Nobody quite knew what to expect when Tallwoods Country Club acquired its seventh owner. Twelve months later and the much-loved course at Hallidays Point has undergone a massive facelift, restoring its place as one of the very best courses in regional New South Wales.
Once ranked as high as No.72 on Australia’s Top 100 Courses, Tallwoods had fallen into receivership. Tumble weeds weren’t exactly blowing down the fairways, but the conditioning of the wonderful layout designed by American architect Michael Hurdzan left a lot to be desired.
Tallwoods’ fortunes changed when Barry Sale saw a ‘For Sale’ sign while visiting a sick friend on the NSW Mid North Coast. Sale’s field of expertise was retail technology within the family business (Goodson Calculators Australia).
Enticed by the romance of owning a golf course, Sale purchased Tallwoods and began the mammoth task of resurrecting what James Fairfax originally built as the epicentre of a $54 million residential development. With his daughter, Susan Pace, as director of Tallwoods Country Club, they immediately ploughed more than $1 million into improvements on and off the course.
The most noticeable sign is the bunkering. Tallwoods’ green complexes were a feature of Hurdzan’s original design and the poor state of the sand traps really detracted from the playing experience. Most bunkers had little sand and the hard clay bases resembled something out of a pottery kiln. In total, 63 bunkers have been renovated with new drainage and topped with a high-quality white fluffy sand to give the hazards a striking appearance.
New machinery has been provided for course maintenance, including fairway and greens mowers. A new irrigation system has been installed along with a new pumping shed. (Tallwoods hadn’t used automated sprinklers for six years). A turf nursery has been created and more than $100,000 was spent initially on chemicals and fertilisers.
As a result the greens are now the healthiest they’ve been in eight years, according to independent testing. All achieved with a greenkeeping staff that has increased to four fulltime groundsmen. In addition, a working bee of 13 volunteers gathers each fortnight to help restore Tallwoods, cleaning out rough areas and making the course more playable.
The new owners also delivered on their promise for a new fleet of 26 golf carts. New signage has been installed around a course that has some very steep descents from tees and greens. Long-time visitors would also notice the golf shop with a lot more stock.
After a complete renovation of the dining area, Tallwoods is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Catering has been leased to brothers Greg and Darren Bultitude who have rebranded the restaurant ‘The Kranky Goat’. Greg has returned as chef after a sabbatical overseas, restoring his sensational degustation to a menu that specialises in gourmet tapas plates, homemade pies and pizzas.
Many social clubs have now returned while ‘vets’ day each Monday attracts 60 players. Club membership has increased by about 25 percent to almost 350 golfers. This spring Tallwoods held its first FootGolf event.
Pace says it’s been a very rewarding experience for the Sale family. “Dad and I were up here a couple of weeks ago and constantly the members are grabbing us. Just their compassion in saying thank you really means a lot to us. We get some really emotional members coming up saying ‘Thank you for saving Tallwoods’.”
Meanwhile, Tallwoods has signed off on the construction of 16 luxurious on-site cabins, each with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. It’s hoped eight cabins will be available as short-term accommodation by early 2020.
In addition, the Tallwoods residential masterplan includes an over-50s resort-style living complex, a hotel and retail shops. Management is working with a local town planner and Mid Coast Council on the finer details. It’s anticipated 80 homes will be built in the seniors living development and 70 rooms in the hotel. The total cost to reinvigorate Tallwoods will exceed the original estimate of $5 million.
“We’ve proved ourselves over the past 12 months that we’re not just here for the fun of it or to sell it. We really love Tallwoods,” Pace says. “We all know that it’s probably going to be a hard three years. But then we’re looking to really start enjoying it. For us, we just want to get Tallwoods back to what it was.”
Tallwoods Country Club
Where: The Boulevard, Tallwoods Village, Hallidays Point NSW 2430
Phone: +64 2 6593 3228
Green fee: $55 with cart