In Depth: Lake Karrinyup a test for thinking golf

STRATEGIC golf tests more than just a golfer's swing, it tests their mental strength as well.

THIS week the Australian and European tours head west to Perth and Lake Karrinyup; a course we at OCCM have had a long relationship with after undertaking the redesign about a decade ago.

Lake Karrinyup was originally designed by one time partner of Alister Mackenzie – Alex Russell - a man with perhaps the best strike rate of any golf course designer in the world. Russell counts Yarra Yarra, The East Course at Royal Melbourne and Paraparaumu in NZ to his credit - not a bad foursome.

At Lake Karrinyup Russell originally envisaged a course with many of the hallmarks of the sandbelt in Melbourne – spacious fairways, strategically arranged hazards and a complex set of greens. A course that would make you think rather than just demand straight hitting.

However the layout had evolved over many decades and by the time the decision was made to rebuild greens from an agronomic point of view, the brief was extended to ensure that the strategies of the holes were consistent with Russell’s original thoughts about the design.

Of interest this week will of course be how the pros judge the course. Professional golfers aren’t always the best indicators of great design – too often their own game clouds their view of a course – whether it fits their style of play or even how well they played that particular day.

One of the common complaints to be heard on courses like Lake Karrinyup is that the fairways are too wide. This is also the case at some other famous ‘wide’ courses such as Royal Melbourne, and it’s true, it’s not difficult to necessarily hit the fairway.

But the key to their design comes with the approach shot. At both venues the greens are angled and defended by bunkers to reward play from one particular part of the fairway.



To a tight pin position the golfer may only have a few metres to aim at in order to gain the perfect line for their approach – even though the 'landing area' may be 40 or 50 metres wide.

And for every metre away from the ideal position, the approach becomes increasingly more difficult.

To make things even more interesting, a bunker is frequently placed exactly where the ideal approach shot should be played from so the closer to the trouble you play your shot, the better the reward.

This is essentially the whole point of strategic design. Take a risk, reap a reward. Strategy 101.

We try to build holes that make the player think. Holes that put a number of different clubs in their hand with the decision further confused by the weather, the position of the flag, their skill or, perhaps more pertinent, their form.

Width is an important part of creating strategy – in fact it’s almost impossible to have one without the other.

There are lots of holes at Karrinyup which will make the players think this week but my favourite has to be the short par-4 14th, a 302-metre uphill two shotter with a diagonal line of bunkers through the middle of the fairway.

Coming at an interesting time in the round, there will no doubt be some who try to carry all the trouble in the fairway hoping for a late birdie to save their round.

Alternatively, there are options to play up the narrow section of fairway along the left between the bunkers and tree-line or even play short of all the trouble for a fuller approach.

As the flag moves around the green the decisions will no doubt change as the tournament draws to a close, and this should make for some fascinating viewing.

As you watch the players this week make an effort to watch how they play the individual holes as well. The contest between golfer and golf course is always fascinating but on a world class course with a world class field the battle will be even more entertaining.


Mike Cocking

Mike Cocking is an architect and partner with one of Australia's leading golf design firms - Ogilvy Clayton Cocking Mead. Click here for OCCM's website

Mike is currently spending his time at Peninsula – Kingswood CGC on major course improvements – a project especially dear to his heart, having joined the club as a 15 year old and representing the club for almost two decades.

After completing a Bachelors degree in Environmental Engineering in 1998, Mike gained a scholarship with the Victoria Institute of Sport's golf program.

Over the next few years he represented Victoria and Australia in various team events, winning a number of major competitions including the 2000 Victorian Amateur Championship.  Travelling extensively for competition play also allowed Mike the opportunity to seek out and study many of the world’s best courses. 

His passion for the game and his inquisitive nature fuelled his interest in golf course architecture, and in 2000 he launched his career as a designer.  Major projects have included redesigns at Bonnie Doon (Sydney), RACV Healesville, RACV Torquay and Royal Canberra.

Mike is also a keen artist and a selection of artwork can be found on his website. 

Mike can be followed on Twitter: @OCCMGolf and @MikeCocking 


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