Townsville Golf Club
Before arriving in Australia, Menekse and I put together an ambitious list of golf courses that we wanted to play Down Under. Many of the courses are among the world’s greatest. Quite a few are very unique in the world. And some are among the oldest. It surprised us to find Townsville Golf Club in the latter category.
That’s right, Townsville Golf Club is the oldest golf club in beautiful Queensland. In fact, it is the fourth oldest golf club in all of Australia! The Club’s long history began all the way back in 1893. Through those years, many changes have taken place. Currently, the Club is in its third location in Townsville, where it has resided since 1924. But the changes aren’t limited only to location, because the Club is going through another change now. The course is currently going through a complete redesign by famed Aussie golf architect Bob Harrison, with consultation from former world number one player Kerrie Webb, who grew up in Ayr, just down the coast.
We were warmly greeted into the Club by Mr. Ian Millican, the Golf Shop Manager. He told us that the course was scheduled to have finished construction back in early 2019, but the Townsville area experienced a massive flood in February of 2019. Showing us the meter-high flood mark in the Club’s cart barn, he said that the flood caused an 18-month delay in construction. With routing complete, holes one through twelve and the eighteenth are finished, with thirteen through seventeen still to be completed. The Club opened for play on the 14th of March of 2020, just in time for, well, you know what.
Townsville plays 6729-yards, par 71 from the back Blue tees, and 5444 from the forward Red tees. Ian said that the large undulating greens can cause some difficulty for first-time players. Aim high, he advised of the greens. When asked about our handicaps, I told him and added the caveat that due to the COVID-19 lockdown, we hadn’t played much golf recently. Unimpressed with my readily premade excuse, he recommended that I challenge myself with the back tees.
I pushed my opening tee shot way right but dry over the lake, deep down the ninth fairway. With the first green hidden by trees short, I stuffed a high-flying 9 iron to within 10 feet of the pin. Unfortunately, I under-read the putt, but couldn’t help but think to myself, challenge accepted Mr. Millican, challenge accepted!
The 397-yard slight dogleg left par 4 second hole has a pair of bunkers that guard the right side of the fairway, which means that a straight ball off the tee brings the beach into play. Menekse drove her tee shot perfectly straight, toward the 2 bunkers. We watched it land but were not sure if her ball stopped short or rolled into the second bunker.
As we arrived, however, there was no ball to be found anywhere. Not short of the bunkers, nor in either of the bunkers. Looking everywhere, we waved the twosome behind us through. Having no idea where her ball was, we jokingly asked the gentlemen if there are some cheeky birds around. Smilingly, they asked what color ball we were searching for. It was Menekse’s lucky orange Srixon. Laughing out loud, they said that there is a local crow that has a penchant for colorful golf balls! They added that he had stolen 2 pink balls yesterday.
Taking relief, Menekse frustratingly dropped one and proceeded to rip a 3 wood onto the green on her way to a memorable par!
The 133-yard par 3 fifth was an excellent one-shot hole. With water short and right, and a large bunker left, the hole commanded our full attention. There was a stiff crosswind blowing from right to left as I grabbed my 9 iron. Not wanting to get wet, I gave it a little extra juice on the downswing. It landed on the back of the green but jumped one club long. Left with a challenging and delicate 10-foot right-to-left breaking downhill pitch, I executed it perfectly. Running it a foot past, it came to rest on the high side of the hole, just as Ian had instructed!
Fairway Finder, Fairway Misser
The short 269-yard par 4 seventh is straight off the tee but has a slight turn right just short of the green. I took aim down the center of the fairway and hoped to block it a little right. Unable to see it land, we found it just short right of the green. Meanwhile, Menekse found another fairway which left her with just a short iron. We love a great short hole!
Water protects most of the right side of the fairway on the 332-yard par 4 ninth. Since I had already seen the fairway on nine once, I went ahead and pulled my tee shot into the trees left. Faced with a tight opening, I recalled what Ian had said and hit a knockdown 6 iron that found its way out, coming to rest in the greenside left bunker.
Menekse continued her play of blasting tee shots down the middle, and a well-struck 5-wood left her just short of the green. Neither of us however was able to get up and down and we pushed the hole with bogies.
Menekse shot 50 on the front, which was exceptional given the difficulty of the greens!
Wanted, Beautiful Golf
With wetlands that run the length of the hole on the left, the smart ball on the 375-yard par 4 twelfth is down the right side. I kept my tee shot right, as did Menekse. Still away from the green, Menekse hit another great 3 wood that stopped just short of the green. Just as we approached, a crow swooped down from our right, grabbed her ball, and took off. Showing no remorse, he landed in the wetlands, dropped her ball, and seemingly smiled back at us. Another stolen ball?! But this time we had caught the culprit red-handed. Or should we say black-winged?! Wanted- Black Crow, last seen on 13 carrying a yellow Srixon!
We could tell from the moment we stepped onto the tee box that we were going to love the 410-yard par 4 thirteenth! Playing downwind, I ripped my best tee shot of the day. With palm trees gently swaying in the breeze behind the green, Menekse hit another well-struck 3 wood that left her just short. I flew my wedge to the back third of a long green which left me with another long devilish putt. I had good speed but didn’t read enough break. But I leaked in a 4-footer to thankfully save par. This beautiful hole reminds you that Townsville lies in the tropics!
The 151-yard par 3 sixteenth is another great one-shot golf hole at Townsville. With the pin tucked behind the bunker right, I hit a hard 9-iron that started at the pin but drifted left to the middle of the green. With one of the straightest putts I had all day, I sadly watched my birdie putt break downhill, just before reaching its goal.
Townsville, Looking Towards the Future
Being one of the oldest clubs in Australia, it would be easy to sit back and rest on your laurels. But not here at Townsville Golf Club. As they have done in the past, TGC is positioning itself for a better tomorrow. There is an artist’s rendering of the to-be-built Clubhouse with the words “Looking towards the future” written across the front of the scorecard. From our short time in Townsville, nothing could be truer.
While the golf course might officially be considered under construction, there was no hint of construction that we found. The par threes were wonderful, and the greens at Townsville Golf Club were outstanding. With perfect quickish speed, and with a lot of undulations, you will defiantly need more than once around to learn how to master them. If that could even be possible! They were certainly difficult, but we felt they were equally fair. I left myself with way too many 5-foot par putts for a great score, but we both walked off the eighteenth green happy. Happy that we have accepted the challenge!