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Eric Apperly

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Notable CoursesBadgeNew South Wales
Year of Birth1889
Year of Death1951 (aged 61)
Place of BirthSydney, New South Wales, Australia
Biography

Born in Sydney to Henry Wellstead Apperly and Alice Langton Apperly in 1889, Eric was known as something of a “boy champion” in his formative years, having taken up golf to help overcome ill health. He lost in his first New South Wales Amateur final in 1907 but he would go on to win the event five times between 1912 and 1930 whilst a member at Killara Golf Club then Manly Golf Club.

His most famous golfing achievement was in 1920 when he became the first golfer from New South Wales to win the Australian Amateur Championship, beating Tommy Howard 4 and 3 in the final at The Australian. He also won the 1921 Australian Foursomes Championship and was selected for the NSW state team in 1906, a position he held for more than two decades.

Apperly’s father was the secretary of the AMP Society – one of the biggest insurance companies in the country – and it’s only fair to say he grew up in an affluent family within Sydney society. He was educated at the University of Sydney and graduated with a degree in Architecture which led to him designing both buildings and golf courses.

In 1923, Eric married Marjorie Audet and they had one child together, a son named Richard Eric, who was born two years later. He too became an architect like his father, marrying Myrna Hirsch in 1957. They went on to have three sons, all of whom were born in Sydney.

Apperly was a partner in the architectural firm of Wright and Apperly in Bond Street, Sydney and his first course design project was in Pymble at Avondale Golf Club in 1926. A 9-hole assignment quickly came his way the same year when he laid out the course at the Studley Park estate in Camden, which went on to become the Camden Golf Club.

The course at The Lakes Golf Club was co-designed with Tommy Howard in 1928. Tommy won the Bonnie Doon club championship eight times in nine years before turning professional, winning The Australian Open at Royal Adelaide in 1923 then the Australian PGA Championship in 1924 and 1925.

Unfortunately, The Lakes course was closed in 1968 because the new Macot Expressway was running through the property so Bruce Devlin and Robert von Hagge were contracted to revamp the layout. When the course was re-opened two years down the line, there was virtually nothing left of the original work carried out by Apperly and Howard.

They also designed the course at Eastlake Golf Club in 1931 and the first nine holes at Kiama Golf Club were fashioned by this partnership the following year. Eric then teamed up with professional J.A. Irving in 1935 to design the course at Orange Golf Club then he added the second nine at Newcastle Golf Club the year after.

Eric completed Alister MacKenzie’s bunker plan and “necessary alterations to the routing of the course” at New South Wales Golf Club (according to the club’s website) over a five year period starting in 1932. His work here is considered by many as his finest architectural accomplishment.

The New South Wales course was originally set out by Dan Soutar but the location was moved slightly in 1925, with Carnegie Clark and James Herd Scott preparing plans for the new layout. Alister MacKenzie produced a report during his visit to Australia in 1926, detailing an 18-hole course and a 9-hole course and this was built – though unbunkered – in 1928.

MacKenzie’s bunkering plans were tabled at a meeting in May 1931 but there were insufficient funds to implement them. Alex Russell was asked to submit proposals the year after but these too were held in abeyance. Finally, Eric Apperly was hired in November of 1932 to finally carry out the bunker work.

In a publication produced for NSW’s golden anniversary in 1978, former secretary Sydney Herring was quoted as saying: “how much of this was MacKenzie’s design and how much was Apperly’s own ideas will most likely never be known. Alex Russell’s suggestions were also in the mix.” Apperly’s revised layout wasn’t ready for play until May of 1937.

The Army took over the site at La Perouse during the Second World War and Eric returned in 1948 to oversee further amendments and lengthen the course, as well as reposition some of the greens and tees on the front nine. It’s thought that only half the holes on the current layout resemble those that were on the MacKenzie plans.

Pennant Hills Golf Club had been used by the military during hostilities and Apperly was called in to remodel the layout in 1946. Pymble Golf Club also engaged Apperly after the war to redesign its course after acquiring some land that allowed three holes in a 10-acre paddock to be eliminated but his 1949 plans took a few more years to be acted upon.

The course at Cromer Hill Golf Club was modified by Eric in 1949 then he designed the first nine holes at Castle Hill Country Club in 1951, shortly before he died in May of that year, aged 61. He collapsed in the clubhouse at Manly Golf Club, having just played what turned out to be his final round, and some might say this was a rather fitting end for a man who gave his heart and soul to the game.

Extracts:

Jack Pollard wrote in his book Australian Golf – the Game and the Players:

“Apperly’s game looked undistinguished but he hit most of his shots straight, if not in copybook fashion, and he was a relentless fighter. He was chosen to play for Australia against Great Britain in 1934 at the age of forty five, but it will be for his work as a golf course architect that he will be remembered.”

Apperly wrote the following in Golf Australia magazine in 1933:

“In my opinion, a hole is a good one if it calls for nicety of judgement, careful thought as to the direction and placing of the strokes or particular skill and variety of their execution, no matter what the length or the par may be.”

In this short article on Golf Architecture I had intended to pick out one or two of my favourite holes on our Sydney courses and to say why I considered them good. It struck me however, that before being so it might be as well to try and get a clear view of what constitutes a good hole.

It is certainly a subject on which there is much room for difference of opinion, as one will not infrequently hear the favourite of one good player roundly condemned by another, and each will advance arguments in favour of his view.

A good deal depends on the player’s attitude of mind to the game itself; some would have it a game of strict justice, where punishment is meted out to the erring strictly according to the extent of their sin, whilst the good are never troubled.

To such I would say, why not decide your competitions by competitive examination, awarding marks for length and accuracy over a series of tests with the various clubs? Such a method should undoubtedly be more successful in unearthing the best stroke maker, but golf would assuredly cease to be a game.

In order to retain its fascination, golf must ask for something more than mere mechanical accuracy in stroke production, the spirit of adventure must be fostered; the player’s character and judgement should be tested; he should be required to know himself and play accordingly.

In these days, too, when many players are so mechanically accurate in the ordinary straight-ahead shots, it seems to me quite fair that some special stroke should occasionally be called for, and that the player capable of producing it should have some advantage.

For instance, a fairway sloping sideways, where only a slice or draw can expect to hold it, is quite a legitimate test for players who aspire to championships, and in addition it adds variety and makes for greater interest.

The best holes, however, whilst providing plenty of thrills and interest for the expert, should not be made impossible of accomplishment in reasonable figures by the shorter hitter who can command reasonable accuracy. A way round, or a shorter carry, should be provided for him, provided of course that he must be reconciled to taking one stroke more to reach the green.

Finally, I would ask players, when estimating the quality of a hole, to banish par from their minds. In my opinion, a hole is a good one if it calls for nicety of judgement, careful thought as to the direction and placing of the strokes, or particular skill and variety in their execution, no matter what the length or the par may be.

To say that a hole of 248 yards in length is bad because it is too easy for a par 4, is surely absurd, if the tee is put forward five yards does it therefore become a good hole because it is now a difficult par 3? The addition or subtraction of a yard or two cannot have much effect on the merits of the hole as a test of golf, surely!

Players who argue on the par basis forget that it is only an arbitrary method of estimating the playing value of the course as a whole, and that every round of eighteen holes is bound to contain some easy and some difficult pars. And it is not always the difficult pars that are the best golfing holes!

A hole should never be lengthened or shortened with the sole object of altering the par; the testing qualities or interest of the hole should alone be considered.

Many of the most exacting holes for class players nowadays are from 450 to 480 yards in length. Easy par figures they may be, but they are the holes where long and accurate players look to gain a stroke on less skilful or powerful opponents by getting fours.”

Notable Courses

01
Avondale

Avondale

Pymble, New South Wales

02
Cabramatta

Cabramatta

Cabramatta, New South Wales

03
Castle Hill

Castle Hill

Norwest, New South Wales

04
Cromer

Cromer

Cromer, New South Wales

05
Duntryleague

Duntryleague

Orange, New South Wales

06
Eastlake

Eastlake

Daceyville, New South Wales

07
Long Reef

Long Reef

Collaroy, New South Wales

08
New South Wales

New South Wales

La Perouse, New South Wales

09
Newcastle

Newcastle

Fern Bay, New South Wales

10
Pymble

Pymble

St Ives, New South Wales

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Harry Colt

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