14 – 17 November 2024 – Murray Downs Golf & Country Club

2024 NSW Open Golf Logo

HAYES: Course Shines and Open is Richer For It

It was a tough day at Moama today – still 38 degrees and blustery, baking north winds when play finished a few minutes behind schedule.

But neither player nor course flinched.

Sure, some went better than others; but in the big scheme of things, the first 52 players on the leaderboard shot par or better in genuinely challenging conditions.

It speaks to the depth of talent in Australian golf; it also speaks to the quality of the venue, with the East Course at Rich River already proving itself a worthy host of one of Australia’s most venerable tournaments.

When Golf NSW signalled its intention to move its key events to regional centres for at least the next three years, the vast majority applauded. Yet there were the predictable, rusted-on naysayers who looked down their wrinkled noses at the call.

But they surely have gone now.

The resort and surrounding vineyards and riverland area are coming up a treat on the television coverage, which itself is breaking ground in terms of regional complexity.

But it’s the East Course itself that is proving a real winner.

Title contender and well-travelled Queenslander Jake McLeod said on Friday that its fairways might be the best he’d played on all year.

And today, as the sun baked all and sundry, it held up superbly.

PGA of Australia tournament director Russell Swanson said the decision to “go bush” had been more than vindicated by the support and knowledge of the Rich River staff.

“The course was presented beautifully when we got here, but it’s often a challenge when winds spring up, especially big northerlies on hot days like today,” said Swanson, himself a former Tour player of great repute and arguably in the top dozen left-handers to play professionally in Australia.

“Along with Golf NSW, we spoke to the groundstaff and said we’d like to adjust the green speeds to sit in the high 11s (on the stimpmeter) even in the heat and wind and they just did it beautifully.

“The scoring will reflect that. There’s trouble if you don’t play well, but even in those conditions, we saw some great low scores today, which is a real credit to everyone here.”

Among the other things often overlooked by those watching from afar are the choice of pin placements on flat spots, moving tee markers up or back to appropriate positions and even the use of “call-up” holes to keep the field moving.

“Most of all, though, it’s the course’s ability to withstand hot weather and maintain wonderful playing surfaces that really stands out,” Swanson said.

“It’s the perfect venue for a state championship; the staff are excited and supportive, the club’s 100 per cent behind it and nothing is too hard for anyone in the pro shop, so it all just makes it easy to bring together for us coming in.”

The proof will be in the pudding tomorrow when a fantastic leaderboard will hopefully entice a large crowd to Rich River.

If that happens, a step in the regional direction is all but confirmed as a wonderful decision and a blueprint for the future already mapped.

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