Canberra Golf Club (now Royal Canberra) had it's beginnings in 1913 with a 9 hole course close to the city centre.
The club moved to another 9 holer at Acton racecourse in 1922, and then moved again in 1926 to a more substantial site nearby.
The club was granted 'royal' status in 1933.
Walter Burley Griffin's dramatic lakes plan for Canberra was the precursor for more change
The site of the golf course site was to be flooded, so the club needed to move again- this time to it's current site at Westbourne Woods
Westbourne Woods arboretum was initially set up to plant and plan the trees used throughout the city of Canberra.
It flourished until the 1940's when a prolonged drought, and a wartime shortage of manpower left it in poor shape.
The arboretum desperately needed water, but could not afford the cost of installing a pump and irrigation system.
Dr Max Jacobs from the nearby forestry school originally suggested that a golf course in the heart of the arboretum would be the perfect solution.
He argued that the golf course would provide the watering system to maintain both the course and the arboretum surrounding it.
The Department of the Interior engaged Sydney based architect James Scott to advise on the layout of the new course, but his initial work on a routing and shaping fairways lay dormant for years while politicians finalised details of the lakes scheme, and which club would occupy the site.
In 1956 arrangements were made to move Royal Canberra to the site and provisions were made to finance the the water requirements for the club and arboretum.
The club then appointed Commander John Harris to complete the partially built course.
In 1962 the Westbourne course at Royal Canberra opened for play.
A further nine holes was added by Thomson, Wolveridge & Perrett in 1997
Royal Canberra now has three 18 hole championship loops:
- Westbourne (holes 1-18)
- Yarralumla (holes 19-27)
- Brindabella (holes 19-9)
In 2014 the club appointed OCCM to further renovate the Westbourne course
Over the years Royal Canberra has hosted quite a number of national tournaments, including:
- 1967 Dunlop International ( Bruce Crampton)
- 1970 Dunlop International ( Gary Player)
- 1988 ESP Open (Greg Norman)
- 2013 Australian Women's Open (Jiyai Shin)
The site at Westbourne Woods is impressive.
It is no surprise that the trees dominate proceedings- there are 220 species of trees and plants found on the course
A carpet of fairways meander through a rolling terrain framed by mature trees sourced from around the world.
The greens are large, often elevated, and with enough movement to be interesting (but not overdone).
They provide a nice variety of pin positions.
The sand faced bunkering is classic in style and strategically placed.
There is an emphasis on driving accuracy at Royal Canberra as the tree lined fairways punish any errant shots.
Succeed off the tee and you will be left with a challenging, but fair approach to a generous green.
When OCCM remodelled the course, they set about reshaping greens, tees and bunkers.
Having played Westbourne before and after the OCCM makeover, I am impressed with the results
The playing surfaces are world class. The greens are quite superb!
I would go so far as to compare the Westbourne course to a Pinehurst type golfing experience!
Holes 19-27 were not part of the OCCM remodelling job, and suffer significantly in comparison to The Westbourne course.
I understand that the club is considering undertaking upgrading these holes at some stage as well.
Notable holes include:
- hole 1, an interesting par 5 with a blind second shot. Not so easy first time around!
- hole 5, a dogleg par 4 where position off the tee is paramount
- hole 9, a challenging dogleg par 4 with an elevated green (see pic foot of page)
- hole 10, an impressive look mid length par 4 from an elevated tee down into a valley and back up again to an elevated green (see pic near top of page).
- hole 13, a 160 metre downhill par 3 to a well bunkered green
- hole 14, a longer par with water in play off the tee
- hole 15, a classic short par 5 with a green protected by a bubbling brook running across the front.
- hole 18, an uphill par 5 to a green with clubhouse backdrop. It's a majestic hole (see pic top of page).
- hole 21, a short severely uphill par 4
Royal Canberra is one of Australia's premier inland courses.
The Westbourne Course has atmosphere- you know you are somewhere special!
Holes 19-27 are pleasant, but not in the same league as the rest of the course.
Any golfing trip to Canberra must play Royal Canberra!
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