Located at the mouth of the Hunter River, a two-hour drive from Sydney, Newcastle is one of only two courses in NSW given international recognition by the panel of experts rating the World’s Top 100 Courses. It has recently been rated “International Honourable Mention”, meaning that it has won sufficient points to be worthy of inclusion in the Top 100 courses outside the USA. Given only a handful of the World Panel have played at Newcastle, it speaks volumes that those who have played this hidden gem rate it so highly! In recent rankings, Newcastle has appeared within the top 30 in Australia.
A true championship track of 6,200 metres, not considered long by modern standards, it is based on undulating sand dunes like those of the great historic links of Great Britain and Ireland. That said, instead of fairways lined by gorse and heather, Newcastle is carved out of a forest of eucalypts and angophoras abounding in native flora and fauna, including kookaburras, bearded dragons and wallabies, making it a delightful as well as a challenging course to play.
Although the course is situated only a few kilometres from the busy industrial city and port of Newcastle, the wide bands of trees separating the fairways give a feeling of peaceful isolation from the hustle and bustle cares of the world.
Originally founded within the city of Newcastle, the Club moved permanently into the remote dunes of nearby Stockton during the 1930’s to the site of a secondary 9-hole course they had built in 1915. Eric Apperly was employed to extend their short course and his full 18-hole layout opened in 1937 and has remained virtually untouched since.
Apperly utilised the undulating sand hills of the site, forging the holes out of dense Aussie bush – the routing meandering around, over, and up its considerable slopes. Purists could speculate that the sandpit bunkering model lacks the creativity of the Southern sand belt venues, however the ageless appeal of the design is the brilliant use of this contrasting terrain. The various holes turn with, rather than against the substantial fairway movement.
After a solid start, the most favourable sequence of shot making arrives at the famed 5th – a hole always in the discussion of top 20 holes in the country, and a perennial favourite of the membership at Stockton. Stretching 365 metres, this par 4 is an exciting driving hole encased by scrubby dunes with a diagonally placed landing area sweeping downward to the left. The following 6th is another standout hole. Shaping around tea tree scrub and elevating heavily into a substantial raised green, it is followed by a gorgeous short par 3. The next 2 have great merit as does the par 5 10th, a fabulous confluence pitted across three deep saddles that offers partially or fully blind shots dependant on whether you lie high up on ridges or deep in the chasms. The average length 11th and short 12th ease you into the back 9 which perhaps is not as demanding as the front side. That said, this uniquely Australian course is without a genuine weakness. Ranked as NSW’s Number 1 regional course, it is definitely worth your while to play it and make your own mind up on the top ranked golf holes.