Day 124 was at Newcastle GC. A course I have long been looking forward to.
I was hosted by Oliver and Isaiah Wolferstan another father son duo of kiwi‚??s who now live in Newcastle.¬† After a steak and a good nights sleep Isaiah and I were off to tackle Newcastle GC on what was a perfect day for golf.
Isaiah is a 13 year old lad who is a graduate of the First Tee in New Zealand at the Birdie level.¬† Despite speaking with a strong Aussie accent ‚??but‚??, he assures me he supports the kiwis.¬† He‚??s also a fine golfer (off a 6 handicap) and has recently finished second in the state under 13s in a matchplay event.¬† Isaiah is part of the Jack Newton Junior Golf Foundation which is a foundation set up by Jack to encourage and nurture young golfers.¬† Similar to The First Tee but they prioritise the high performance aspect.¬† I will quickly pass over to Isaiah who has kindly penned a few words for the blog: ¬†
Isaiah here: just finished playing golf at Newcastle with Michael it was good fun and pretty competitive, with the match going down the last .[For a half]¬†Mike made a good comeback having been 3 down at one stage.¬† I had a great time. My coach Jason Laws [note: Jason Laws is somewhat of a Supercoach who coaches guys like James Nitties and Nathan Green] said I should have been at school but it was nice to play golf for a day. I played pretty well then fell apart the last 5 holes. I would like to thank Newcastle golf course for letting us play.
The course at Stockton known as Newcastle GC is a great golf course that is rightfully rated up there as one of the top 20 or so tracks in Australia. ¬†The course is cut out of the bush in a location that is pretty close to the ocean and so the influence of sand is strong. You'd say this is the Newcastle sandbelt, but it is the only course situated on this fine piece of golfing terrain.¬†
There are no bells and whistles just the traditional golfing obstacles to contend with. Raised greens, angled greens, two tiered greens. Simple bunkering, like above on the 6th hole that are fair but perfectly positioned to catch you out - such as on the 6th when I did not account for a change in elevation and just got caught out by said bunker (after a chip out to the fairway and thus made 6).
I'll start with the weakness of the course so I can move on to the numerous positive aspects. Two of the par fives here are antiquated. A couple of them are really par fours and play no longer than 420 - 430m ¬†Hole numbers 4 and 13 to be precise. The 4th is an absolutely cracking hole with scrub all around and some gnarly bunkers on the right of the fairway. But it is only 415m and in the age of technology that is a par four. The reason it is still considered a 5, i presume, is because of the sharp slope 30m or so up to the green which would prevent most of the members rolling it up for two shots. ¬†All that said I made 6 on this hole as well, another win to Isaiah with his 4 (in fact the young chap made 8 fours on the front nine only ruining the streak with a bogey 5 on the sixth hole).
After halving the 9th in birdies, the match between us was all on. I'm playing against a few junior golf stars the next few days and I thought this would probably be my only opportunity to win a match.
The stretch of holes from 6 through to 8 really impressed me at Newcastle. 6 I have described. 7 is a short par three (below) played across scrub to a green that is tiny but like a bowl with slopes off the shoulders of the surrounding bunkers. It also slopes considerably from front to back. But it is beautifully positioned and has some real atmosphere to it. ¬†And then 8 is probably one of the less heralded holes on the course and is a short par four at around 330m. It has a kink to the right with a hazard on the inside corner and scrub on the far side of the fairway. The green is inconspicuously difficult. It sloped away to the right, but is incredibly shallow (or narrow depending on how you look at it). I hit my sand iron from the elevated position on the fairway and as the ball is in the air you think to yourself please be the right distance! Anything short or long rolls well off the ground into surrounds that are not manicured but sandy and scruffy - and incredibly difficult to get up and down from. Fortunately on this rare occasion my ball listened to me and fell out of the sky to about 8 feet from the hole. If I'd hit it 2 metres further I would have ended up 20m from the pin.¬†
The par threes are really strong with two measuring well over 200m, the signature 7th hole and a cracker number 13 which fits in nicely at 170m. ¬†If your short game is on song and you can get through these holes in par you have the makings of a good round.
The stretch home boasts one of the strongest 5 finishing holes of the year. 14 and 15 are strong par fours (14 was a flush 2 iron / 5iron to get up into the wind), 16 is a 215m par three, and then 17 and 18 are another couplet of strong par fours. I said to Isaiah when we were playing them that I'd suggest that any pennants player that parred all five holes would expect to win their match. ¬† Fortunately my ball striking was on song by this point and I knocked it on all the par fours in reg and two putted which put the pressure on the young fella and the comeback was secure for a half. ¬†The one hole that got me on the back nine was 16 - not because of its terrors but my inept bunker play / putting combination which cost me double.¬†
17 is the one real standout hole on this stretch for me. As Jack Newton said over dinner the green just looks like it belongs there. A natural raised green if ever there was one. No shaping required here - just an exposed green with a few trees perfectly positioned around it, on the end of a damn strong hole that runs between the road and some dunes. One of the finest.¬†
So after golf I thanked Isaiah for the game and headed to stay with Jack and Jackie Newton. ¬†Amazingly welcoming people, we had a great evening with dinner and many stories. Both of the Newtons are great people proud novocastrians. ¬†Jack was invited to run the Olympic torch a couple of kilometres through Newcastle on its road to the Sydney 2000 Olympics. The torch he carried the flame in sits proudly on ¬†the walls (along with some other amazing memorabilia and trophy's - such as a replica of the Aussie Open trophy engraved with the names of Jack and all other past winners: player, player, nicklaus, nicklaus, nagle, player etc etc - wow).
I could go on and on and on, but i'll leave you with one picture of Jack, holding a famous piece of cricketing memorabilia. This is an aluminium cricket bat, actually THE aluminium cricket bat used by Dennis Lillee one day in the 70's before the umpires told him he had to be kidding and then later, in anger, chucked it in the bin in the changing rooms. ¬†A brilliant moment. But after holding it, I don't think it would have been much chop as a cricket bat.¬†
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