By Will Pearson, europeantour.com
at Lake Karrinyup
Ahead of the inaugural ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth, europeantour.com gets the skinny on Lake Karrinyup Country Club with the help of a little local knowledge in Western Australia’s Brett Rumford.
Situated in a northern suburb of state capital Perth and a stone’s throw from Western Australia’s famous white sand beaches, Lake Karrinyup Country Club was founded in 1928 with design by Alex Russell – Australian partner of world-renowned Scottish golf architect Alister Mackenzie, the man responsible for Augusta National amongst many other fine courses.
Restored to something approaching its original state ten years ago by 2006 US Open Champion Geoff Ogilvy and Mike Clayton, Lake Karrinyup is a slice of bushland tranquillity on the fringes of a bustling conurbation.
Undulating and widely regarded as the hilliest of Australia’s championship courses, the layout features generous fairways that wind their way between and around the native flora, fauna and waterways from which the course gets its name.
This week’s World Super 6 will be the seventh European Tour tournament to be held at Karrinyup, having twice hosted the Johnnie Walker Classic in 2002-03 plus four Perth International events between 2012 and 2016.
Also host to the Australian Open on four occasions, a number of golf’s glitterati have triumphed on this course over the years including Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Australia’s own, Greg Norman.
Having grown up in the area, and finished in the top 20 in each of his last three appearances here (including two top tens), there’s not many better to give us an insight into Lake Karrinyup’s quirks and complexities than Brett Rumford.
“First thing to say is that this course is a lot more undulating than it appears, it’s deceptive,” says Rumford. “It’s quite a hilly golf course – it runs down a hill towards the back of the course and then runs back up. With the wind as well as that undulation, that makes club selection a little more tricky going in.
“Outside of that, it’s a driver’s golf course which favours the person who hits it right to left – there are a lot of right-to-left dogleg holes so anyone who shapes it that way has definitely got a huge advantage.
“Craig Parry, an Australian player, refused to play here for many years because of his left to right cut – he thought he was at too big a disadvantage! Of course, like most golf courses of its heritage, it has also turned into a bit of a wedger’s paradise."
With kangaroos and native ducks roaming freely across the course, and its blend of woodlands and wetlands making it an excellent habitat for many species of birds (78 different species have been spotted in recent years), Lake Karrinyup is something of a naturalist’s heaven.
In excess of 20,000 trees also line the property from more than 100 different species – in particular numerous varieties of gum and eucalyptus – producing a special environment for the European Tour’s finest to ply their trade.
Gusty golf is the order of the day in Perth, with the city’s trademark afternoon wind – evocatively named the ‘Fremantle Doctor’ – blowing in from the south-west off the Indian Ocean almost every day during the summer months.
To be successful at Lake Karrinyup, then, a player will probably have to play at least three good rounds in the face of a strong breeze.
“The wind is this golf course’s only protection,” Rumford says. “Obviously the greens can get firm but there’s been a lot of rain so they are very receptive at the moment. With calmer conditions the scoring will be really hot.
“There’s always a big difference in the afternoon but this year we could have some strong easterlies, then a lull and then the south-westerly ‘Fremantle Doctor’ will come in, which will make it really tricky.
“The golf course definitely plays harder with that afternoon wind, especially a lot of the longer holes like the sixth and the 16th. You’re playing downwind though with the south-westerly coming home so it’s a strong finish with that wind.”
Another distinctive aspect of the championship course at Lake Karrinyup are the wispy, fescue-fringed bunkers which are not just natural looking but also filled with natural sand.
Indeed, this course saw the most bunkers hit of any on Tour in the 2016 Race to Dubai so an ability to play well out of the sand is crucial here.
As it happens, bunker play might just be the specialist subject of our interviewee…
“The bunkers have natural sand, some are deeper than others and some are actually firmer than others as well so it takes a bit of course knowledge to know which ones are the firmer ones. Obviously that one at the 14th last year was a beauty."
Although adverse weather in Perth in recent weeks has caused the greenkeepers to be working extra hours on the putting surfaces, the renowned greens at Karrinyup are shaping up nicely for the week and Rumford believes they will improve as the week goes on.
As a short game expert, to whom many European tour professionals sometimes turn for advice when they are struggling around the greens, Rumford may have an advantage chipping onto these particular dance-floors.
“There are certain pins that are tucked and these greens can get very firm very fast,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get some good weather this week and we can replicate the greens of years’ past.
“You start to short-sight yourself on this course though, and it becomes very difficult and obviously chipping here is very difficult with the grain. You can putt up a lot of these greens but the grain does run back into you so it can be tricky to chip around.”
“I think the first and the second holes will be key,” he said. “Obviously the second is because of the six-hole match-play format.
“The first because it’s a birdie-able hole which you need to take advantage of and the second, you really have to hit a good drive and you can set yourself up in a really strong position to make birdie. Anything else but a good drive though, and you’re doing well to make par.
“Aside from that, you just have to take advantage of the par fives. As far as the strokeplay is concerned, that back nine is the scoring nine in general so there are a lot of birdies to be had out there – ten, 11, 12, 14 and 15, you make your scoring there while you can.
“The 16th, 17th and 18th mean the finish can be a bit of a brute. I think the back nine is where you really want to be focussing this week.”
How it’s played in recent years
In the last two events at Lake Karrinyup, the holes yielding the most birdies or better were three of the four par fives – the seventh, 11th and 15th holes – while the short par four 14th, which can be set up to be driveable, has been the most birdied of any of the par threes or fours.
Statistics show that scrambling at LKCC is generally tougher than Tour average, while there are also more three putts and Putts per Green in Regulation than on many other European Tour courses so putting is also clearly tricky at the Perth venue.
In summary, ball-striking and short game are the key attributes required for a good week at Lake Karrinyup.