The Australian Golf Club, founded in 1882 and set in the centre of Sydney’s busiest industrial area, is the oldest golf club still in existence in Australia. It moved to its present location at Kensington in 1903 and Dr Alister MacKenzie was commissioned to update the Australian layout. Sloan Morpeth performed further revisions and then Jack Nicklaus completely redesigned the course under the finance of Kerry Packer in 1976 to what is now the current championship livery.
In the 1940s the club struggled financially and during the early war years the clubhouse was commandeered by the US armed forces, and in 1944 was requisitioned by the American Red Cross. Fire eventually razed the ill fated clubhouse to the ground in 1982 and the Australian Golf Club now has a wonderful new clubhouse with panoramic views.
Sloan Morpeth added further modifications and nine extra holes in 1967. The course is set in a large, often windswept, sandy basin. With few trees on the property, the Australian is reminiscent of a concave Walton Heath with elevated plateaux greens and cavernous bunkers.
Host to no fewer than twenty-one Australians Opens, the first and inaugural Australian Open was played here in 1904 and most recently in 2019. The Australian is a championship venue that’s as hard-as-nails and the course will no doubt be utilised for tournament golf for many years to come.
The Australian GC was founded in 1882 (the oldest golf club in Australia), and first played in the vicinity of what is now known as Moore Park
Records are poor, but it would appear that there was a 6 hole course at the time
But it was not to last- the land was appropriated for the use of a road and park, and with a poor economy and no set course the membership drifted…
In 1895 a group of members got together and committed to a new course in Queens Park which gradually evolved to 18 holes- but again it was not to last as part of the land was used for market gardens
In 1899 the club moved quickly to establish a new course at Botany and it is there where the club finally began to flourish
But difficulties in gaining a long term commitment regarding the land forced the club to move again (this land is now part of Sydney airport)
Finally, The Australian moved to it’s current location in Kensington near Sydney airport in 1903. The new course was designed by club pro Jock Hutchison.
Over the years minor changes were made to plant trees, realign fairways etc, but it wasn’t until 1973 that Sloan Morpeth engineered a significant redesign with a distinct sandbelt influence. His course was very well received at the time…
Then came the Nicklaus era
Jack Nicklaus won The Australian Open at The Australian GC in 1975 & 1976
Media tycoon Kerrie Packer was a prominent member of the club who saw an opportunity to change the face of sports broadcasting in Australia
With the permission of the club, Packer (at his own expense) engaged Nicklaus to toughen up the course and make the course and the spectacle more engaging to the viewer.
It took until 1980 for all of the changes to bed in, but the resultant course was fundamentally different to the links style course it had been.
The modern course is longer, tighter and features a series of water hazards which define the course
The Australian Golf Club hosted the inaugural Australian Open Championship in 1904 (won by Michael Scott), and has now hosted The Australian Open 21 times, with notable winners including: Ivo Whitten (1931), Kel Nagle (1959), Jack Nicklaus (1975, 1976, 1978), Greg Norman(1996), and Jordan Spieth (2014)
The Australian is now very much a parkland course, and can play long as well as tight.
There is nice variety throughout with shorter par 4’s balanced by a couple of brutes
As you would expect the conditioning is first class, and the greens are firm and fast- with just enough movement to make things interesting
And the unique clubhouse is very well appointed- members do very well!
Notable holes include:
- hole 3, a short dogleg par 4 with a tight landing area protected by bunkers and water and a green right on the lake edge
- hole 7, a longer par 4 with a difficult approach- the green abuts the lake and has enough movement to suggest lay ups might be an option
- hole 9, a spectacular long par 4 back to the shadow of the clubhouse. The elevated green is very well protected by water and sand
- hole 18, a strong par 5 to finish with strategically placed trees tightening the second shot and then a nerve racking approach to a green projecting into the lake
The Australian is a club and course of some grandeur, and perfect for televised golf
It is a strong test for any player and a pleasure to play..
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review
The Australian GC. Fairly good layout! Great bunkering and water used at this course to make the golfer think about every shot, the design is very tough and certainly why major tournaments are hosted here.
Heading North up the eastern coastline, golf in the Sydney area doesn’t have the same level of attraction as that of Melbourne or Tasmania. I did play The Australian Golf Club and made a welcome return journey to New South Wales Golf Club.
The Australian is a prestigious club with a pleasant golf course. Water comes into play on at least nine holes, but it’s still an easy walk on a relativity tame piece of land with little to no traces of Alister MacKenzie’s original design. We all know that Jack got his hands on this place 30+ years ago and the writing was on the wall from then on. I can’t imagine rushing back from an architecture perspective, but for general member play or if looking for a good game while in the area, it’s certainly a great day out.
I had the honor of playing this amazing course during my last visit to OZ a few weeks ago. I played 12 of the top 15 courses and this one was my favorite. It's a tough and beautiful course. I had to take a another look when standing on the 5th hole after hitting a huge and rather risking drive successfully over the bunker in front of the dogleg. I was about 287 meters from the pin which was not in view but around the corner to the left. There is a plaque in the ground that says Greg Norman - Albatross 19? Australian open. He hit a 287 meter 3 wood to a blind thin green surrounded by bunkers and sunk it....I decided to lay up! Anyhow the course if far too low in this list of courses....