Royal Sydney Golf Club is more than just a golf club. With a membership of well over five thousand, it caters for the tennis, bowling and croquet fraternity as well as the golfing community and the majestic harbour-side clubhouse, lawn tennis courts, bowling greens, croquet lawns and championship golf course all give Royal Sydney the well earned reputation of a centre for sporting excellence in New South Wales.
Royal Sydney celebrated its centenary in 1993 and the championship course has evolved over one hundred years into one of the finest in the country. The original 9-hole layout was situated in Concord but within five years, members decamped to Bondi, where the course has remained ever since.
The Australian Open was held here five times in the latter half of the twentieth century, producing a handful of home grown and international champions – Bruce Crampton (1956), Gary Player (1969), Mark Calcaveccia (1988), Rober Allenby (1994) and Aaron Baddeley (1999). Into the new millennium, and John Senden lifted the prized Stonehaven Cup in 2006, Tim Clark won in 2008 and Rory McIlroy prevailed in 2013.
Measuring a cricket pitch short of 7,000 yards, Royal Sydney once had more than 350 bunkers on the property – that’s an average of one every 20 yards! Is it any wonder the bunkering was considered to be more penal than strategic? Only one in three sand hazards remain so the course is truly a fairer test these days.
Greens were refurbished in the mid 1980s, again between 2001 and 2003 and in 2016 Gil Hanse was called in to perform a thorough overhaul, so the club has certainly tried to move with the times and adapt the course to the modern game. One old-fashioned design element has remained though – short par fours at the 1st and 8th holes which often flummox those not used to the finer points of course management.
The toughest hole on the card is considered by many to be the 462-yard par four 11th, where the tee shot must find a landing area between a pond on the left and sand on the right of the fairway. Two bunkers protect the putting surface on the right hand side and a swale runs the length of the shelf green to the left – not many will have the luxury of two putts for par at this hole!
The Club dates from 1893, but only moved to it's current site in Rose Bay in 1922. Unusually for such a decorated club and course, there is no one architect or driving force that appears to have made a lasting impact on the design of the course- rather it appears that the course evolved over time as the handiwork of many contributors.
However the club does have a well documented history in realtion to clubhouses- they were destroyed by fire 4 times.
Royal Sydney has hosted many championships over the years including The Australian Open 15 times, and the Women's Australian Open just once
There are two courses at Royal Sydney with the 9 hole Centenary course sited adjacent to the championship course.
The Championship course is a stern test of golf, and although not overly long is heavily bunkered and treed- and favours the straight hitter.
The site was over planted with malaleucas in the 1940's on the belief that many would not survive, and the end result is very pleasant , but densely vegetated parkland course .
At the time of writing a Gil Hanse redesign is waiting on local council approval and is scheduled to take place between April 2021 & 2022.
The changes will put an emphasis on the local heathland vegetation, and a strategic golf course. It is an exciting upgrade!
Notable holes include:
hole 1- the opening hole is a short driveable par 4, protected by clusters of fairway bunkers at different lengths, and a well bunkered green with ample movement. It demands your attention!
hole 3- a mid length downhill par 3 to a well bunkered green
hole 6- an attractive, tight par 3 with some dangerous pin positions..
hole 7- a twisting, rolling par 5 where the bunkering dominates- you need to plot your way down this hole!
hole 8- a short par 4 with an elevated green and nowhere to miss. You definitely can't go long!
hole 14- a long testing par 3
hole 17- the final par 3 is the 'crowd hole' at championships surrounded by stands. It is a relatively long approach to a tricky green
hole 18- the 'home' hole is a relatively tight dog leg to a grand finish in front of the clubhouse
Royal Sydney is one of the best sporting facilities in Australia with over 6000 members. They have access to tennis courts, croquet and bowling greens, swimming pools, a magnificent old clubhouse and a nine hole course to complement the Championship course.
For those fortunate enough to stay in house the clubhouse is very comfortable with fine dining, gymnasium and billards room
The course is nicely maintained, a good test of golf, and a joy to play And if the Gil Hanse plans are brought to fruition in 2023, it will be even better..
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review
Royal Sydney is one of Australia's great sporting complexes with Tennis, bowls, croquet, squash, a fitness centre and swimming pool all available to members!
Accommodation is available for guests of members as well, with some fine views to be had.
The Championship course is famous for hosting Men's and Women's Australian Open's throughout it's time in the beautiful and leafy surrounds of Rose Bay, one of Sydney's premier suburbs.
The day I was to play the course the heavens opened sadly, the course itself held up very well in these conditions, and as it's exceptionally hard to get on here (it took this writer 3 years) you don't pack up and head back to the clubhouse.
The course has one of the more interesting opening holes in Australia, a short par 4 that has an elevated tee box and has bunkers everywhere posing a problem straight away, lay up is the best option!
Speaking of bunkers the course has significantly reduced it's bunkering from yester year, but it still poses a threat all day and definitely makes the golfer think before their next shot.
The course runs fairly up and back with not too much directional change, or elevation, but what it lacks in these departments in more than makes up for in design of the current holes. You can see why major tournaments are held there.
Greens are a challenge and having local knowledge on the day certainly helped!
The Club is in the midst of a potential change to the course design with the great Gil Hanse reportedly undertaking the redevelop of the Championship course, for myself this could certainly see a rise in the ranking for this mighty course, and I'd certainly enjoy playing here once this change is completed.
I would agree very much with the below reviews. The course starts on a high with a lovely short par 4 with strategic bunkering and a tricky green with the front 9 certainly being the stronger of the two. The other short par 4 8th is a very nice hole that again requires a solid strategy. The back 9 is a bit of a slog over less interesting land. the facilities are glorious and makes me think of what an elite country club in the U.S. may appear like. Unfortunately the quality of the course does not match and although enjoyable, is well below the best in the state at NSW.
It will be interesting to see how the work at bonnie doon goes. If the original work by occm is replicated then it may well elevate itself above its more illustrious neigbours in the city.
If only the club had retained the 1969 layout that Player described as one of the best short courses in the world ..it was a wonderful test . Instead, ti trees and scrub were torn out and replaced by large trees and the new strains of bent grasses that resist poa much better were not tried. Successive changes have been disastrous so hopefully the forthcoming changes will restore the links to the standard of 1969 ...
It’s been a while since I played RS, I had heard (all the way over here in Ireland) that the club were planning some modifications and a return to a ‘links like’ setup sounds fantastic.
I hope the RS council have the ‘cojones’ to cut deep to return to the essence of Mr Players description.
Looking forward to a return visit to see the changes and dip into the exceptional La Perouse again