Background and Show Notes:

Getting everyone down there on the same schedule was a heavy lift. Neil and Kevin flew in from JFK (via LAX), Soly and I flew in from JAX (via IAH, where we rendezvoused with Cody and DJ), and Randy flew in from DEN (via LAX, but a different airline from Neil and Kevin). We all departed the US at various times on Sunday and arrived in Sydney on Tuesday morning after 14-17 hour flights from LAX and IAH.

At SYD, customs and immigration were a breeze. The only snag was a few of us getting pulled aside for grass on our golf shoes. We scooped rental cars and headed out to our rental house in Bondi Beach and recharged for a bit (worked out, napped, ate, coffee, etc.) then headed over to Angus & Grace to meet up with some of our local sherpas, before setting off for golf at Bondi up the street.

The weather in Sydney had been uncharacteristically humid and wet in the weeks prior to our visit, and that remained the case while we were there. We were lucky to get some sunshine for both golf and bowls, and the low passing clouds and wind kept the rain away until the next day after we finished up at New South Wales. The goal for day 1 was to knock a little bit of golf off and force everyone to stay up until at least 8 pm that night to help adjust to the time difference. The bowls were a PERFECT thing to do and kept everyone upright and engaged.

Tron Carter, D.J. Piehwoski, Cody McBride and Big Randy.
Tron Carter, D.J. Piehwoski, Cody McBride and Big Randy.

The next day was a smooth one at New South Wales. Our hosts were wonderful and Scott Warren did such a great job of coordinating the visit. I cannot wait to see what they come up with for the course’s upcoming renovation/restoration work - the sky is the limit. It definitely came through on the episode, but physically speaking, the combination of our second day on the ground and a massive, hilly, windy routing took a toll on us. I have so much respect for the members who play there daily. When we got to the 15th hole, I truly didn’t know where to hit it. Between the crosswind, the uphill, the native areas lining each side of the hole, and the mental tricks being played hitting between a narrow saddle, I haven’t felt that helpless over a tee shot in years. Here’s a good course tour courtesy of the club, and this link will take you specifically to the time stamp on that tee shot. The aforementioned rain rolled in after we finished, and we drove back to Bondi in the midst of some wet conditions. We rested, dumped footage, and cleaned up prior to hitting the North Bondi RSL and then walked down the street to Sean’s for one of the best meals of the trip, which closes out the season premiere. You’ll be left with a little surprise at the start of episode two, before the group splits up, with some of us exploring the city and others playing additional golf.

Random observations and planning notes:

On Bondi: We referenced it in the episode, but it felt like we were partly in a Lululemon catalog and partly in a massive Truman Show set in Huntington Beach, CA, but one where everyone just does yoga and looks beautiful all the time and resists the urge to wear many clothes. Bondi worked well for us as a base for this trip since it was between most of the golf we wanted to play, the airport, and downtown. I also prefer getting us in walkable areas, especially if people are fighting jetlag and need some time to recharge and nearby coffee shops and restaurants to fuel up. It’s really tough to get around Sydney with bad traffic, hills, curvy roads, and driving on the left side of the road after over 24 hours of travel, so having a central location was key.

The sewage vent at Bondi Golf & Diggers Club was such a weird, fascinating feature. Never seen anything like it! And Randy loves vertical hazards.

Coogee Beach is somewhere I would REALLY like to get back and see. Pacific Northwest surf vibes, sort of set in this valley with the beach right at the center of town, and framed by massive Norfolk Pines. Drove through there on the way down to NSWGC and back. Manly, on the north side of the harbor, is another place I’d love to get back and get out to. Exploring the different suburbs via ferries from Circular Quay would be catnip for me, and most of the locals we met recommended it. In episode two, we explore a few other parts of the city.

Ep. 1 is always a loopy one. Jetlag, not really having our bearings, not having seen one another in a while and the general excitement of the trip all add up to being both frayed and saying some dumb shit, which always makes me laugh when I watch them. Whether it’s our first episode of the entire series, Portland, LA, Stockholm, Detroit, or Doolin Pitch & Putt/Doonbeg, we’re all slap-happy and not exactly on-point, which makes for a fun, breezy retrospective.

Neil temporarily losing the Osmo Pocket would’ve been devastating. Most of our footage from our travels down to Australia was on there, in addition to a bunch of fun stuff from earlier that day after we landed. If you’re interested in seeing more of that footage, consider joining the Nest and getting access to our accompanying “Behind the Scenes” pieces that come out on the heels of each full episode. The best part of the whole fiasco was him being mic’d up while he was walking around the property looking for the thing, so some of the audio that’s laid in is just him muttering to himself or talking to random strangers along the way. I love it so much.

Overall philosophy of the season: When planning this season out, it was a balance of trying to return to the world-class courses in Melbourne that we wanted to showcase correctly, explore parts of Australia that we hadn’t been to previously (since we only did Melbourne and Barnbougle for the first season), and showcase other parts of Australian culture. We also had 10-12 days to accomplish all this and didn’t want to stretch ourselves too thin. We decided Sydney and Adelaide were a must, as well as King Island. I look forward to returning to Australia and getting out to Perth, up to Brisbane and Byron Bay, down to Hobart (saving that for when Seven Mile Beach opens up!), and even to places like Narooma and Port Fairy. Whether due to logistics and time constraints, a lack of great golf (shoutout Queensland), or just other stuff taking precedence, we weren’t able to get a representative sampling of the country, but I’m confident we’re chipping away, while keeping that balance and focus on the best Australian golf courses, at least for what we value.

Additionally, Australia is a really really big country with an inordinate amount of great golf. There’s a standard of golf that’s getting better with each passing year as renovations, restorations, and new builds come online. Setting off to cover the whole thing in a single season is akin to doing one season on all of Canada or the western half of the United States.

Other Sydney golf considered: Sydney is tricky to pin down as it relates to golf. Given the land it occupies, the brilliant coastline in virtually every direction, and the climate, you would think it would be a golf haven, but that’s just not the case. The area probably punches below its weight when it comes to golf courses (due to a variety of factors that are probably beyond the purview of this blurb.) As things currently stand, it seems like it’s New South Wales at the top of the heap and then everyone else battling for a distant second. Gil Hanse and his associates are currently working on Royal Sydney, which will be a huge boon to the city and hopefully primed for hosting professional events. The Lakes was a consideration due to its pedigree of hosting big events, while The Australian (dubbed “The American” by some, thanks to its Jack Nicklaus design) was not, as it didn’t pique our curiosity or allow the opportunity to see stuff we couldn’t see at home. I wish we could’ve made time for Moore Park to lend some support to the ongoing battle over the future of a thriving public course in a city without enough public courses. We walked past Woollahra while spending some time in Rose Bay in episode 2, and it looked like a brilliant nine-holer next to Royal Sydney. We considered St. Michael’s, The Coast, and Randwick, as well. Lastly, I tried hard to carve out some time to get up to Newcastle Golf Club, a couple hours north of Sydney on the coast, but it ultimately made traveling down to Adelaide too complicated. I have it saved for the next trip down. Ultimately, Bonnie Doon and Bondi Golf and Diggers won out over the others, and we’ll have more to say regarding Bonnie Doon in the next episode before we head onward to Adelaide. Too much good stuff to see! More to come on this push-pull in these notes in the coming weeks.

Planning resources: When planning these things, we use a combination of local friends, various websites (I love Top 100 Golf for context and giving a full picture of the various options), scouring various areas and coastlines via Google Earth, and the various volumes of Tom Doak’s Confidential Guide. The goal is always to seek out best-in-class stuff, while also mixing in some distinctive lesser-known/highly accessible places, and then mix in off-course activities and restaurants that feel at least somewhat representative of the area (often this takes a bit more of a back seat to the golf when we’re pressed for time, but hopefully it still feels proportional.)

Food, Beverage, Other Activities

Sonoma Bakery - Wandered into this place down the street from our spot and what a great little find.

Angus & Grace Go Golfing - Our Australian stockist. Matt’s a legend. Great brick-and-mortar shop in the Paddington neighborhood (high-end shopping district.)

Bondi Golf & Diggers Club

Clovelly Bowls - Could’ve spent another 8 hours there. /will return

New South Wales Golf Club

North Bondi RSL - aspirational bar setup and wildly inexpensive for what the views were. That it’s basically the Aussie version of a VFW lodge blew my mind.

Sean’s - A Bondi institution! Blackboard menu that changes daily. Enjoyed some *excellent* bottles of wine courtesy of our Aussie hosts and a small corkage fee.

Tourist Sauce Episode 1 landmarks.
Tourist Sauce Episode 1 landmarks.