On November 1899 at the AGM of the BGC in the clubhouse of the original Chelmer Course, a subcommittee was formed to investigate suitability of new land for a new golf course. With initial failure the AGM of 1902 saw a motion to extend the Chelmer Course defeated. On October 9th 1903 land at Yeerongpilly was purchased, interestingly Yeerongpilly was believed to be Yarragara tribal dialect for “rain coming”! It was at this early stage the committee was arranging for the services of Sydney professional golfer Mr. Carnegie Clark to design an 18 hole course layout, and on November 2nd 1903 money was forwarded to Clark’s principals, Holdsworth, Macpherson Ltd. for his 1904 18 hole course design as shown in Map1 overlaying the current layout.
Clark had migrated from Carnoustie, Scotland to Sydney in 1902 as a golf professional player, teacher and designer employed at Royal Sydney GC. Considered the father of professional golf in Australia he won the Australian Open in 1906, 1910 and 1911 and the Australian PGA in 1908 being the first person using the Vardon grip and playing with the new Haskell balls, the first with a rubber thread tightly wound around a core with an artificial cover. His first golf course design was Leura GC in the Blue Mtns of NSW, other notables including The Australian, Royal Sydney, Royal Qld, but many country courses in NSW and Qld like Dubbo, Tamworth, Moree, Bowral, West Wyalong, Walcha and Ipswich. The Brisbane GC is the first in Qld with 18 holes.
In these early years club professionals were, as part of their employ, anticipated to advise and improve the design and condition of the course, particularly when extra land was acquired, and without doubt strongly directed by the quirks of the committee, greenkeeper and influential members. However the detail of this work is often infrequently and disappointingly noted in the committee minutes. The following is a list of the Club Professionals at the Brisbane GC club from 1904, some lending much influence to the course layouts;
Oct 1904-1905 – James Hutchinson (teaching only) gave 157 lessons to the members
June 1905 – Willie Thompson (Sandringham) appointed
Sept 1905 – Willie commenced employ for 6 weeks only
Nov 1905-1907 – Willie returned for 2 years
Nov 1908-1910 – Bert Anderson (Cumberland) employed for 28 months. He was dismissed for buying members lost golf balls from caddies and reselling them back to the members. Balls then remained the property of the owner forever with distinguishing marks.
May 1911-1913 – Charles Campbell (Leura GC) employed for 2 years in winter months only before returning to Leura GC.
Oct 1913-1916 – John Irving (Toowoomba GC) An English expert club maker and player who was acknowledged with much course design for 3 years. He specifically designed and constructed 4 greens, unlike the previous “natural” green creations on the ground. He left and became the first club professional at Royal Canberra.
March 1916 – Joe Kirkwood (Assistant at Manly GC under Dan Souter) employed for 6 months as a gifted ambidextrous 18 year old, particularly trick shots. Shot 73 with a Spoon only! (3 wood). Won 1920 Australian and NZ Opens with just 7 clubs! He made more money with trick shots than prize money.
Jan 1917 – Charles Campbell (Leura GC) returned for 3 months.
Oct 1917-1919 – John Irving (Toowoomba GC) returns and dismissed after 19 months.
June 1919-1921 – John (Jock) Young (Riversdale GC) of Scottish origin stayed 2 years through which time a proper Pro Shop was built for him with a shaded extension for caddies. During this period talented golfer T.E. Howard’s (Bonnie Doon GC member) course design services were sought but he was not engaged. Jock wisely accepted an appointment to Victoria GC at Fishermans Bend (relocating in 1926 to Cheltenham) in 1920.
March 1921-1970 – Michael (Mick) Stafford (Melbourne, Assistant Pro Victoria GC) ended this revolving door of professionals when he was appointed for a period of 18 months, lasting 50 years! He enlisted for the 1st World War winning The Military Medal, working with Harry Vardon after the war in England before becoming Professional at Woodend Victoria. Defeating Joe Kirkwood in an exhibition match no doubt encouraged the BGC committee to seek his services. Teaching was his forte with Thompson, Nagle, Pickworth, Cremin, Von Nida and amateurs Whitton and the “Don” seeking his instruction. In 1930 he designed the 9 hole West Course and was one of the last club professionals to be sought after on course design works at the BGC. Mick also served in the 2nd World War and in 1954 was awarded Honorary Membership of the BGC. In 1962 the M.T. Stafford Trophy Honour Board event was born. The new Proshop built in 1964 was named the Mick Strafford Building and in 1970 Mick was awarded Honorary Life Membership of the Australian PGA.
July 1970-1987 – Errol Hartvigsen Was a trainee at Oxley GC before the Professional at Warwick GC for 3 years, then Ashgrove GC for 5 years before being appointed at BGC, defeating some 25 applicants for the prestigious selection. The very talented lefty won the 1968 Yeerongpilly Cup, Qld PGA 1971, 1975, Brisbane City Open 1970, 1973, South Pacific Open 1970, played in the 1973 World Cup (Randall Vines) Spain and the first professional to become an ordinary member in 1993. A current member at Maroochy River GC his son Jake is a PGA Member and son Sam works in the industry.
1987-1999 – Hugh Dolan Teaching Pro under Errol H. from 1981-83, then Club Pro at Royal Hobart GC 1983-87. He served on the BGC Course Advisory Committee and played the British Senior Open 2000 – 01, Senior European Tour member 2000, PGA Coach Malaysia, China, Australia 2004-07, 15 wins Legends Tour 2008 – current, Legends Tour Committee.
1999-2003 – Greg Coulter (Moree GC, Redcliffe GC, Portland GC) Trainee at Cronulla GC Sydney played for 7 years on the Tour of Australasia winning several Pro-Ams.
2003-2008 – Murray Lott Was a trainee at Royal Qld and Royal Sydney before joining the Aust. PGA Tour 1995 – 1997 during which time he worked as a caddy on the European Tour (Nick Faldo). He was the assistant to Greg Coulter 2002 – 2004, then the BGC Head Pro till 2008, and teaching professional till 2013 as well as PGA Coach Byneset GC (Norway) summers of 2008 – 2012. Murray won several Aust. PGA Pro-Ams and became the 2006 Qld Club Pro of the year before winning the 2007 Aust. PGA Pro Championship and 2018 Qld PGA Pro Championship. Lecturer to the China Golf Association for Aust. PGA Coaching accreditation program 2008 – 2018, he has worked with world renowned teachers such as Mac O’Grady, David Pelz, Denis Pugh, Charlie Earp and Alex Mercer and continues coaching beginners to PGA Professional winners worldwide.
2015 – Joe Janison (Current). Was a Trainee at Keperra Country GC in 2004 winning 4 PGA Trainee Pro-Ams and awarded the 2004 Qld PGA Trainee of the Year before commencing a Summer Teaching position at Hyatt Regency Coolum until April 2005 then becoming Assistant Pro to M. Lott until 2008. Joe was the first Director of Golf at BGC (replacing the role of Club Professional when the club took control of the Proshop) in June 2008, notably and proudly later introducing the BGC Junior Academy, increasing the junior Membership by 70% since 2018. This thriving Academy outweighs by far all the combined junior programmes at the club over the years and currently has over 60 juniors attending every week. Since 2018 Joe has been on the PGA QLD / NT Divisional Committee.
The 1904 Clark layout saw some change in the next decade or so when holes 8 and 9(currently 14, 15, 16) now occupied the newly purchased land (minutes 2nd Nov.1905) south to Sherwood Rd. It is probable professionals John Hutchinson and Willie Thompsonwere responsible for these 2 holes. This meant a renumbering of many holes and a new hole 16 being built along Fairfield Rd. Club professional John Irving was also likely very involved in these alterations. During this period talented golfer T.E. Howard (Bonnie Doon GC) was sought for course design work but not engaged.
In 1926 Royal Melbourne GC paid for Dr. Alistair Mackenzie to come to Australia to design their course and during this visit he was engaged by BGC to offer opinion on our layout. Born in Yorkshire and a member of many golf clubs he was a doctor and wartime surgeon in Africa, but never an accomplished golfer, pursuing a career in course design with several partners before going alone. Having chartered the old course at St. Andrews in 1915 he travelled widely around the world designing courses in four continentsincluding Cypress Point USA, Titirangi NZ, The Jockey Club Uruguay, Lahinch Ireland and perhaps his jewel in the crown Augusta National GC. He designed about 19 courses in Australia including Royal Melbourne, Royal Adelaide and Victoria before submitting a layout plan to The BGC Club Secretary TB Hunter in March 1927.
After much discussion the committee did use some of Mackenzie’s changes but not enough to say “this is a Mackenzie hole”, although his bunker proposals were adopted and completed after he left the country. When the land west of 10th and 14th holes was purchased Mackenzie proposed the area be used as part of an amended layout but was not favoured by the members.
In the late 1920’s BGC member Stanley Francis (Surveyor and the former Qld Govt. Architect), supervised the bunker proposals of Mackenzie and was accepted as the course architect who had a significant impact on the course layout in his time, as well being club champion 8 times. In 1928 he altered more than half of the course, but retained the existing corridors, in conjunction with the “straightening “of Moolabin and Rocky Water Holes creeks, which was first proposed in 1923 by member Doug Paines (architect, greens committee). Stanley designed the original layouts of Ashgrove, Keperra, Pacific, Redcliffe and Victoria Parks GC’s in 1930’s.
In 1930 the area considered by Mackenzie west of 10 and 14 holes was developed into a 3rd 9 holes “Short Course” of some 1813 metres to a design by Club Professional Mick Stafford, later becoming the West Course. In 1942 it was requisitioned by the army as a staging camp, the holes being rebuilt in 1951 and the associates given full access as their second nine after playing 10 – 18, until the 1980’s when the West Course became open to the public.
In 1944 Fairfield Rd adjacent land was bought and holes 2, 7 and 8 later relocated redesigned and opened in 1950. The next few years saw the now current holes 3 – 6 replacing the old 12, 13, 10 and 11. The old 2nd hole became the 9th and old holes 3 – 9 are now the current 10 – 16. The old 14 is the current 17 and 18 remained (later becoming 9), meaning the important two loops of nines back to the clubhouse is complete by May 1953. These stirring course changes were made by the then committee including President Jack Land (who had much influence on the course design); Captain JC Trude, Tom Lemon the greenkeeper 1939 – 1949 replaced by WH Mintram (Palm Beach GC Sydney) in April 1950, and no doubt club pro Mick Stafford had input. Thiess Brothers, of which 2 were members, were contracted for the earthworks of these changes which largely remain to this day.
In March 1963 Fairfield Rd was proposed to be widened from land resumed from BGC. Renowned Sydney course architect Al Howardwas engaged to advise on the effect this would have on the layout and design a new layout accordingly. No one has designed more courses in Australia than Al Howard who was a professional at several Sydney clubs and designed Avondale, Belmont, Byron Bay, Chatswood, Elanora, St. Michaels, Corowa, Glades, Indooroopilly, St Lucia and the Tasmania GC among many others. The Fairfield Rd widening threat later lapsed, Howard’s proposed layout was considered extreme and his services terminated.
In 1972 the 5th lake was committee approved, designed and supervised by member Fred Greenhalgh, the Brisbane City Council Water Engineer. Greenhalgh designed water to be pumped from Moolabin and Rocky Water Holes creeks into the lake, and then pumped onto the course strategically in dry spells and if the creek went toxic. This idea was dispensed with many years ago but has now been revitalized by current Super Mitch Hayes. Twice in the 1980’s toxic creek water was pumped onto the course with costly consequence.
After a very compelling letter from committeeman Neil Roberts in October 1973 the Minutes of the Committee meeting of the 19thDecember 1973 affirm that the numbering of holes 9 (finishing at the clubhouse) and 18 (finishing adjacent the practise range) were switched forevermore!
The 1978 AGM saw the members agree in principle to a Master Plan presented by Sydney course architect Robert (Bob) Green from his company Golf and Recreation Planners Pty Ltd. Green was already in Brisbane working on Indooroopilly GC. He was a founding member of the Australian Golf Architects Association, later life member, ex course Superintendent at Pennant Hills GC Sydney, and horticulturist lecturer. His course design work included Sun City GC Perth, Liverpool GC Sydney, Windsor GC Sydney, Indooroopilly GC Qld, Flagstaff Hill GC SA and Murwillumbah GC NSW. Bob visited the USA to study grass varieties which were a big problem in northern NSW and Qld. Impressed when shown Tifdwarf and Bermuda 328 and aware of strict Australian quarantine rules, Bob hid live stolons in his shoes and socks through customs! Bermuda grasses revolutionised the golf and bowling greens throughout tropical Australia.
Bob Green’s BGC’s initial layout plans were major and costs high to be spread over stages with much work to be done by the course staff in house. The club struggled with the costs and Green had to come up with a low cost plan which did continue through 1978 – 1981 and included altering the 7th from a dogleg right to a dogleg left and 8th from a Par 4 to a Par 3, green no longer doubling with 1, 2ndfrom Par 5 to Par 4 (1980) with a shortened tee, and 1st, 9th and 16th into Par 5’s. Communication with Green ceased or waned for reasons unknown and in April 1981 another architect was appointed, much to Bob’s dismay. In a terse letter to the President Greenblamed BGC for not following his directions and plans properly, protesting his “unfair” dismissal. A second letter followed in similar vein titled “The Hysterics of Bob Green’s Involvement at BGC” where he detailed all his work with widespread distasteful comment of the committee, course staff, Super and influential members who “simply had no idea of course design and interfered with his works”. In a closing statement he avowed “if the club wants my services it would be on a command basis and no less!!” Goodbye Bob.
After Green’s demise it was decided to commit to the existing corridors of the layout and engage the services of local architect John Burley of Burley and Berndt in 1982 to initially rebuild 1, 9, 2 and 6 greens and bunkers. In 1984 the sale of 2.17 ha adjacent to the 14th and 15th holes was finalised to the Brisbane Markets, which had no impact on the layout. Later however, after the threat of losing both these holes to the Markets, Burley and golf designer Ross Watson was asked to provide interim course layouts if this land loss did transpire. Watson’s proposal was preferred but the threat abated and Ross Watson was retained to rebuild the 2nd and 5th greens (5thmoved to the lake from the fence), watched guardedly by newly appointed Super Vern Jepson.
In 1986/1987 John Burley was later re-engaged to rebuild 10, 15 18 greens and 4 – 6, 13, 14, 17 tees before in 1988 the club appointed the Greensite Corporation Pty Ltd of Peter McMaugh and Geoff Hatton from Sydney after an endorsement from Jepson. Greensite worked on many greens and tees doing much drainage work, also in 1998 reconfiguring 7 to a Par 3 and 8 to a Par 4 again because of errant golf balls onto Fairfield Road. Merv Burrough, member and Course Chair (1983-1992) was a civil contractor responsible for all the major earthworks, creek relocations, fairway and green raising from the flood plain areas. Greensite designed the new Par 3 11th, Par 5 12th, and Par 3 13th on the old West Course where work began in 1999. Oddly both McMaugh and Hatton had little design experience but went on to become doyens of turf management; McMaugh receiving the Member of the Order of Australian Medal in 2019 and Hatton now running a family turf farm in west Sydney. (The committee later discovered Geoff Hatton was the brother- in- law of Jepson!). There had been much dissatisfaction with their work and design proposals and on Oct.15th 1997 an EGMwas called to terminate their services and reconvene the Course Advisory Committee as per the EGM of 1978. This EGM on Oct. 28th1997 was deemed unconstitutional and resulted in no change. However when the course Super departed suddenly in April 2000, at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, so did Greensite, less than 12 months later. Assistant Jeff Hegadus stepped in till Brett Morris was appointed Super in late 2001.
The new 11, 12, 13 design was a major project with massive earthworks, creek realignment, extensive ponding and Council approval. Many members with the relevant experience (including Drew Clarke and Graham McIlwain) were engaged to steer the club through the approval process, taking years. The drastic changes to the property’s waterways by members Francis and Paine pre war years would never have been approved today. Play was scheduled for February 3rd 2001 (but delayed), the course became Par 72, length increased 165m to 6129m, ACR 73 (from 71) and the now three spare holes, being the old excellent Par 3 11, Par 4 12 and Par 3 13 were renamed 19, 20 and 21 becoming available for practise and lessons. Many alternative layouts are now possible, temporary greens gone and opportunities for trialling new grasses exist without affecting play.
In 1998 during Greensite’s term the club consulted GNP Golf Design (Graham Papworth) to provide another plan for the redevelopment of the former West Course area as a guide for whoever the club appointed to construct. Graham Papworth started GNP in 1993 after associations with Ross Watson and Graham Marsh. Papworth designed Noosa Springs in 1995 and was associated with clubs including Southport, Maleny Qld, Killara, Manly, Strathfield, Lynwood Sydney, Geelong Vic, also working on courses in Japan, NZ, Fiji, Sth Korea and China. In 2015 Graham assisted Ross Watson and Super Mitch Hayes in some design at BGC utilising aerial photography. To Graham’s regret none of his work had any substantial impact on the course itself and his design proposals went the same way as Greensite’s.
In 2002 Wayne Grady Golf Design was engaged for remedial work on the new 11-13. Wayne Grady was a successful touring professional golfer winning the 1990 US PGA after agonisingly losing a playoff for the 1989 British Open. He had wins in USA, Europe, Australasia and the 1989 World Cup in Spain with Peter Fowler. Wayne did much work on the Ipswich GC when they redeveloped 9 holes for housing. His “fee free” work at BGC was minimal but included 11th, 12th fairway excavation, 13th fairway levelling and removal of part left water hazard and a course master plan. Grady’s venture into golf design did not reach the heights of his playing.
In 2004 Thomson, Perrett Golf Course Design in Melbourne was engaged to submit a preliminary Concept Plan for the BGC for discussion. A plan was submitted on March 9th 2004 by Peter Thomson adopting a minimalist approach. Peter Thomson, the winner of 5 British Opens 1954 – 1965 and 98 victories in his career worked on over 250 courses in 30 countries, many in Australia included Twin Waters, Hope Island, Hamilton Island, Alice Springs, The National, Moonah Links Legend and Open, Sorrento, Black Bull, Manly and Royal Canberra are some.
Thomson’s initial proposal at the BGC featured a new green on 5, redesign of 7, new 12 and 13 on current 3, 5 and 6. The proposal was never accepted most likely for financial reasons.
In 2001 Ross Watson was reengaged to submit a master plan, by the Course Advisory Committee, alongside the existing plans from Bob Green, Wayne Grady and later Peter Thomson. Watson’s first course design in 1977/78 was Windaroo GC, whilst working for Engineers Burchill and Partners, encouraging him to build a career in golf course design. By partnering then touring professional golfer Graham Marsh for 5 years much design work was secured in Malaysia, Japan, Korea and Indonesia before he went solo in 2000. Ross Watson designed some 40-50 golf courses including Magenta Shores, The Vines, Horizons, Terrey Hills, Palm Meadows, and Kooindah Waters, Concord, Avondale, Bonnie Doon, Indooroopilly, Pacific Harbour and Southport.
He has supplied 2 or 3 master plans for the BGC (plus a recent 2021 “total bunker review” plan) and numerous “short course” designs, which included proposed drainage storage solutions, none of which has been followed through to everyone’s regret, again always due to financial constraints. The past 21 years has seen Ross continually make important alterations to the course bunkering, fairway shaping, tee and green design, drainage fixes and controlled corridor repositioning. History will show Watson has significantly impacted 16 of the 21 holes on the course (excluding 7, 11, 12, 19, and 20). It would be impractical here to detail the endeavour Rosshas accomplished on the course since his initial engagement in the 1980’s suffice to say it has been constant, wide-ranging and supportive. His more recent considerable design changes (2010) were the total redesign and realigning of 14 (away from the markets), the drastic shortening (100m!) and total redesign of 15 (again the markets) adding the pond, realignment, new build of 8 fairway, bridge and green, plus a greenside pond (2015), and a complete rebuild of hole 9 and 21st green. Although officially retired Ross Watsoncontinues currently to be engaged by the Brisbane GC.
Since the 1950’s the course has retained generally the same corridor routing (notwithstanding 11 -13) and over the past 121 years has become an evolution of alteration and serious tweaking by those numerous persons mentioned in this paper and certainly others unspecified, all for the better. When Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett inspected the course in 2004 in preparation for their proposed master plan former Captain and current member Ross McTaggart recalled their comment “this course has obviously seen an assortment of course designers over many years”.
In 2021 member Al Haydock’s proposal to rename all holes was supported by a club survey, committee approved and alongside the newly replaced irrigation investment at a cost of $1.5 million is perhaps a statement there will be no major layout changes in the foreseeable future. Until future committees actually commit to a Master Plan of considerable change it would be too bold to attach a designer’s name to the Brisbane Golf Club in its present form.
The accompanying 6 maps will assist to picture and navigate through the course layout evolution showing changes from 1904 to thepresent. After the Clark design it has not been well documented who were responsible for many of the course changes as future “course designers” did not become committee appointed till the late 1970’s. Maps 2 – 6 are sketches copied from the book “The Boyce Family at The BGC” written by Clive Boyce covering 1912 – 1970’s, supported by aerial photography.
Map 1. Is the original Carnegie Clarks design in 1904 shown overlayed on the current BGC layout.
Map 2. Is dated 1914 and shows changes initiated by the acquisition of the land down to Sherwood Road. Holes 1 – 5 are unchanged, 6, 7 become Par 3’s, 8 now corridors south to Sherwood Rd and 9 corridors north back to the old double green of 7, 10 (now 9, 6), 11becomes 10, 12 becomes 11, 13 becomes 12, 14 becomes 13, 15 becomes 14, 16 becomes 15, 16 is a new Par 4 playing north along Fairfield Rd and 17, 18 remain the same.
Map 3. Is dated 1929 showing 2, 3 becoming slight dog legs, 5 green moves to create a dog leg right, 6, 7 tees and greens move, 8 and 9 are shortened, 10 tee moved to current position while 13 – 18 remain unaltered.
Map 4. Is dated 1956 after the acquisition of land in 1949 adjacent to Fairfield Rd precipitating the renumbering of all holes bar 1, 8and 18 plus a new 7th hole now doglegs right along Fairfield Rd. Hole 2 becomes 9, 3 to 10, 4 to 11, 5 to 12, 6 to 13, 7 to 14, 8 to 15, 9to 16, 10 to 5, 11 to 6, 12 to 3, 13 to 4, 14 to 17, and 15 to 2.
Map 5. Dated 1990 shows the new lake and hole 7 now dog legs left with 8 becoming a new Par 3 with its own green. The 18th and 9thholes swapped numbers and in 1991 the West Course (layout shown here) was bulldozed and replaced by current holes 11 – 13.
Map 6. Dated 2020 this is the current layout showing holes 11 – 13 renamed 19 -21. The 7th is now a Par 3 and 8th a Par 4. In 2010 the 15th hole was shortened by 100m and rebuilt along with 14th, 9th, part 16th, part 13th and 9th which included some new ponds, all by designer Ross Watson.
“The Fairway is Mine”’ First 100 years of BGC, Author Bruce Richter. Not only was the content invaluable but Bruce’s knowledge, memory and willingness to assure this document’s accuracy is much respected.
“The Boyce Family” Author Clive Boyce 1912 – 1970’s golf history of the former members of BGC.
Current Captain Alan Grieve’s mapping and drawing skills, aerial photograph interpretation and expertise
Essential consultation with current Course Designer Ross Watson, former member Geoff Brown 1954 (former Captain), current members Ross McTaggart (former Captain) and Helen Hudson (1952), whose extraordinary course layout memories are supported by Aust. Defence aerial photography.