Occupying a wonderful headland location on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Long Reef Golf Club had a 9-hole layout in operation when it was founded in 1921. After adjacent swampland was drained and filled, Dan Soutar then fashioned an 18-hole course for the club in 1931.
The course was used as an artillery range during World War II but Eric Apperly was called in to help repair and redesign the layout in 1946. Al Howard added two new holes (the 1st and 2nd) twenty years later, before Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett carried out further drainage work in the 1990s.
Today, the course extends to 6,181 metres from the back tees, playing to a par of 71, featuring Kikuyu fairways and poa annua/bent grass greens. Described by Peter Thomson as 'the best site of any golf course in Sydney,' it offers magnificent panoramic views along the coast.
Feature holes on the front nine include short par fours at #3, #6 and #8 (with the 8th hole returning to the clubhouse). On the longer back nine, the greens at #12, #13 and #15 all occupy cliff-top settings overlooking the beach, where approach play will undergo a tough test when the Pacific Ocean winds are up.
Long Reef is a clifftop course with ocean views every hole. I have played a lot of true links (Long Reef isn't one) of the UK and I have never come across a course so buffeted by wind. In summer a fresh NorEaster is the prevailing breeze. Anything above 15km/h starts to get in the tough category for a number of holes. In winter the breeze becomes a wind and usually with a southerly bent. A straight southerly favours no hole except the 18th and I promise you your card is in the bin by this stage if it's blowing 30+.
The outward 9 is played on the flatter land and has too many holes where you can't take driver in neutral conditions. The 1st is a 460m par 5 but has a creek cutting across at about 210m which prevents driver for the better players. The 3rd is a lovely dog leg to a plateau green but a mid iron is the preferred club and driver basically impossible as you are DQ if you hit the green due to the blindness of it. The 5th is a sweeping 360m par 4 but the narrowness of the landing area with water both sides means driver shouldn't be used. The 6th has a creek at about 220m so a 4 iron, wedge is the play to the 270m par 4. The 8th also has a creek running across at about 230 and tight down both sides so at 298m, long iron or fairway wood is the sensible option. The 4th and 9th are the only real driver holes.
The inward 9 is the opposite. Played on the cliff top, your march up and down it begins. Even the 217m uphill par 3 10th requires driver most of the time. Only one hole (the 13th, 138m ) is a non driver. Some lovely holes amongst it all although they didn't get their major renovations right on the 16th where the slope of the fairway remains but only now the balls go into man made dunes. Unsure who ran this project but get them back to fix please!
Some locals may suggest this is a links course. Don't listen to them. The ground is soil, not sand based. You cannot bump and run into the greens, no slopes to impact low running shots, you cannot trust the first bounce near greens, they often get stuck and go nowhere. Some drone photos in the right light makes it look linksy but that's about it.
Don't get me wrong though, a beautiful course, with awesome, albeit small greens but the strategic mix of holes aren't spread across the 18. There are some average holes...6th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 15th offset by some crackers - 1st, 3rd, 5th, 17th, 18th, with the remaining holes very good. The holes are quite tight against each other so in wind wear a helmet.
For the UK readers, think a moist Sheringham and it's a bit like Balnagask up in Aberdeen.
Decent green fees, testing course and nice staff makes this a good day out.