TOP-100 SPOTLIGHT: MEADOW SPRINGS G&CC
Have you ever considered the importance of a golf course’s routing in creating enjoyable, interesting golf?
The best routings have the knack of embracing and then enhancing the existing land features and all seem to have an abundance of variety.
Golden Age course architect Charles Banks was a great believer in the routing of a course being of the utmost importance. He once wrote: “Playing a round a golf course is not merely a question of getting around, like travelling over a racecourse or walking around the block. Its rather a question of taking nine or eighteen separate and distinct little journeys, each of which presents its own distinct pictures and its own distinct problems as part of the grand tour.”
So, routing is important and one of the best in the business at creating “distinct little journeys” during the past 60 years has been Robert Trent Jones Jnr. The American, now aged 81, and his design company has produced nearly 280 courses across the planet and during the mid-80s and 90s he was a regular visitor to Australia. He crafted some of this country’s most visually striking layouts like the Old Course at The National Golf Club and its publicly accessible neighbour Cape Schanck. In Queensland, his original Coolum layout was once heralded as the best resort course in the land.
In Western Australia, the visually spectacular Joondalup north of Perth – built over and around an abandoned quarry – came from Jones’ fertile imagination. As did the less dramatic, but no less enjoyable, Meadow Springs Golf and Country Club, about 90 minutes’ drive south of the capital.
At Meadow Springs, Jones had more restrictions with a planned residential community to be built around its edges. Yet, he managed to create a wonderful layout that embraces the terrain and much of the native flora that was already there.
Jones’ routing is superb – the holes tack across the landscape in a variety of directions, bring the effect of wind into play. The scene, whether created by his bunkering, the topography or a beautiful water feature, for each hole is different, making them distinct and memorable.
Gentle rolling terrain is ideal for golf and that’s what you get on Jones’ front nine at Meadow Springs. The fairways ebb and flow beautifully, while the inward nine covers more remarkable topography with greater elevation changes between tee and green. I liken a round at Meadow Springs to a symphonic performance building to a loud, gripping climax.
The round opens with a 360-metre par-4, which offers a generously wide fairway doglegging right around a large fairway bunker. Another cavernous trap lies just right of the green, which presents the first evidence of Jones’ attention to detail. The bentgrass greens have always been a highlight of a round at Meadow Springs. Each has a unique shape and undulation that is complemented by the fantastic condition they are presented in. The putting surfaces are also enormous.
The green at the end of the par-4 3rd is testimony to what you can further expect at Meadow Springs. The 309-metre hole is a great short two-shotter that rewards accuracy rather than power. Ideally, your tee shot should be a lay-up short of the bunker left of the narrow fairway. This will leave between 100 and 120 metres to the centre of the green, which is very narrow but measures 44 metres from front-to-back and certainly places a strong emphasis on club selection.
Your choice of club is also important at the next hole, a 175-metre par-3. The large green lays diagonally to the tee and has been designed to reject any approach shot flying in short of the putting surface. A large bunker short right is perhaps the best ‘miss’ as getting up-and-down from the valley in front of the green is tough. Take plenty of club from the tee, but don’t overdo it as a pot bunker and a massive sand trap can easily be found beyond the putting surface.
Jones has designed more than 270 courses in 40-plus countries and all bear his trademark bunkering. He is certainly not afraid to intimidate the golfer with a sea of sand or make a player second-guess their shot with a strategically placed pot bunker. At Meadow Springs there are more than 60 bunkers spread throughout the course. No two are the same in size, shape or depth.
One of the biggest bunkers is beside the 5th fairway and stretches nearly 70 metres to the green, complicating what would normally be a straight-forward hole. At 329-metres, this tight, dogleg right par-4 offers little confrontation from the tee except for a lone bunker lying through the end of the fairway. The majority of golfers will hit to the far side of the dogleg, which immediately brings the ‘mega-bunker’ into play. Again, the green sits diagonally to your approach but that is not of concern with so much sand lying between you and the flag.
Any review of Meadow Springs would not be complete without mentioning the grand Tuart trees that are native to this coastal region of Western Australia. Some of these towering trees are more than 200 years old and if you find yourself stuck behind one, just off the fairway, you will agree they not only look good but also form an effective obstacle to making par.The fairways of the inward nine are lined with hundreds of Tuart trees and, again, Jones’ routing to include these ancient trees as an integral part of his design adds to the excitement of the finishing holes.
The 484-metre par-5 15th rates as one of the choice holes at Meadow Springs. From the elevated tee, you can’t miss seeing the Tuart tree troubles either side of a relatively narrow fairway. Longer hitters can blast their drive past a lengthy fairway bunker right and be assisted by a slight downslope to bring the green well within range for their second shot.
My favourite of the closing holes, and the best par-4 at Meadow Springs, is the 354-metre 17th, which is all about risk and reward. A scheme of three large fairway bunkers are laid diagonally across the fairway, which has a left-to-right camber and turns slightly right before rising to a tiered green. You can play well away from the fairway bunkers from the tee, but this leaves you with a lengthy approach to the elevated green. Also, a long drive here needs to be accurate as the fairway pinches into its most narrow beside the second and third fairway bunkers. There are several ways to play this hole successfully, all demand you stay clear of the sand.
Sand, again, features prominently on the final hole – a 460-metre par-5 where Jones tempts players to end their round with a birdie (or better). From the elevated tee, the view leaves nothing to guesswork as the fairway turns left and narrows next to a figure eight-shaped bunker to the right. The key to a good score here lies in the approach shot. Players taking aim at the green for their second should do so from the right of the fairway and need to carry their ball over a 60-metre-long sea of sand to find the deep putting surface. There is plenty of room left of the massive bunker for a cautious lay-up shot to set up a straightforward pitch but there is more sand around the edges of the green to catch a mis-hit.
Meadow Springs is a fun and challenging layout that has, in recent years, started to receive more recognition for its high quality. This has been borne out in the national rankings with Golf Australia magazine listing Jones’ gem at No.21 in the Top-100 Public Access Courses in Australia for 2021.
LOCATION: Meadow Springs Dve, Mandurah, WA, 6210.
CONTACT: (08) 9581 6002.
DESIGNER: Robert Trent Jones Jnr (1987).
PLAYING SURFACES: Penncross bentgrass (greens), Santa Ana couch (fairways and tees).
COURSE SUPERINTENDENT: Mike Healy.
PGA PROFESSIONAL: Mark Batten.
GREEN FEES: $65 (18 holes, weekdays); $85 (weekends).
FACILITIES: Meadow Springs boasts first-class practice facilities include a day/night driving range, putting and chipping green as well as three practice bunkers.
ACCOLADES: No.21, Golf Australia’s Top-100 Public Access Courses, 2021.