Virginia Golf Club
Located in a suburb just north of Brisbane in beautiful Queensland, Virginia Golf Club is known as The Course of Champions. The golf course has 27 holes, the 2585-yard par 35 9-hole social course known as the Heritage Course. And the 6690-yard par 71 from the Blue tees, 5973-yard par 73 from the Red tees, Championship Course which we played.
Home to two of Australia’s biggest names in golf, Virginia Golf Club has earned its appropriately named nickname. And we were excited to find out for ourselves what made this golf course produce 2 major champions.
The Course of Champions
Long before iconic golf legend Greg Norman won the Open Championship in 1986 and 1993, and was world number one for a remarkable 331 weeks, he won Virginia’s Club Championship in 1972 and again in 1973.
I can remember exactly when I first heard of Greg Norman. It was a Saturday afternoon in June of 1984, and my father and I were watching a blond-haired surfer kid from Australia charge up the leader board of the US Open. The Great White Shark they called him. He swung the golf club harder than anyone that I had seen before. And he was way cooler than any of the other players!
Greg grew up playing these holes as a junior, where he inherited the love of the game from his mother, who was quite an accomplished player herself having won Virginia’s Club Championship 6 times! In his autobiography The Way of the Shark, he writes “my parents joined the Virginia Golf Club and signed me up as a junior member, and meant I could play golf as often as I wanted, which I did. Mum would pick me up each day after school at 3:00 pm sharp and drive me to the course, where I’d stay until it got too dark to see the ball.”
Another Major Champion that grew up mastering his craft on these links was fellow Queenslander, Wayne Grady. Before he went on to win the PGA Championship in 1990 at Shoal Creek, he also won Virginia’s Club Championship in 1976, repeating in 1977.
Walking in the Footsteps of Legends
We arrived and checked in with Zach Maxwell, son of Head Professional Brett Maxwell. He told us about the golf course and a little bit of the impressive history. He said that much of the golf course has changed over the years since a young Norman and Grady walked these holes, but the routing of some of the holes are still similar. Zach has plans to make the game his profession and dreams of playing on the Japan Tour someday.
Making our way to the tee, we were incredibly excited knowing that we were walking in the footsteps of legends!
The long uphill 451-yard sixth was a fantastic par 4 and probably was our favourite hole on the golf course. The perfect target off the tee is to aim at the left greenside bunker and hope that you can reach the top of the slope. If not, you will have a blind long iron in, as I did. From the centre of the fairway, I proceeded to chunk a 5-iron fat which left me well short of the green. This hole really made us wonder where a fifteen-year-old Norman would have hit his tee shot. Oh, and with persimmon!
After School Holes
Ten through twelve at VGC are known as the after-school holes. Since they start and finish near the clubhouse, Zach mentioned that many juniors play these three holes nightly after school. And, if a match wasn’t won, the putting green is nearby to help settle any wagers.
With a small pond in front of the tee that doesn’t come into play, ten is a 342-yard par 4 that moves from right to left. Attempting her best Shark impression, Menekse hit an aggressive tee shot down the right centre of the fairway. I aimed up the right side of the fairway but wasn’t able to move it back to the left.
With a bunker that narrows the fairway, I hit a great tee shot on the 359-yard par 4 eleventh. With just a wedge in, I took dead aim at the checkerboard flag and found the middle of the green. Menekse’s approach found the greenside bunker short, but she escaped with a nice splash shot that landed softly on.
The 148-yard par 3 twelfth is the shortest hole on the course and has a big green. But, as we quickly found out, that doesn’t always make it an easy target, because we both missed it! I chipped it close and was happy to be able to get up and down to save par.
Playing Like Champions
Thirteen might be the shortest par 5 on the course, but there is trouble lurking everywhere. Starting with a narrow tee shot, both Menekse and I hit our tee shots down the right side of this 485-yarder. With water short of the green, and not feeling very Shark-like, I laid up short. Meanwhile, Menekse continued up the right side reaching the green in four. Rolling her putt in for par, she flashed me that unmistakable grin of satisfaction. Moments like this are why we all play this game!
There is a slight opening from the back tees on the 176-yard par 3 fourteenth. The shot favours a cut more than a draw, but I hit a solid 6 iron to back centre green. Menekse pulled her tee shot just left of the green but finished pin high. The green is surrounded by large pines that beautifully frame the entire hole.
The 437-yard seventeenth was another great par 4 at Virginia. There is more room in the fairway than it appears standing on the tee. I drove one down the left side of the fairway, which was the perfect vantage to see the green. With a greenside bunker short, I was undecided between a 5 and 6 iron. Grabbing the 6 iron and trying to hit it high, I landed short into the bunker. I did hit a great bunker shot to 3 feet, but frustratingly missed the putt for par.
Major Championship Winners
So, why would Virginia Golf Club produce 2 Major Championship winners is a fair question to ask, and one that we’re not positive we have the answer to. We realize that the course has changed over the years, however, in our round of golf, I hit every club in my bag except a 7 iron and rescue club. The course wasn’t flat, and at the same time it wasn’t hilly, but it was conducive to have some sidehill lies. You need to be able to put the ball in the right spots if you want to have a good score here. Particularly if you have an aggressive style of play, like a young Norman no doubt had!
After our round, we sipped an ice-cold Coke in the bar while admiring the Club Championship boards, trophies and the other historic memorabilia. There was something extremely rewarding to be able to play golf where one of my childhood heroes played when he was young. The course where he played until it was too dark to see. And the golf course where the love of the game infected him.