Fairbairn Golf Club - Evolution

In early 2019 I picked the brains of a couple of long term members of FGC, and dug out some old photographs and plans, to try to get a better understanding of how the course developed and evolved over the years.

The 'Official History' of FGC (Download here) states that the course first opened in 1953 as a six hole affair with sand greens, and by 1965 it had expanded to a nine hole course with turf greens obtained from the forced relocation of Royal Canberra Golf Club. I was particularly interested in how the early nine holes fitted in to today's layout.

This is my interpretation of what was kicked around. Note that some greens could be played from alternative tees (shown in dotted lines) to provide something like a full 18 hole experience.

Clicking on the smaller photos will bring up a larger version.

Here is an aerial photo taken in 1968, showing the early development of the tree plantings that still define the basics of today's layout, and a plan for the original irrigation system that was installed around 1973.

The aerial photo is not sharp enough to clearly identify the precise positions of tees and greens but the irrigation diagram provides useful information. Here's an attempt to overlay the 1968 picture with the early nine hole layout.

There's some indication in the aerial photo of a green with a bunker in front of it, around where the current 16th tee is located - which would suggest that the direction of old hole 7 (current hole 16) was reversed - but this is probably an illusion.

Anecdotally, the original 2nd green (today's 10th) was in the middle of where today's 11th fairway would be and the nearby white patch in the aerial photo ties in with other anecdotal evidence that there was a "...pit full of building rubble..." in that area.

Over the next twenty years plans were gradually developed for an expansion to a full 18 hole course. Various plans and photographs from the early 1980s reveal that at least one alternative layout was considered before the eventual configuration was agreed.

Basic earthworks for the remaining nine holes was undertaken in 1988 but it took another two years of largely volunteer effort before the official opening of today's full 18 hole course.

Initially, according to the 'Official History' six of the new holes were put into play - although that history only records five of them; the 2nd, 4th (" ... played across the water hazard ... "), 5th, 7th (" ... a par 3 played from the current Ladies' sixth tee ... "), and 9th (" ... a par 5 played from the current 8th tee ... "). I assume that the third hole was also opened at this time ..... otherwise it would have been a long walk from the 2nd green to the 4th tee. I also include the introduction of the 11th hole which, although not mentioned in the 'Official History' until it was re-shaped in 1997, must have been created at around this time. This is my interpretation of those additional six (seven) holes, along with a degraded but interesting photo that seems to confirm the temporary alignment of the 4th hole as a Par 3.

All that then remained to achieve more or less the layout we see today was introduction of the current 6th and 8th greens, construction of a new green for the 12th hole, and realignment of the 6th, 7th, and 9th tees. Many of us will well remember the dastardly alignment of that original 8th green!

Here's a picture dating presumably from the early 1990s, showing the newly developed Eastern part of the course. The difference in the maturity of tree plantings is very evident.

Since the opening of the full 18 holes in 1990, work has of course continued to constantly improve the course. New 'Tiger Tees' were constructed for the 5th and 11th, a brand new 8th green was introduced in 1999, bunkers have come and gone, the 17th was shortened etc. etc. We can confidently expect further enhancements into the future but, to conclude, here is a degraded and undated aerial photograph that probably comes from the very early 2000s. Long term members will remember with varying degrees of fondness the iconic 'Australia Bunker' in front of the 5th green and not two but four bunkers guarding the 11th ...... Aaaaaahh, memories!

Wally Warrington
Ex-President FGC
May 2020