Founded in 1933, Federal Golf Club started out with a 9-hole layout (playing to sand greens) in the grounds of the old Acton racecourse, which now lies below the sparkling waters of Lake Burley Griffin, built in 1963.
The club moved a few miles south to Red Hill in 1949, when James Herd Scott brought another 9-hole layout (also with sand greens) into play. Two years further down the line, members had the use of a full 18-hole layout.
It would then take another four years before eighteen grass greens became established, thanks to the combined efforts of Les Robinson of the city Parks and Gardens Department and Alan Hunt, the head greenkeeper.
Prosper Ellis then advised on improvements to the layout in 1967 and it’s his design that’s still in use today, half a century later. An irrigation system has also been installed and other minor modifications carried out to further upgrade the course.
The course now extends to 6,240 metres from the back markers, laid out as two returning nines. The 155-metre 8th is a feature hole on the outward half, played over a pond to a kidney-shaped green that’s surrounded by five intimidating bunkers.
On the inward half, the most difficult hole on the card appears at the very last at the 385-metre 18th. It’s uphill all the way from tee to green on this stoke index 1 hole, with the fairway doglegging right to a significantly raised home green.
I'm fortunate to have played Federal many times and it really is one of those courses where I just don't tire of it, probably because to play Federal well, you have to be playing well with all facets of the game. There are always missed opportunities and the feeling that shots were left out there. Probably due to the subtle slopes on the fairways (smartly combined with dog-legs in the design) and greens that test even the best of putters. Then add in a really interesting mix of long and short holes, including amongst the par 3s and 4s and some strategic run off areas where you have to really plan for where you're hitting and what you have is a high quality course.
Most of the other Canberra courses are cheaper to play, but they're not in the same league as Federal as a high quality design. For the same reason, having played over 2/3rds of the Australian top 100 listed on this site, I think Federal should be rated significantly higher, probably somewhere in the 50-70 range.
I could be very biased here but that's not the intention of reviewing golf courses, it's meant to be honest and fair. Federal GC is one of Canberra's premier golf venues and is one of the best inland courses you'll find, even though it's about to have some work done to it whereby residential units are going to be built on it's perimeter, this wont affect the course at it's core level, hopefully some bunker work will take place to boost it's value.
The course is set in and around Red Hill which features beautiful natural Australian bushland and excellent views of the local Brindabella mountain ranges.
The routing here is good, with all directions covered and it ties in well with the natural land that rises and falls on many holes with fairways off setting to the best line which makes for a challenge in itself.
Rolling fairways are pleasure to play on in the warmer months, it can get a bit boggy during winter, but for the best part drains well.
The greens are larger than most courses and run very true with the good variety and undulation, glass like in the summer time, bunkers are in need on some work and hopefully this happens sooner rather than later.