Friday, 17 July 2015

Cooktown Golf Links at Walker Bay

The primary purpose of my visit to Cooktown last weekend was to play a round at the Cooktown Golf Links - Walker Bay Course. While the name gives the impression that it may be one of a number of courses, but this is the only course in Cooktown. Walker Bay is on the south side of Mt Cook, on the road to the small Quarantine Bay community.

Walker Bay is a short nine hole course, with the white tees giving a 4,297 metre par 65 course. With no par fives on the course, and the longest par four at 367 metres, it's a bit lacking in length. Longer hitters will be able to drive some of the par fours, though missing the fairway can be costly. The layout is perhaps ideal for holiday makers and retirees who have lost some of their length.

I played on a Monday, and found that the clubhouse was unattended. Green fees were paid through an honesty box, and I paid $20 for nine holes plus $5 for a buggy. Hire clubs were also available, though I didn't check them out. A fridge with another honesty box housed soft drinks and water.

Hole-by-hole descriptions and photos are below the fold.

The course is cut out of the dunes behind the beach - this is what a links course looks like in the tropics. The holes undulate over and around some quite large dunes, and sandy wastes come into play in quite a few areas. Bunkers are fairly few, which is surprising as I would have thought them fairly easy to make in such terrain.

A mishit tee shot left a nine-iron approach, which I sent onto the grassy bank behind the green
The course starts off fairly gently, with 255 metre downhill par four with a generous fairway. The hole runs toward the ocean, so will often be into the wind. It will be tempting to take a big swing at it, but if you miss left, and the fairway slope helps the ball head that way, you'll end up in thick jungle. The green is a raised ledge on a rise with thick rough behind.

2nd hole from the tee
The first par three on the course is the short (125m) second. It's very open with few trees to help you get a feel for distance, so it's easy to under-club. A bunker protects the front left side of a large green.

The third green looking back to Mt Cook
The third  is another short par four at 285 metres, though again it's into the prevailing wind. The fairway doglegs gently to the right, and thick jungle lines the left side of the fairway. I tried to hit a fade off the tee but double crossed myself, losing my first ball for the day.

The 4th green
The fourth is a little longer at 312 metres, and doglegs sharply around a large dune on the right of the fairway. An iron off the tee is the sensible play and should leave a mid to short iron approach, but if tempted to have a go, aim to miss long. The inside of the dogleg is heavily forested while the far side is fairly open. The green slopes away from you which may make stopping your shot a little harder, particularly in hot, dry conditions.

The fifth green
At 238 metres, the fifth is really too short, though again into the prevailing breeze. A good drive should get you close to the green. As with all but the second hole, the tree line is thick and waiting to devour an errant drive. The fairway was a bit patchy and I ended up essentially playing a bunker shot from it. It reinforced to me that making bunkers on this course should be fairly easy, and this short four could use a barrier in front of the green

The sixth tee is 206 metres away behind the trees on the left. This is a par three.
The sixth is a 206 metre par three from a well elevated tee to a green obscured by trees on a dogleg. It's a very tough three, and I'm sure they're tempted to make it into a ridiculously short par four.

The elevated seventh green
The seventh, which also plays as the sixteenth, is the longest hole on the course, though it's only 331 metres as the seventh and 367 as the sixteenth. It doglegs slightly to the right and is protected on both sides by thick bush.

The 8th's tee
My favourite hole was the eighth, a straight 315-metre par four from a tee tucked back in the trees with the blind drive over a rise to a fairway that falls down into a valley before climbing to a green at the top of a rise. A large bunker sits on the left side of the fairway around the length of a solid drive. Mt Cook provides a lovely backdrop to the hole.

The 8th from the rise you have to hit over with your tee shot. A good drive should get you on the up-slope to the green
The course finishes with a 150 metre par three from the top of one rise to another. There are no bunkers and the tree line is back a bit. Perhaps a nice easy finishing hole is a psychological trick to have players in a better mood as they get back to the clubhouse.

Looking back to the tee from the ninth green

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