Between Townsville and Mackay is the coastal town of Bowen. It has a population of about 10,000 and is a holiday destination. Among the town's numerous attractions is a nine hole golf course with its club house upper level looking out over the ocean. After mixed feelings about Ingham the day before it was a delight to find Bowen in excellent condition.
The course is in two parts with the opening four holes close to the ocean. Those looking for an easy start to the round will have to set their sights on an easy bogey because the first is a 425m par four. Not only is it a long hole but for the big hitters the prevailing winds mean aiming the tee shot perilously close to the beach which runs down the right and then watching in delight as it bends back toward the centre of the fairway. The green is generous and fairly flat as suits a hole of this length.
The second is a short par four giving longer hitters a choice of laying back or driving to the narrow part of the fairway. The green is a good size if you are playing a pitch but tougher if you are playing a longer pitch especially if the prevailing winds are up.
The third is a par 3 of 215m with a smallish green. Count on needing an up and down for a par. The fourth completes the opening loop. It is a nice par four of 375m. Just tight enough off the tee to worry the drive which needs to be played to the right hand side to have a clear sight of the green. The green is long with significant rolling slopes. A very good par if you can get one.
The fifth is a nice par five. Reachable with two for the bigger hitters who are game to thread their second between the various trees approaching the green. For shorter hitters the second plays over water with two well hit shots leaving a pitch shot to an undulating green.
Six is a 365m par four with the prevailing wind. The tee shot plays onto a deceptively wide fairway onto an upslope leaving perhaps 130m across a slight valley onto a green on higher ground. Recovery from missing the green is not straightforward so a two putt par is recommended.
Seven is a par three of about 165m back into the breeze. Three bunkers are cut into the slope along the left hand side of the green. The preferred line is to the right had side of the green leaving an easy two putt on a smallish green.
Eight is another par 5 playing in the opposite direction to the fifth. It is much shorter the first time around. Playing as the seventeenth it is over 500m. After the tee shot to a generous fairway the direct line to the pin is across a water hazard which stretches most of the way to the green. There is plenty of fairway to the left but those who want to play it too safe may flirt with the houses down that side. The flattish green is raised slightly from the fairway but is otherwise unprotected except for the ocean breeze.
The ninth is a par three of up to 135m depending on where the tee is set. The green is on the small side but what could possibly go wrong? It is played into and slightly across the prevailing breeze. That means a high shot will be affected significantly. A low shot on the other hand needs to carry the right distance because the front of the green is protected by a harmless looking little rise guaranteed to stop shots dead in their tracks. This is the type of hole which makes golfing purists so keen on short par threes.
Would I recommend travelers between Townsville and Mackay stopping at Bowen for a game? Yes, in fact I'd recommend spending a couple of days there to come to grips with the subtleties of the course.
Not to be missed!