A rich history:
Royal Canberra is one of the best golf courses in Canberra. It leads the Canberra golf course rankings according to Australian Golf Digest. It is also on one of the best pieces of land for a golf course. When you pass through the stoney entrance gates, it is almost like entering a different world. When Arnold Palmer arrived there for a tournament, he got out of the car and said ” Where have I arrived at? Augusta National?” Gary Player said it was the most beautiful golf course in Australia. Bonville may argue with that these days but it is certainly up there.
However it was not always at it’s present site. Formerly it was on the south bank of the Molongolo River near where the Southern Cross Yacht Club is these days and it backed onto what is now the Hyatt Hotel (across the road from old Parliament House). When the Molongolo was flooded to form Lake Burley Griffin, a new site had to be found. It was moved to Westbourne Woods which had become degraded in the 1940’s due to drought.
Westbourne Woods was an arboretum established by the capital’s first horticulturalist, Charles Weston in 1913. He experimented with over 200 varieties of trees to find out what would be the best for Canberra’s soil and climate. Those trees would change Canberra’s micro-climate into something less windy and hostile as the capital’s site before was a treeless plain. Westbourne Woods is now heritage listed.
Golf course redesign:
The golf course is actually 27 holes. The first two nines, Westbourne and Yarralumla were designed by Commander Harris in 1962. These nines were subsequently redesigned by OCCM in 2016. The golf course has since been opened up, now resembling even more in design qualities to Augusta National (without so much water though). It has become more playable from tee to green but it is around the greens where the challenge really kicks in. The bunkers are deep and the greens contoured. The third nine or Brindabella, is generally a links style course over the hills on the southern edge of the property. It was designed by 5 time Open champion, Peter Thomson in 1997. When you come to play Royal Canberra, the combination of nines will vary from day to day according to the maintenance schedule.
Any nine will give you a fine selection of holes but our favourite circut is holes 10-27. The OCCM redesign of the par 4 14th and the risk/reward par 5 15th are favourites and the walk up the 18th fairway is still one of the great walks in Australian golf. The first hole on the Brindabella nine, the 19th is no drinking stop with it being one of the best par 4’s in Canberra. The routing over this links nine gives you majestic views over the Brindabella Ranges but with those views come encounters with the prevailing winds that play up and down these holes. There also elements of other classic Peter Thomson designs here which it make these holes playable but testing for those that want to attack.
Private but friendly
Royal Canberra is essentially a private club with access limited to certain days for our clients. However it is a friendly club and you will be treated with the utmost professionalism when you have a round there. There is a spike bar where social players can congregate after a round but contact us if you want to gain access to the main clubhouse and we can ask. We have had clients turn up an hour before their round to play there, they were so excited at the prospect. Some of our clients have rated it as one of the best and most enjoyable courses they have played. But you can be the judge on a Capital Bucketlist trip with us.