RoyalCanberra_05ChipPano_0494FOR three years, Royal Canberra, the face and benchmark of championship golf in the Nation’s capital, has been undergoing an extensive renovation and its acclaimed unique facelift will be revealed in a special public showing this month.

Designed by Melbourne course designers Ogilvy Clayton Cocking Mead Pty Ltd (OCCM), the new Westbourne Course will be revealed during an exhibition match featuring Australia’s 2006 U.S. Open Champion Geoff Ogilvy, former European tour winner Mike Clayton, the club’s prolific Club Champion and amateur tournament winner Andrew Tharle and TV and Radio personality Andrew Daddo.

For the first time since the Women’s Australian Open in 2013, Royal Canberra is opening its gates to the Canberra community to view the 7-hole exhibition match and the new-look magnificent Championship Westbourne Course on Sunday November 13.

Ogilvy, who spends the majority of his time in the States playing on the U.S. Tour is looking forward to getting back and playing the new course.

“I am especially excited to see the run of holes from the 13th. I think that these six new holes have a real chance to be included among the best groups of finishing holes in the country,” Ogilvy said.

The event will also showcase music and entertainment and there will be a barbecue, food and beverage outlets and Royal Canberra logoed merchandise. Mizuno, PING and Callaway will also be holding a demonstration day of their latest golf hardware from 12pm until 2pm.

Gates will open for the event at 12pm, with the exhibition match to start at 2pm. All entrants who register before 5pm on Friday, November 4 will go in the draw to win a Limited Edition club or putter to the value of $500.


The exhibition match is open to the public and admission for the event is free, however registrations are essential. To register visit



The new course changes by OCCM improved upon the original routing by Commander John Harris, who designed the course on its current site in the early 1960s (the first Royal Canberra course was originally on the site which is now covered by Lake Burley Griffin).

According to Royal Canberra General Manager Andrew Casey, the scope of the renovation project went beyond just the hole redesign, and required a rigorous consultation process.

“The Master Plan design process commenced prior to 2013 and involved much consultation and design alterations to achieve a balance between member expectation, course strategy and the sensitivity of the site within the Westbourne Woods,” Casey says.

“Due to the sensitive nature of the heritage-listed arboretum the Club has developed a comprehensive conservation and tree management plan to ensure that the diversity and health of the woods is maintained. It is such an integral part of the experience at Royal Canberra.

“The redevelopment of the course has been received exceptionally well by the members who are enjoying playing on a vastly improved golf course, both in turf quality and golf strategy. The old course was 55 years old so it is taking members some time to get used to reading the new greens,” Casey adds.

The new 13th plays in a similar location to the original hole, but is now visually improved, and marks the start of the most dramatic stretch of holes on the property.  Selected tree removal down the right has opened up wonderful views of the lake and the large tree right of the green.  One of the most striking aspects of the 13th, however, has nothing to do with how it plays, but rather how it looks.  The area between the 10th and 12th greens and 11th and 13th tees has been converted from trees, rough and paths into a broad expanse of short grass and some scattered feature trees.  It’s a far more elegant use of the space and a wonderful backdrop for the surrounding holes.

Perhaps the most interesting and visually appealing hole on the course is the new 14th.  Inspired by Harris’ original concept which played across the edge of the lake, a number of large trees were removed in order to create the new tees and section of fairway along the right of the water.  From the tee there are a multitude of options.  These will vary depending on the pin position, the wind and one’s own skill.  Some days, when the pin is tucked over the large left green side bunker, the optimal play will be wide to the right.  Other days the strategy will be reversed – play left to open up the right pin.  Five tees were built to offer a wide range of options and allow all skill levels the chance to take on multiple lines of play, including over the water.

From the tee, trees on the corner of Hole #15 have been replaced with bunkers.  A short hazard into the hill creating some visual interest and helping as a sighter for the preferred line of play, and two blind bunkers around the corner to catch the very longest hitters. The real feature of the new 15th is the new creek which runs through the valley just forward of the 16th tee and in front of the new 15th green.  This forces a decision from the fairway –lay up or go for it?  To add further interest the green is large with a number of interesting pin positions which favour approach shots from different parts of the fairway.

The famous 16th is relatively unchanged.  A small green with a subtle tilt from back to front was built on the same location as the old green and a bunker again guarding the left side.  A new fairway bunker was built into the top of the rise on the right of the fairway – thereby guarding the preferred line into the green. This hole is a perfect example of utilising the ground contours to dramatic effect with the tee shot playing over the long valley to an elevated landing zone and then the second shot doing the same – playing over another valley to a high green.  Framed by the tall Pine trees it’s easy to see how the course often gets compared with Augusta National in the U.S.

The long 17th comes at the perfect time in the round, when a quality shot on a difficult hole might decide a match.  Whilst the main tee is positioned in the same location, a new back tee has been added which adds another dimension to the hole.  As a par-3 it stretches to almost 220m but also offers the unique opportunity to play as a wonderful short par-4 for the women.

The green at the 18th was a trademark of the original Harris design and so the contours and concept were retained with the new green.  The bunkering, however, was altered to improve the strategy and add another dimension to the tee shot and approach. Green-side bunkers on the left encourage pitch shots made from the right…just where a new bunker has been added around 40 metres short of the green. True risk-reward golf. In addition a fairway bunker has been added on the left of the tee shot but this is really only in play for the very longest hitters.  For the majority of members the landing zone remains unchanged.



The club welcomes new member applications as well as local, interstate and international visitors for a variety of special golf days and organised events.

An exciting opportunity also exists to experience the new course and club life at Royal Canberra. In conjunction with the Grand Opening the club is offering a special promotional entrance fee for new members until December 31 only (details available on application). The club has also introduced a promotional young members entrance fee for those between the age of 28-45, which is for a limited time only. Please contact the club’s Membership Manager, Mary-ann Zander at for further information on membership.

About Richard Fellner

A four-time winner of the Australian Golf Media Awards, including Best Photojournalism, Best Opinion, Best Column and Best Photographic Presentation, Inside Golf Group Editor Richard Fellner is the quintessential Golf Tragic, having played the game for over 50 years (but has never gotten any better!) He has played and reviewed courses all over the world, and has interviewed many of the great players of the game (including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Greg Norman). Richard is a member of both the Australian Golf Media Association and the Golf Society of Australia, and has been a featured guest on many Australian "sports talk" radio shows and networks, including ABC Grandstand, SEN 1116, Melbourne Talk Radio 1377, 2GB and others. Follow Richard Fellner on Quora


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