Designed by Alex Russell, the 1924 Australian Open Champion and business partner of legendary course designer Dr Alister MacKenzie, Lake Karrinyup was constructed in the main by sixty Italian labourers who withstood sandflies in the scrub and leeches in the lake to fashion 18 holes out of some inhospitable territory to the north of Perth city centre.
Keith Barker, a founder member, wrote the story in 1969 of how the Lake Karrinyup course came into being forty years before and it makes fascinating reading. Available as a link on the club website, it tells of dragging old tree stumps together to form the base of the 12th green and even burying a dead workhorse in a bunker by the 10th green!
Karrinyup, “the place where the bush kangaroos graze”, has held the Australian Open four times. Norman von Nida won it in 1952, Bruce Devlin claimed the title in 1960 then Jack Nicklaus walked off with the top prize in 1968 before Gary Player held the Stonehaven Cup aloft in 1974. Lake Karrinyup also hosted the prestigious Johnnie Walker Classic in 2002 and 2003 when Retief Goosen and Ernie Els overcame strong international fields to win. On his way to victory in 2003, The Big Easy shot an incredible 29 under par, the lowest score to par in European Tour history.
The lake is an obvious focal point on the course and it can be viewed from no fewer than seventeen holes. The wonderful bush setting is home to an abundance of native flora and fauna and more than fifty species of birds have been identified in the wetlands around the huge natural lake while kangaroos abound amongst the eucalyptus trees and shrubs.
The signature hole on the Championship course at Lake Karrinyup is the 220-yard, par three, 8th hole played over water to an elevated green, protected by deep bunkers to the front. Over club and the tee shot will run away down the bank at the back of the putting surface. It goes without saying that a three on the card is a very good score at this difficult short hole.
Mike Clayton was called in to upgrade the layout in 2007 and – over two years – he lengthened some holes (like the 3rd, 11th, 13th and 14th), shortened others (such as the 12th and 18th), and rebuilt every green and bunker in a major overhaul of the course.
The club also has a short nine-hole layout called the North course, which was built many years after the Championship course debuted. The North is an original Michael Wolveridge design before he joined Peter Thompson and measures a modest 1,700 metres with par set at 31.
After a three-year gap, the European Tour returned to Australia and Lake Karrinyup Country Club for the 2012 Perth International Golf Championship, a new event co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour of Australasia. Bo Van Pelt won the tournament by two shots, claiming his first European Tour victory after an all-US battle with Jason Dufner.
A play-off decided the 2013 Perth International when Korea’s Jin Jeong beat England’s Ross Fisher after both players finished on ten under. Thorbjørn Olesen won the title in 2014, beating Victor Dubuisson by three shots. There was no tournament in 2015 before Louis Oosthuisen came out on top in the 2016 event, winning by one shot from Alexander Levy.
In February 2017 Lake Karrinyup hosted the inaugural World
Super 6 Perth, a new-look tournament, which is part of a drive to reverse the
decline in the number of people playing the sport. The event combines 54
holes of traditional stroke play across the first three days, with an exciting
six-hole knockout match play format for the fourth and final round.
Local hero Brett Rumford dominated the 2017 tournament - he led after the three days of stroke play and
then sealed four match play wins to claim the title. Kiradech Aphibarnrat beat James Nitties in the
final of the 2018 event despite the Thai being a late entrant and not playing any
practice rounds prior to the tournament.
I had the privilege of playing Karrinyup with the Super 6 set-up. It really was a golfing test for everyone who took part. The course was immaculate, it is easy to see why this exceptional course hosts major golfing events, making it the best around in WA.
Every hole is a challenge, you play a hole and wonder why or even how it is stroke index 17 or 18 on the card. 200m par three holes, par four holes bordering on par fives at most other courses and a not too intimidating 560m par five. Add into the mix well-placed water in and around holes and the giant Lake Karrinyup itself and excellent layout starts to come to life.
Karrinyup is an awesome physical and golf workout, so many blind shots at tees hidden by the undulating terrain, an abundance of doglegs that only the most talented of golfers can cut. The real adventure around this course is the challenge of playing to your handicap (37 points won the competition with over 100 people in the field). The fairways are outstanding, the run you get on your ball makes a fade look like a good shot. Perfectly placed bunkers that suck up ball after ball, the run in and around the greens leads everything but the perfect shot into the sand and you are then faced with the added challenge of stopping your ball on the green.
The greens are out of this world, hard and fast any error in approach is punished and only the best will hold near the pin. Wayward balls will end up long or in the sand. Getting onto the green was the first challenge, now you look towards the hole and wonder how much it will turn. Judging how far left or right you need to play is a talent and speed in an understatement, even uphill putts go long without too much effort.
Based on my round and comparing with some of the awesome sand belt courses I have played, Karrinyup is done an injustice by not being in the Australian Top 10.
Lake Karinyup CC occupies a very impressive site dominated by a large sprawling clubhouse sitting on the high point – and looking quite majestic, I must say!
Perhaps this is the quintessential Aussie course with its genuine bush setting, large eucalyptus trees, black boys, and kangaroos roaming.
The playing surfaces are immaculate, and even the rough looks better maintained than most courses could dream of. However the hilly site has its drawbacks with quite a number of long blind uphill tee shots.
I liked the look of the green complexes with tasteful bunkering, but putting was not easy given the overall gradient of the green sites. A number of greens are approached downhill to a green falling away.
The course appears to be quite difficult for those that have low ball flights or slow swing speeds with bunkering across the front of the green on a few occasions meaning a serious carry and little chance of stopping the ball if successful. These holes have no option to run the ball in- holes 16 & 17 are good examples of this.
Lake Karinyup would be a great starting point for international visitors wanting to see a top quality Australian Course in a classic bush setting, and should be part of any West Australian golf expeditions.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
This course is the best in the West for a reason. Last year it held the Perth International World Super 6 tournament as well as 4 Australian Men's opens.
It has it all at Lake Karrinyup great routing, undulation on fairways and on the greens.
Surrounded by beautiful natural Australian bushland and fauna, plenty of kangaroos are seen here day in day out.
Do yourself a favour and make a booking here when in Perth,18 in the morning, lunch,18 in the afternoon to really appreciate it!
Nothing worse than a famous course that is a let down when you finally see it. Nothing better than finding a gem you have never heard of. This is the latter. First time in Perth for me and went out as guest a week before a Euro tour event was to be played there. Apart from the fact I have never seen a better conditioned course in my life nor a more beautiful place to play (and I have been to Augusta and Pebble), it is really quite something. A course you would happily play for the rest of your life. That is about the highest praise I can give. If only it were not at the ends of the earth, it would be easily world top 50