When the multinational company that owned the famous Old Course Hotel sought to extend its global golfing empire into Australia, they turned to rugged farmland outside of Sydney and the same designers who had previously built their ‘Dukes course’ at St. Andrews.
Although Camden Lakeside is worlds away from the famous ancient links of Scotland, the course pays homage to their legacy through a typically traditional design. The greens are generous and straightforward and the fairways full of clever undulation and fiendish pot bunkers built to punish the stray or over aggressive. As designer Peter Thomson explains ‘the real challenge at Camden Lakeside is getting to the green. Once there putting should be fun on generally flat surfaces, just as you would find on classic old courses’.
The opening hole highlights this philosophy, as the seemingly simple approach must avoid a deep creek and cunning hollows that push balls toward the two small traps that guard the large green. The adjacent 4th green is tucked into the side of a hill and also positioned beyond the creek with these same subtle twists and turns around its fringe. For those daring enough to play the hole from the tips it also features a 220 metre water-carry off the tee.
One of the more interesting holes is the par five 5th with any ball heading right off its elevated tee ending out of bounds with cows from an adjoining property. The second shot is fairly simple but must avoid visually misleading bunkers, which the seemingly natural fairway bumps make appear closer than they actually are. Perception is often your greatest adversary at Camden Lakeside.
Despite a number of other fines holes, the highlight at Camden comes at the death with two strong closing holes, the 17th is the longest par four on the course and comes complete with a semi-blind uphill approach played through a copse of banksias toward an enormous target. Par here is richly satisfying but easily undone on the very next hole.
The 18th is a grandstand finish, more contemporary than classic, with water left and a tight fairway titled diagonally across the tee. A huge lone gum stands in the middle of the landing area forcing the golfer to either to play the hole straight and over the lake or as a dogleg by hitting right of the tree and leaving a longer approach. The brave line must not only carry the lake but also split the tree and a row of pot bunkers along the waters’ edge.
While long holes with heroic water carries are hardly traditional, the combination of classical style bumps and bunkering and contemporary hazards with risk/reward alternatives are reasonably well integrated into this natural Australian landscape. Built for the owners of St. Andrews’ most famous hotel, by the Old Course’s most fervent devotees, Camden Lakeside is yet another fascinating reminder of one golf course’s extraordinary power to influence the work of men half a world away.