As you pass the “Welcome to Kalgoorlie-Boulder” sign, the red ocher soils of the surrounding outback landscape give way to a wide main street that is home to grand historic buildings and pubs, most of which date back to the era. of the gold rush. I stop at the iconic Exchange Hotel and the cold beer arrives quickly with a welcome smile and a little chat. For my short stay in Kalgoorlie, I had to find this kind of hospitality is the norm everywhere from pubs, to the golf course to the gas station on the outskirts of town.
It is this kind of warm hospitality that has made Kalgoorlie and the WA PGA Championship one of the most popular events hosted by the PGA Tour of Australasia. As a result, the course will host the event for the 10th time from November 25-28.
It’s incredible considering that the course was only officially opened to the game in November 2010.
Marsh effectively uses the arid surroundings on some holes, including the short par-4 3rd. PHOTO: Brendan James.
Located in the heart of the Goldfields region of Western Australia, just over six hours drive east of Perth, Kalgoorlie is a twin city with Boulder and both towns warmly embrace their gold mining heritage. Gold was first discovered in the area in 1893, and gold mining remains Kalgoorlie’s main industry, employing around a quarter of the local workforce. In fact, the concentrated area of ââlarge gold mines surrounding the original find is often referred to as the Golden Mile.
The Twin Cities have a wide range of historic, scenic, and natural attractions, but the local council has relied on golf to add even more depth to the area’s appeal.
A proposal to develop a world-class golf course in Kalgoorlie first appeared in 2002, and three years later a developer was appointed to turn the vision into reality. The plan called for the merger of the region’s three golf clubs – Kalgoorlie, Boulder and Hannans Golf Clubs – to form Goldfields Golf Club on a new Kalgoorlie golf course.
A good selection of clubs is needed on the 2nd par-5 to avoid a third shot from the red sand. PHOTO: Brendan James.
For Marsh, this was a project close to his heart since he was born in Kalgoorlie in 1944, some 45 years after the creation of the Kalgoorlie Golf Club and its landscaped course – within the limits of the racecourse of the town – making it the second oldest golf club in Western Australia.
While he may have been born in the wilderness, Marsh was not raised there. His parents left Kalgoorlie a few weeks after his birth. He had ventured there several times before his design company was commissioned to create the course at the heart of an ambitious project, which would eventually include a five-star hotel.
When he first walked the site, Marsh could have been forgiven for resuming his work as a relatively featureless landscape, which had been used as a dumping ground.
The sand dominates the course from tee to green on the 12th hole of 355 meters par-4. PHOTO: Brendan James.
But he saw the beauty of the site. The majority of the property was flat with vast expanses of red, desert soil dotted with pink trunks of native salmon gum and plenty of salt marshes and various desert flowers. He would later describe the old rubbish dump as “rugged but enchantingly beautiful”.
When the private developer ran out of funds at the start of construction of the course, Marsh could have walked away. But he stuck to it as the Western Australian government and council teamed up to fund the completion of the project at a cost of $ 18.5 million.
Within 12 months of opening, the Marsh Desert Creation ranked among the top 100 public access courses in Australia, according to this magazine’s ranking. In 2012, it debuted in Golf Australia magazine’s Top 100 ranking for the first time and has been on the list ever since.
In its assessment of the layout, Golf Australia Classification Judge Nikki Scott commented: âWhat a beautiful landscape for a golf course. The place bursts with desert color, especially at dusk, and reminds me of a painting by Russell Drysdale.
It’s easy to be wowed by the colors of the Australian outback that show up with each hole bounded by red ocher sand and dirt, which has been purposefully left as naturally as possible. The same rugged beauty that Marsh identified on his first visits remains, now with superbly manicured playing surfaces woven in between. It is visually stunning.
The condition of the Wintergreen Couch fairways and G2 bentgrass greens impressed from day one, with the fairways having matured beautifully over the past 11 years. The high level of presentation may come as a surprise, given the location of the desert, where you might expect water and heat to be issues. But the layout offers good access to the water and the greens staff, led by course superintendent Patrick Casey, showcase the firm and fast course, fully complementing Marsh’s design.
The spectacular 18th par 5 green will be the scene of WA PGA drama and triumph. PHOTO: Brendan James.
While the state of the layout initially surprised, the quality and creativity of Marsh’s design didn’t. This is a true desert-style course where the well-groomed surfaces are bordered by a semi-rough cut, then the next stage takes place on ocher-colored loam under desert scrub and tufts of acacia and gum trees. On several holes, Marsh even used those rough edges to insulate the tees or cut through a fairway to make longer hitters think before hitting a driver from the tee.
Striking bunkering has long been a hallmark of Marsh designs and it is no different at Kalgoorlie. He combined deep traps on the green with large, strategically placed bunker systems, while also incorporating areas of sandy wasteland that appear to extend into the lines of play from the surrounding rough.
Marsh designed Kalgoorlie to be played by golfers of all skill levels. The course stretches 6,768 meters from the Championship markers making it Australia’s longest course, which is not entirely surprising given that the fairways will generally play hard and fast.
There are, however, four sets of tees on each hole, and the public layout is a test but enjoyable 5,933 yards. While Kalgoorlie is a long course, Marsh’s design is very focused on strategy and approaching large greens from the right spot in the fairway to leave the most achievable putts on the often dramatic putting surfaces.
LAW: At 500 meters, the 11th hole is the shortest in Kalgoorlie’s par 5 collection. PHOTO: Brendan James.
The front nine is fantastic and, for mine, offers the widest variety of holes. In fact, it offers a mix of tree-lined holes as well as more sparse link-style holes that close all nine.
Despite the length of the course, Marsh managed to include a very good short par-4 in his creation with the left dogleg on the 3rd hole. It stands between 280 (white t-shirt) and 321 yards (championship t-shirt), which makes it easily accessible in two shots for most players. But only a few will conquer this little hole with a birdie three, as the green is one of the smallest on the course and is guarded by bunkers and a wasteland and / or a water hazard (depending on rainfall) just before the surface of the green.
Kalgoorlie’s most memorable par-3 is the long par-3 8th, which is played over a ridge at the highest point of the course. The four teeing grounds (stretched between 118 and 202 yards) are carved into the hillside and require a tee shot to be played through a small ravine to the green, which is perched on the edge of the ridge. Surrounded by bunkers and wasteland, the large green is receptive but only to a well-struck shot with the club correctly selected.
Marsh’s bunkering is often used to visually intimidate, rather than penalize, players by forcing them to question their choice of club and / or shot.
A fine example of this can be found at the long 17th par 3 hole where the expansive bunkering running to the right and left of the putting surface has the effect of making the tee shot even longer than it is. From the championship stakes, it’s 218 yards of punishment to find the center of the enormous putting surface. A short or long club of the good can easily get lost here.
The same can be said at the 18th hole, where the wrong club for the final approach to the green can be very costly. Marsh was never afraid to be imaginative with his green complexes and he certainly let the creative juices flow on Kalgoorlie’s par-5 closing hole.
It is a true 3-shotter with 538 yards from the back markers and features a fairway that is slightly doglegs. Long hitters can be crippled here as the fairway is cut in half by a wasteland about 280 yards. The wide fairway then gradually rises to the front of the green, which sits diagonally to the angle of your approach and is cut into the side of a small hill. Two steep levels cross the putting surface that rolls down the hill, leaving the front of the green much higher than the back. It is a green that offers a memorable conclusion, both good and bad, to a round and will make you – with the hospitable welcome – want to play this course more than once.
SITE: Aslett Drive, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.
HOW TO GET THERE: From Perth, Kalgoorlie is a six and a half hour drive east. There are daily flights between Perth and Kalgoorlie.
CONTACT: (08) 9026 2626.
DESIGNATE: Graham Marsh (2010)
PLAYING SURFACES: Wintergreen Couch (courses and tees); Bentgrass Penn G2 (green).
COURSE SUPERINTENDENT: Patrick Casey.
PROFESSIONAL PGA: Paul Breuker.
GREEN FEES: $ 68 (18 holes, seven days); $ 49.50 (junior and senior concession).
MEMBERSHIP: Kalgoorlie Golf Course is home to the Goldfields Golf Club (www.goldfieldsgolfclub.com.au), which currently offers five membership categories: full member, regular junior member, transition member and two sub-junior categories. Go to the website for more details.
REWARDS: Ranked n Â° 32 in Golf Australia magazine Top-100 public access courses in January 2021.
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