At a Glance
Killarney St, Kalgoorlie WA (minutes from town centre)
(08) 9026 2626
18 holes, Par 72, 6768m (from the back), 6433m members tees, 5933m public tees
Clubs $40, Buggies $8, Carts $40
Kalgoorie is 600kms east of Perth and pretty much in the middle of nowhere. And one could only guess (without being disrespectful) that if gold wasn’t discovered here in the late 1890’s, it would be as undeveloped today as it was for many millenniums before.
From the eastern side of Australia it’s a hike to get there but a worthwhile one. I started on a 1.30pm flight from Tullamarine to Perth. Three and a half hours later I had landed. I waited an hour for a connecting flight and then I was on another jet back east to Kalgoorlie – a one hour flight from the WA capital. A bit less than six hours of travel time is condensed into four because of the time difference.
Dusk had fallen as I wandered down the footpath of the wide and quiet Hannan Street – the main drag of Kalgoorlie. Even with the street lights shining the stars were beginning to poke out of the dark blue azure above providing a spectacular show only found in these parts. The only sound that broke the silence was the beeps of one of the three sets of traffic lights in town, waiting to go into overtime if anyone wanted to cross the street.
The town hall façade was covered in scaffolding. Restoration to the grand, century old building was in progress, but much of the streets’ architecture conjured up images of days gone by. You could sense the history and if not for the asphalt roads, cars and modern shop fronts, I may have been in the Wild West.
The pubs are infamous in “Kal”. Beautiful double storey structures, wide sweeping balconies and lattice work a reminder of olden times. Chalk boards outside these establishments announced nightly entertainment, the best steak in town and skimpies. My mind filled with images of some inland crustacean (the skimpy) plonked on a great hunk of meat butchered from a once roaming wilder beast, while country and western music engulfed the room. My mouth watered.
It was quiet outside the corner hotel I stood before; it looked like a good place to park myself for the evening, an inviting hum emanated from within. I flung open the doors of the appropriately named Wild West Saloon to announce my arrival. Fully aware this was a pretty tough town, home to prospectors and miners (real men), I raised the collar of my Hugo Boss polo to create the illusion of bigger shoulders (or something like that). I expected the pianola to screech to a halt, the laughter and raucous banter to fall silent and for all eyes to stare at the stranger (me). To my surprise (maybe disappointment) the mix of locals and miners (identifiable by their luminous yellow jackets) just kept eating, playing pool or having a yarn, all with jars of amber fluid close at hand.
I moseyed over to the bar to order a beer and get me some grub. A scantily clad barmaid, in some type of lingerie, asked “what’ll it be?” Like a deer, frozen in headlights, I blurted out “a beer thanks”, only to watch her turn to prepare my drink, revealing a tiny slip sitting half way up her back and butt cheeks falling out of a tiny pair of black knickers. My eyes followed and before I realised she had returned, my devious eyes had locked onto her bosom. “That’ll be six dollars honey”. Two other half naked barmaids were working the room and I’d only just become aware I could multi task – I was watching three people at once. “Hello – anyone home?” she asked again.
And so my first lesson for the day – a skimpy wasn’t an ocean delicacy, it was a scantily dressed barmaid, a feature in pubs all around Kalgoorlie. Several jars later I returned to my hotel for a nights rest before fulfilling the purpose of my long trip to these parts – to play the newly opened Kalgoorlie Golf Course. I wondered if skimpies would work in the pro shop as I dozed off to sleep.
Next morning I was up and about, Jack the club manager had picked me up from my hotel to escort me to the course. We quickly took in a few sights and even looked at one of the three original golf courses in town that closed down and merged membership and moved to the new Kalgoorlie Golf Course when it opened. The flat, barren fairways, with scarcely a blade of grass and tiny, blackened sand greens were golf as dry and inhospitable as I’d seen. It made me wonder if the new course could possibly be any good, given the inhospitable land that was all around as we headed out of town.
Your first glimpse of the course is quite startling. A superb green, bunkering with white sand and plush, undulating fairway surrounds – it’s a stark and dramatic contrast to the red, Mars like landscape elsewhere.
Currently the Clubhouse is a temporary structure, but it’s very comfortable indeed. It includes a pro shop, clubroom, bar, meals area, pool table, office and full locker room amenities. Everything’s here, air conditioned, complete with a shaded balcony and outdoor El Fresco area covered with shade cloth. The outdoor setting is fantastic. Wine barrels act as tables, huge tree limbs have been crafted into tables and chairs, a big stainless-steel four burner bbq a centre piece. All this looks over a billabong and the course beyond. The loudest sound heard, apart from a golfer’s thwack, was a crow’s call and a cockatoo’s screech.
The course construction team, McMahons from Victoria (working alongside course designer Graham Marsh), have done a brilliant job creating the right feel for a golf course in the middle of outback Australia. They have used timber, stones and other natural materials from nearby to create steps to teeing areas, fences to line cart paths, tee signage and more. As well, rusting pots and pans and farming and mining equipment are strategically scattered near teeing grounds adding a unique visual element and rural authenticity. And each tee has a plaque for visitors to read, with a snippet of history of the area – it’s really well done.
The tee boxes are a standout. Little islands of green, they appear to hover above the red, dry dirt like saucers. Similarly, the fairways have a discernable edge where the fairway appears to have been literally laid on top of the earth – like a floating floor.
Surrounds have been left mostly untouched. It’s a mixture of stony, parched lands, red, dusty shifting sands, empty, eroding creek beds, scattered gums stands and weedy, spindly bushes (called wort I think).
I once played Alice Springs golf course and my playing partners asked if I carried a rock wedge. Although there was no need to look, after a quick inspection I identified a pitching and sand wedge but no rock wedge in my bag. Bemused I played on. A couple of holes later I found myself off the green fairway amongst desert sands. I played an eight iron off the barren terrain and cringed at the sound of the irons’ sole screeching against stones and quartz just under the sandy surface. It sounded like finger nails running down a chalk board. Upon inspection my eight irons’ underneath was now horribly scratched and dented. In horror I showed my playing group. They laughed, telling me I now had a rock wedge. Miss too many fairways at Kalgoorlie and you’ll have a rock wedge in your bag. I advise you stick to the wide and inviting fairways.
The course is a cracker. Superintendent Andrew Clancy has done a wonderful job creating a green oasis in this dry and inhospitable land. The Greenlees Park couch fairways provide wonderful playing surfaces. There’s plenty of well placed bunkering, some deep, many multi-bay, all with rounded edges and dramatic mounding. If you’ve seen Graham Marsh’s Eynesbury or Growling Frog you’ll get an idea of what you’ll find here.
The greens are generally large and inviting, some two tiered and some, like the iconic ninth, multi-tiered. The ninth has three levels falling away from the fairway. If you find the top level and you’re faced with a putt to the bottom – good luck!
I absolutely loved the course. It’s long, it’s fun, it’s challenging and it’s full of surprises. It measures a massive 6,768 metres from the back marks as the council’s brief to Marsh expressed a desire to hold a major tournament there. I chose to play from the member’s plates – still a lengthy 6,400 metres, but unexpectedly it doesn’t seem to play that long. Hard, fast fairways give bounce and run making the yardage manageable.
The opening holes are a good introduction to the challenge ahead. A couple of mid length par fours, a 500m plus par five and then a tough 180m par three – the first of a good set of one shot holes. A terrific and tough run of three holes begins at hole six. It’s named the Great Escape (all holes carry a title at Kalgoorlie). There’s an ominous dry creek crossing in front to the green and maybe if you can dodge that and beat the 400m escaping with par, it would be great indeed??
Hole seven has a lone tree standing guard beyond a reasonable drive on the left side of the fairway. Navigate this and the green complex, or more particularly the pin position, will make your shot in easy or near impossible. This triangular target has one tier at the front and then two raised levels, one left and one right, forming a triangular shape. If the pin’s on either top tier, it’s a much tougher target than the friendly pin I tackled.
The par three eighth is 200m from the member’s tee and 218m from the back. A tough one shot assignment!
The closing hole to the front nine has the wicked, three tiers green spoken about earlier, falling away from the approach and cutting diagonally across the fairway, with mounding and bunkering obscuring view of the dance floor. The design is a little out there but it works.
For me the back nine was the highlight. A decent trek past the excellent, covered practice range and you’ll find the course is even more spacious – wide barren expanses, dry creek beds with eroding banks and thick indigenous gums stands providing a backdrop to the fairways and outlook beyond. You get a real sense of the vastness of the country. Grazing kangaroos, all types of birds and no doubt (at the right time of the year) a collection of reptiles would keep David Attenborough entertained even if his golf wasn’t up to standard.
On this nine you get a couple of terrific dog legs, the tenth and twelfth good examples. The thirteenth is a delightful, short par three, before you tackle a very long par four then a monsterous, 550 metre, snaking par five.
The three closing holes are belters. The mid length par four 16th sweeps around to the left, with a wide and inviting fairway, but real outback terrain left and right if you miss the cut stuff.
Hole 17 lends its name (The Super Pit) from the massive open cut gold mine nearly. This downhill par three, with a gaping expanse to the right and its great green complex and beautiful vistas, is terrific.
And the tee box on eighteen typifies the creative efforts to give the golfer a unique experience here at Kalgoorie. The hole begins from a round, perched area, accessed via a small bridge made from recycled timbers – it wouldn’t look out of place on the set of Indiana Jones or the Road Runner.
Dare I say it, for I don’t want to insult the members that departed their beloved Sandscrape home courses in town, but gee, if the members are not happy with the golfing facility they have now, they’re hard to please in these parts. Once the double storey clubhouse is finished, with planned accommodation, conference facilities and maybe a second course, this will be one of the best combinations of truly unique, high quality golf available in the country.
You mightn’t jump on a plane from the eastern side of the country just to play Kalgoorlie, because in reality it isn’t one of the ten best golf courses in the nation – and it doesn’t claim to be. But if you’re travelling this great country and have your sticks, or if you’re planning a golfing trip to the wonderful courses around Perth and Mandurah, you’ll be amazed that a course of this quality is open for play in these barren and desolate parts. And a visit is a must.
Did you know?
The city of Kalgoorlie Boulder is considered Australia’s largest outback city
Irish immigrant Paddy Hannan discovered gold here in the 1890s – and that’s where the main drag (Hannan St) got its name
Home to an enormous open cut mine called the Super Pit; the district is home to the Golden Mile, the richest square mile of gold bearing earth in the world. A visit to the pit’s lookout is a must!
Course designer and architect Graham Marsh was actually born in Kalgoorlie
The City of Kalgoorlie Border owns the course, partly funding the $18 million project, and it’s operated by PrimeGolf WA
The twin towns of Kalgoorlie/Boulder were rocked by a 5.2 magnitude earthquake in April 2010. Many buildings, mainly in the town of Boulder, were damaged and the town is still repairing many to their original state
A BED FOR THE NIGHT
I stayed at the Rydges, Kalgoorlie. A new, modern and very comfortable room, about 3 kms from the heart of town and about 10 minutes from the course. They are now offering great stay and play packages for about $250pp (two night’s twin share, full buffet breakfast, 18 holes of golf and a cart). Great value and recommended! Tel: (08) 9080 0800