Eastern Sward Golf Club Review
When I mentioned to a mate that I was about to play a course I had never played before he quizzed me as to the name of the course. My reply was received with a blank expression – “Say what?”
Many golfers I have spoken to since have never heard of Eastern Sward Golf Club. This private track is situated in the local of the similarly unfamiliar suburb of Bangholme.
For the geographically challenged, the suburb is lodged roughly between Dandenong and Patterson Lakes. Just off the main thoroughfare of Thomson Rd. and soon to neighbour a part of the new Eastlink Freeway, Eastern Sward is a member’s only retreat – and a gated one at that (members get a swipe card to gain access via the remote entry gates).
Access for the public is limited to member’s guests, or AGU members can join in weekly competitions (Wed and Sat for men, Tues for ladies). Alternatively if you wanted to have a peek with the view to joining, arrangements can be made.
The club has a modest 350 members. Seven day membership is just under $700 and at the moment there is no joining fee. For those new to the sport or those not happy to fork out several thousand to get involved at club level, Eastern Sward may just be the ticket to golf membership.
There is nothing opulent or pretentious about Eastern Sward. The clubhouse is a modest dwelling but it has character and a homely feel. You sense the members are very proud of what they have – and they should be – and personal involvement from members is the key to this welcoming feel.
I joined a group of members for nine holes during the Wednesday competition. When we got back to the clubhouse, members mingled inside, spewing outside to tables that overlook the 9th (and 18th) green. Everyone was social and enjoying an ale. The larger was cold, the hot chips dished up in reused ice cream containers and the banter loud and merry – this was a good, friendly place!
The nine hole layout has four par 3’s and depending on which nine you play, two par 5’s and three par 4’s or one par 5 and four par 4’s. The alternative tees allow for a very long par four on the home stretch (nearly 400m), while two par 5’s – each around 450m are available on the front nine.
In most cases the second set of tees only alters the holes length by 20m, however the line of attack can change too, so offering a different experience over 18 holes and no doubt a welcome change for members rather than just going around 9 holes again.
Mike Clayton helped the club with a course redesign that was completed in December 2005. The $700K redesign was required because of the new Eastlink Freeway that took up some of the course land. Disruption was minimal and the Club appears to have benefited from the changes.
While not long, the nine hole course is tight and flat, characterised by a number of lakes that are in play on seven of the nine holes. 13 bunkers also punctuate the well groomed kikuya fairways, while the Pent grass greens provide a very good putting surface. Typically the greens are small, but they are quite tricky. I’m not sure what Clayton was doing the night before he built the fourth green, but if anyone has lost an elephant or two I think I know where they are buried!
Strategy is the key for negotiating the layout. On the second for instance, a driver for me could find water left or OOB on the right so I was correctly advised to play a long iron off the tee to fall foul of trouble. A driver would have to be hit long and just right to bully this par five into submission, and not many have that armory in their bag!
One of my favourite holes was the par three fifth. A water recycling and treatment plant flanks one side of the course, and on the fifth you hit towards the maze of pits and pipes to a well guarded green some 160m away. You must hit over water off the tee, there’s water on the right (including Snake Island where I’m told a resident Copperhead resides), while a bunker will grab cowards that hit out to the left. The green’s got a bit in it too!
The closing hole is a nice finish to each nine as well. For the big hitters in favourable conditions, the green can be reached from the tee, however it’s a narrow passage with water right and sand front and right for those not quite strong enough.
Conditions at Eastern Sward are very good. There’s contouring on the fully watered fairways (they have heaps of A grade recycled water available from the adjoining plant), the well cut Kikuyu fairways provide good cover and lies and the greens are well kept.
If you’re in the area, looking for a Club that’s not over the top in its fees or pompous attitude, then Eastern Sward may just be the place for you. We really enjoyed our visit.