-yard par 4 fourth was a beautiful golf hole! Menekse found that fairway bunker but escaped it cleanly. With an exceptionally long green that is shared with the seventh hole, it is important to select your approach club smartly. We watched with wonderment as a flock of geese flew low overhead. While traveling the NT, we learned that when the geese fly it means that the wet is on its way.
The 335-yard par 4 sixth perfectly summarizes the golf course. A short risk/reward golf hole that has plenty of gorgeous mounds and undulations and offers a small receptive green that provides well-struck shots with opportunity. Unable to see the green from the tee, I hit a 5-iron off the tee aiming to the right side of the slight right to left fairway that left me with the perfect distance for a 54-degree wedge approach. I picked it clean, stopping 10-feet right of the pin. I grew up playing smallish greens but nevertheless felt relieved to find the putting surface.
At 176-yards, I was between clubs on the par 3 eighth. However, it was the right distance for Menekse’s 5 wood which she executed to near perfection. With water short and left, she took one final look at the pin before making a swing that sounded great and flew on a direct path towards the flag. It landed short of the putting surface but rolled up to what looked really close to the hole. As we approached the green, there was a maintenance crew member waiting for Menekse to arrive. From his mower, he held out his hand indicating that her shot was a mere couple inches from going in!
With OB running down the right side of the fairway, the 375-yard twelfth was another beautiful golf hole. A fairly straightforward par 4, with a bunker short and palm trees long, Menekse continued her string of good play. And big smiles!
Even though somewhat tight, both Menekse and I felt like there was enough room to give driver a rip on the 570-yard par 5 fourteenth. Finding the fairway, but still a long way from our target, I hit a 3 wood a little heavy that left me with 89 yards to the middle pin. It was again the perfect distance for another 54-degree wedge, which I hit to within 12 feet. I hadn’t made a putt all day, and my streak continued as I watched my birdie putt break disappointingly right at the last second.
Getting Up and Down
The 427-yard 17th was probably our favorite hole on the golf course. This no-frills straight but long par 4 requires nothing special from you, other than 2 good golf shots. Tired from the heat, I weakly pushed my tee shot out to the right. With 201-yards remaining, and trees between me and the green, I grabbed my 5-iron thinking that it should land short but would still offer a chance to save par. I proceeded to hit one of my greatest 5 irons ever, which flew the trees, drawing perfectly towards the green. We saw it land on the green to what seemed to be pin high, but we couldn’t really tell. But, as we approached the green, we only saw one ball, Menekse’s which had found dead center of the green.
We found my ball resting with a good lie in the lone red-sand bunker left of the green. With a clean strike, I blasted out to about 5 feet and sank the putt for a very satisfying par!
A Fantastic Round of Golf
Menekse played another fantastic round of golf. Her game is becoming more consistent which is being reflected in her scores. Her last round at Townsville Golf Club was also well played, as she is learning that golf is often a game of patience.
I’m not one that knows exactly where I stand in relation to par while playing. Most of the time I have a pretty good idea, and at times I don’t want to know! I had added our scores at the turn and told Menekse that her 48 was a fantastic score. And so, as she lined up her putt on eighteen, I had a pretty good idea how important her short putt for par was. I wasn’t positive, but I was fairly certain that if she made the putt that she would break the century mark. But I didn’t want to say anything to make her nervous. By this time, it was terribly hot, and I knew that the relentless heat was beating down on her. Beating down on both of us. She didn’t complete enough of her routine and quickly missed the putt.
She shot an even 100, with the 3-footer sadly missed on 18 that would have let her break the century mark for the first time ever!
A Great Beginning of our Explorer’s Way Journey
Regardless of the last missed putt, we both had an incredible day at Darwin Golf Club. Much of the trouble is found on the right of the course, which gives me less worries. The course was predominately flat, but the gentle flowing contours of the fairways easily kept our interest. The greens had some movement in them, and even though they had recently been aerated, they rolled better than we had expected.
While Darwin wasn’t originally our plan, we both really enjoyed the city and were excited to discover what lies ahead. We planned to make the most of our new travel route and decided to play golf all the way down the Explorers Way, finishing at Royal Adelaide Golf Club. Darwin Golf Club was the perfect start!
And as we pulled our campervan Putu out of the carpark, it finally did what it wanted to do all morning. It started to rain!