HOLE NUMBER 1
– PAR 4
Standing on the 1st tee at Capital, far removed from the cares of the everyday world, evokes a feeling summed up in an earlier, more sedate age by the great Australian poet A.B. (Banjo) Paterson:
"And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended..."
The undulating, perfect fairway extends into the distance, inviting the first shot of the day and holding the promise of a great round. It quickens the pulse, raises the spirits and begins the quest to discover if this course can really live up to its reputation. Brilliant white sand on the slopes left and right shows both danger and the way to the green. More bunkers define the approach to a flag set in a magnificent amphitheatre of sculptured mounding. The closer you get to the green, the more the background and the sky dominate and Melbourne could be a thousand kilometres away.
The 35 acres of lakes at Capital attract more than 100 species of birds and water is a feature on 12 holes, starting in front of the 2nd tee. From a playing point of view, however, the main consideration is the bunkers which run out from the right, across the line to the green. This forces a decision, whether to lay up short with an iron or take the advice that John Daly wrote on his bag displayed in the Clubhouse "grip it and rip it". For the brave, there is a hidden pot bunker in the middle of the fairway 110 metres short of the green awaiting the seemingly perfect drive. From the pure Santa Ana couch fairway the view is stunning, over a massive bunker running up to a green backed by a majestic mound, a row of small trees and the sky.
The first of consecutive par 5s, the third doglegs to the right after running the gauntlet of Peter Thomson's brilliant bunkering. Like the ducks seen flying overhead, the fairway traps are in a V-formation that slopes down from both sides. The landing area is generous at first but narrows quickly for the big hitters. Trouble awaits the tee shot that strays too far left as well because if it carries the garden on the top of the mound, it will find water not visible from the tee. The second shot, except for really long drivers, is blind. Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise because more bunkers traverse the fairway about 90 metres from the green. Even so, players are not left guessing. All sprinkler heads on the course are marked with laser-accurate distances to the middle of the green.
The shortest of Capital's five par 5s starts over a lake stocked with trout and silver perch. The water carry is not long and can be avoided completely from the forward tees. The flag is visible from the tee but the eye is drawn to the fairway traps which appear to reflect the straight lines of the lake's far bank and the blue Dandenong Ranges in the far distance. Although appearing to cut across the line of play, the bunkers are actually staggered to give a fair landing area and an opening for big hitters who feel like taking a chance. More sand, left and right, awaits off-line approach shots and four more traps around the green take the total of bunkers on the hole to eleven.
A feature of the four "short" holes is that they are around the 200 metre mark and all but one play over water. Several elements combine to make this challenging par 3 stand out. The whole landscape is man-made and the lvel tees and geometric shapes of the luma hedges around them are a constant reminder of this. The eye is drawn along this plane, over the water to a straight horizon. In the middle are the natural lines of the bunkers and green, creating an unexplected pleasant contrast. This is a tough hole into the wind. Apart from the obvious dangers of the bunkers at the front of the green which leave an opening twelve paces wide for the shot running up, there is hidden water and a steep slope at the back of the green.
HOLE NUMBER 2
– PAR 4
HOLE NUMBER 3
– PAR 5
HOLE NUMBER 4
– PAR 5
HOLE NUMBER 5
– PAR 3
HOLE NUMBER 6
– PAR 4
The proud sweep of this dogleg left is played from one of the prettiest tees on a golf course anywhere. The garden setting of the championship marker takes in a grand view over lakes on both sides of the fairway, a handsome stone bridge crossing a burbling brook in front of the tee and the dazzling white bunkers set in the contours on the high, right-hand side of the fairway. The fairway is generous until 180 metres from the green and then narrows down between bunkers right and bunkers and water left. The elevated green is backed by a long mound and approached over or through a deep, grassy swale.
HOLE NUMBER 7
– PAR 5
There are a number of similarities here with the Azalea hole, Augusta National's short par 5 thirteenth in Amen Corner, which measures just 429 metres. Both dogleg to the left, have water down the left and can be reached in two by players prepared to take on the creek in front of the green. Us Masters winner Tiger Woods has savaged both holes. Here he used his awesome length from the tee to full advantage and got home with a six iron. To obtain maximum distance from the tee it is necessary to take on the bunkers on the corner of the dogleg and, to a lesser extent, water left of them. Attacking the pin from the left side of the fairway also brings the water on the left of the green into play. The emus in the wildlife reserve can be seen to the left of the green.
HOLE NUMBER 8
– PAR 3
This is a straight-forward par 3 with most of the trouble obvious from the tee. Club selection can be difficult, especially when the wind blows. Carrying the water hazard should not be a problem because it only extends half-way to the hole. Greenside bunkers on the right can be daunting when the pin is set behind them. The left half of the green is open at the front while more sand waits for the shot going left. Former Australian Open champion Bob Shearer has hit a full three wood here into a strong headwind while the danger for the shot that is too strong is the downslope behind the green which can carry the ball into the water hidden from the tee.
HOLE NUMBER 9
– PAR 4
The final hole of the front nine is elegantly defined by bunkering along both sides of the fairway which runs back to the Clubhouse. A glimpse of water right of the tee, a garden bed extending along the top of the mound beyond the lake and a fine view of the Clubhouse present a pretty picture. In contrast to previous holes, the ninth is seemingly flatter but there is still enough subtle undulation in the fairway to hide two pot bunkers on the length of a good drive. From either it takes something special to salvage par. They are to the left of the middle fairway bunker, on a line with the chimney on the front corner of the Clubhouse.
HOLE NUMBER 10
– PAR 4
Beautifully manicured tees designed and maintained to centre the bubble in a spirit level and the 5.2 kilometres of perfectly trimmed luma (myrtus communis) hedges around the course and Clubhouse are a constant talking point among visitors. At the 10th, this precision makes an interesting counterpoint to the rolling fairways while the wedge of receding bunkers shows way to a green nestled among the mounds. Native trees against the sky in the background suggest the path of a watercourse, giving the scene a bush appearance reminiscent of the Murray River courses. Rippling swales extend most of the way around the green and into the slope at the rear which offers excellent views of the surrounding holes and lakes. This is the start of a run of three holes without water.
HOLE NUMBER 11
– PAR 4
It is easy to make the mistake of thinking, "it's only 320 metres" and relaxing here. What the 11th lacks in distance it more than makes up for in the bunkering department. There are a dozen, with the first five forming a crescent across the fairway which starts on both sides 150 metres from the green. The central pot in this formation allows a straight tee shot of just under 200 metres. The options are laying up, carrying the ball more than 220 metres through the air or hoping to get lucky and find a gap. The next task is finding a way to the narrow, angled green which is protected by seven more cunningly placed bunkers.
HOLE NUMBER 12
– PAR 5
Without wishing to cause alarm, it should be pointed out that there is more than a kilometre of golf in the next two holes from the championship tees. The trek starts towards the distant Clubhouse. Seven bunkers visible from the tee define the first half of the hole and the clocktower is a good aiming point. Don't worry about running out of space because the bunker in line with the base of the tower is the best of 300 metres away. From here the fairway swings to the left and threads its way between rolling mounds to a green which has bunkers left and a thigh-deep swale on the right.
HOLE NUMBER 13
– PAR 5
Par or better here really is something to boast about because it is the longest championship hole in Australia, measuring 624 yards on the old scale. Maybe one day someone will get home in two but he will need a strong following wind. A lake in front of the back tees and a big cluster of bunkers on the left mark the start of this epic journey which follows a seemingly endless curve to the right. The first sprinkler head with a distance marker, on the length of a respectable drive, tells that there are another 324 metres to the centre of the green. The second shot, although blind and long is fair and anything following the centre of the fairway will stay out of trouble. A line of bunkers cuts across the fairway about 90 metres from the green but the gap in the centre is a good 60 metres wide.
HOLE NUMBER 14
– PAR 3
A marvellous example of landscaping, this par 3 appears as wide as it is long. Best viewed from the championship markers, the scene is framed at the bottom by the rigid, straight lines of the forward tee hedges and above by the nearly straight, natural, line of the blue Dandenong foothills. Overcast days make the effect even more dramatic, with flat-bottomed cumulus clouds continuing the pattern of horizontal lines to infinity. Perfectly positioned in the middle is the broad sweep of mounds, bunkers and green seemingly shot in Cinemascope. The bunkering is awesome, twice the area of the narrow putting surface which has two tiers and is 35 paces deep. Up close, it is not so frightening, even into the wind. There is an opening front-left to run up a low shot and a 20 metre wide fringe behind the green.
HOLE NUMBER 15
– PAR 4
A stand of gum trees left and white swans gliding gracefully on the lake right create a peaceful setting for the tee shot on this par 4 which doglegs to the right. The bunkers again create the optical illusion of impeding the line to the green. In reality, they mark the change of direction on the hole with the pair on the right making it perilous to cut the corner. The one in the middle is positioned for straight hitters and the three on the left wait for the big drive that fails to fade. A good drive leaves a mid-iron approach shot to an elevated green with an opening between bunkers at the front and an elegant mound behind. Look out for the wallabies in the wildlife reserve to the right of the green.
HOLE NUMBER 16
– PAR 3
Surrounded by water on three sides and heavily fortified with two large bunkers across the front, the sheer beauty of the 16th is likely to ensure pride of place as Capital's signature hole. Great imagination in its design, perfect proportions and skill in construction combine to create a masterpiece. The shortest of the par 3s is usally played with a favouring wind. A third bunker, not visible from the tee, protects the left side of the green which slopes steeply from back to front. Getting down in two putts from above the hole is no mean feat while salvaging par from the mounds at the back of the green is a considerable achievement. Five tees offer different perspectives on the hole but all require a water carry.
HOLE NUMBER 17
– PAR 4
With a dozen bunkers visible from the tee, this demanding par 4 is rated the toughest hole on the course. It starts amid garden beds, plays over the terraced forward tees and skirts the lake on the right to a tight landing area. The pot bunker in the middle of the fairway, 105 metres from the green, is out of range to all but the longest hitters but small bunkers left and right about 230 metres from the back tee put a big premium on accuracy. A good drive is half the battle. The other half is carrying the bunkers encircling the front half of the green. A small gap at the front allows the ball to be run up from the left side of the fairway but usually the hole is cut behind one of the bunkers with the bottom half of the flagstick obscured by the lip.
HOLE NUMBER 18
– PAR 4
The final green is visible from the tee but massive bunkering down this line forces the drive out to the right. The dozen or so bunkers on the closing hole bring the total for the course to 168. In addition to trouble on the left, another bunker marks the right edge of the fairway 230 metres from the championship tees that give the course a length of 6,701 metres and a par of 73. From here the hole turns left, towards the Clubhouse, and plays between a narrowing V-formation of bunkers that finish beside the green.