Whether you touch down on the Gold Coast, in Brisbane or on the Sunshine Coast, the holiday capital of Australia has an abundance of wonderful golf waiting to be discovered.
THE Gold Coast has held something of a monopoly on Queensland golf getaways. Partly responsible was the golf boom of the 1980s, but the Sunshine Coast is fast emerging as an equally attractive option for high quality golf courses and luxurious holiday accommodation.
The transfer of Horton Park members to Graham Marsh’s Maroochy River Golf Club has given golfers a new destination to add to their map while returning to some highly regarded resort courses that are ageing like fine wine.
“The major resort courses in the area share information on the number of rounds we put through to show the part we play in the influx of Sunshine Coast tourism,” says Pelican Waters general manager Tim Gall, who has also worked at Twin Waters and Brisbane’s North Lakes.
“When you think of the quality offerings available from the border at Tweed Heads all the way through to the Sunshine Coast, you could easily spend a few weeks playing golf in southeast Queensland.”
Add the established member courses throughout Brisbane that are opening their doors to both local and visiting golfers and one is left spoilt for choice regardless of your golfing tastes.
Caloundra Golf Club
Like the Ancient Mariner in the famous Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem, Caloundra Golf Club found itself with “water, water, everywhere” in 2007 but – with the closure of a local treatment plant had little to water the course. Several new dams were subsequently built throughout the layout, the largest of which runs down the entire left side of the 385-metre, par-4 third the toughest hole on the course.
At 5,987m at its longest, Caloundra is short by modern standards but the par-71 course that had 18 holes in play for the first time in 1966 has had a happy knack of bringing out the best in a fine golfer.
British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch completed his traineeship at the club in 1978 and returned to win the club pro-am in 1985, adding his name to a list that includes US PGA Tour champions Marc Leishman and Steven Bowditch, as well as tour pro Scott Gardiner.
Recognised by the PGA of Australia for his dedicated service during the past 13 years, head professional Danny Freyling leads a friendly and attentive staff base welcoming members, visitors, beginners and juniors to this picturesque course at the southern end of the Sunshine Coast. www.caloundragolfclub.com
Headland Golf Club
Headland was 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott’s first Queensland club after his father Phil moved the family to the Sunshine Coast to help establish Twin Waters Golf Club. Headland is a dramatically contoured layout that barely offers a straightforward lie across its 18 holes.
Elevated tees and water on six holes continually challenge even the best golfers, while views from the clubhouse afterwards offer stunning vistas of the Mooloolaba coastline just five minutes away.
Koalas, kangaroos and birdlife are bountiful, so even if your golf isn’t at its best it will rarely be a good walk spoiled. Headland has also begun a number of exciting initiatives designed to encourage new golfers, including the SWING (Starting Women In Golf) program that saw organiser Laurel Opray awarded the Golf Queensland Volunteer of the Year.
New cart paths, an upgraded practice facility and wonderfully conditioned surfaces make Headland a golf course you shouldn’t leave the Sunshine Coast without playing. www.headlandgolfclub.com.au
Maroochy River Golf Club
If you build it, they will come. That Field of Dreams famous line has certainly been the case for newly established Maroochy River Golf Club. Situated between Bli Bli and Pacific Paradise at the northern end of the Sunshine Coast, this Graham Marsh-design hosted its first rounds of golf in May and has quickly become a desired destination for social golfers – and a shot in the arm for Sunshine Coast tourism.
The club is the new home to members of Horton Park Golf Club, and has already reported bookings for social groups through until the end of next year.
Built on former flood-prone cane land, there is barely a tree to be seen on the golf course. Carefully constructed waterways and strategically placed bunkering make it playable for all standard of golfers while posing interesting shot-making opportunities for the better players.
“The course was designed to be forgiving for the occasional players yet throw a lot of temptation out to the accomplished players,” Marsh says. “Golfers will have a lot of fun and challenges as they strategise their individual approaches to each hole.”
Maroochy River has also become a highly desirable function venue able to cater for weddings, conferences or simply a special occasion. maroochyrivergolfclub.com.au
Noosa Springs Golf & Spa Resort
Planning a golf trip can be as exacerbating as it can be exciting. Where are we going to go? How long are we going to stay for? Does everyone want to play golf? How many rounds should we play?
What if one place could answer every question for you and tailor a stay-and-play package to suit every possible need? Introducing Noosa Springs Golf and Spa Resort, which boasts one of the most renowned layouts on the Sunshine Coast. In a setting that celebrates natural bushland, there are 10 freshwater lakes that come into play on 12 of the 18 holes of this Graham Papworth design.
Under new ownership, the course presentation is as good as ever but the real trump card at Noosa Springs is the ability to have every one of your desires fulfilled.
There are as many as 20 individual packages catering to a range of getaways, including: a 14-day escape with golf every day and discounts at the spa; resort membership inclusive of a 28-night stay; three-night premium golf getaway in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with a bottle of wine on arrival.
The resort restaurant, Relish, uses fresh local produce in an ever-changing mix of Mediterranean and Asian cuisine and a shuttle bus operates regularly into the hub of Noosa, Hastings St.
If your leisure time is split between the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast, take up the two-course pass Noosa Springs now shares with Links Hope Island.
Mount Coolum Golf Club
If Mount Coolum Golf Club is good enough for a Masters champion then what excuse have you got for not playing there? Boasting the same mountainous backdrop as nearby Palmer Coolum Resort, Mt Coolum is a members’ course open to the public.
Professional surfer Julian Wilson is a proud member at Mt Coolum and convinced good friend – Masters winner Scott – to join him for a round earlier this year.
“He drove the ball about 300 metres over this creek that’s never been driven over before,” Wilson says, “to bring him to the local course and give everyone a shot to talk about for the rest of their lives.”
Although it lacks the marketing punch of nearby resort courses, Mt Coolum endeavours to deliver a similar experience at a fraction of the cost. Having opened in 1976 as a nine-hole course, Mt Coolum was expanded to 18 holes in 1992. While relatively flat, the course uses eye-catching bunkering on the ground and the towering Mt Coolum in the sky to test the mettle of all standards of golfers. www.noosasprings.com.au
Pacific Harbour Golf and Country Club
Perfectly situated for a golf getaway, this magnificent Ross Watson design on Bribie Island, halfway between Brisbane airport and the Sunshine Coast. Pacific Harbour climbed five spots on the 2014 Top 100 Courses ranking to be sitting at No.51.
Generous fairways and dramatic green complexes create the atmosphere of a links-style course while incorporating shots around – or over – water depending on your skill level and bravery.
The first hole of the day – a 501m par 5 – is aptly named Brave Heart and sets the tone for the round: position or power.
The green at the par-3 seventh is perched out over a lake to create an island feel, the par-5 11th and 14th holes share a green divided by a bunker in its centre, and the stretch of sand that encompasses almost the entire right side of the 202m, par-3 17th hole was the largest bunker in the Southern Hemisphere when the course opened for play.
These are golf holes that live long in the memory and are best reflected upon whilst sitting on The Deck enjoying a drink or meal and looking out across the lake, golf course and lush native gardens.
Pacific Harbour has become a centrepiece of the Bribie Island community since its opening and serves as a social hub for the thousands of residents who have decided to call this spectacular part of Australia home.
If you’ve got the time, stay the night and play nearby Bribie Island Golf Club. It’s a terrific country course with some really interesting par 4s. www.pacificharbourgolf.com.au
Twin Waters Golf Club
The beautiful Twin Waters donates $1 from every green fee paid to the Adam Scott Foundation and has a proud history of hosting high-profile tournaments. Later this month, the Thomson-Wolveridge design will host the national final of the Holden Scramble for the 15th time.
With a combination of challenge and forgiveness, Twin Waters has been a perennial favourite of visiting golfers to the Sunshine Coast. They rave about the design, conditioning and friendly service from the staff in the pro shop.
Part of the playability can be attributed to 1991 British Open champion and proud Sunshine Coast product Ian Baker-Finch. The popular golf commentator had input into the design process and plays the course regularly when living at his Australian base of Mooloolaba.
Of course, there is more than simply magnificent golf to keep you amused.
The adjacent Novotel Twin Waters Resort has the Lagoon Day Spa to provide every pampering possibility, and there are Segway and Laser Skirmish experiences for the adventurous. The Accor Vacation Club Water Park consists of a thrilling series of inflatable slides, runways, jumping pillows and structures connected together. It floats on Novotel Twin Waters’ famous lagoon – perfect for young ones with endless energy. www.twinwatersgolfclub.com.au
Pelican Waters Golf Club
Designed by Greg Norman, whose parents are long-time residents, Pelican Waters holds a special place for one of Aussie golf’s most famous families.
First opened in 2000, the most recent changes saw a reduction in bunkers from 89 down to 67 with Norman proudly showing off his alterations back in 2010.
The Great White Shark could soon be called upon to make further adjustments with the club receiving principal approval to develop the land occupied by the eighth and ninth holes and the driving range. Original plans allowed for a 27-hole facility and that adjacent land would be used to accommodate two new holes and a new practice fairway.
Situated at Caloundra on the southern end of the Sunshine Coast, Pelican Waters is well positioned to benefit from a proposed masterplanned community, Caloundra South. In time, that could house as many as 20,000 residents. Pelican Waters’ own Waterside residential precinct sold 110 lots in just 90 days as the Sunshine Coast becomes an increasingly desirable location for young families and retirees.
Although Pelican Waters boasts an active membership of close to 600 members, almost 40 per cent of annual rounds come from visitor play with the adjacent Sebel Pelican Waters Resort and Spa making it an appealing holiday destination.
The club has also broadened its appeal with tech-savvy golfers, developing its very own app on both Apple and Android devices. The app provides a GPS-enabled scorecard, ability to book tee times for members and visitors, as well as a platform to post photos of your round to Facebook.
And while there are stay-and-play packages to suit any need, Pelican Waters also offers a special golf rate of $65, which includes cart and can be used six days a week. www.pelicangolf.com.au
Indooroopilly Golf Club
Indooroopilly Golf Club has been held in high esteem since it was first established in Brisbane in 1926. As it prepares to celebrate its 90th birthday next year, it is finding new ways to open doors to keen golfers that aren’t in a position to take up a traditional membership.
Like any self-respecting course, Indooroopilly is bordered by such streets as Carnoustie Close and St Andrews Place. While it remains primarily a private members’ club, it has 36 holes on offer and welcomes visitors to utilise the courses and facilities on time sheets dedicated to social play.
Although the East and West courses are the traditional routings, four sets of nine holes can be configured in such a way that there are six courses in total. Each has a Slope Rating, with four tee options on each hole.
It’s a flexibility few golf facilities can match and has proven to be beneficial in attracting corporate clients from Brisbane CBD, which is less than 10 kilometres away.
“Corporate days that are nine holes rather than the traditional 18 are more manageable for many people these days,” says acting CEO Maurice Holland.
“We can run shotgun starts on nine holes and if the group is big enough we can even run two separate nine-hole competitions concurrently and have everyone back in the clubhouse in a couple of hours.
“We have wonderful facilities for functions and weddings within the club. But it’s not just the corporate market that is beginning to discover Indooroopilly’s charms, with an ever-expanding database of social golfers having the opportunity to play 18 holes from as little as $55.
“Golfers that aren’t members can book tee times just as a member would,” says director of golf Justin Rapley.
“You can also book tee times directly through our Facebook page.” www.indooroopillygolf.com.au
Brookwater Golf & Country Club
Greg Norman’s 18-hole masterpiece is without a doubt one of Queensland’s favourite golf courses, coming only behind Royal Queensland as the state’s best layout on the Top 100 Courses ranking in 2014.
With its convenient location 30 minutes from Brisbane’s CBD and 45 minutes from the Gold Coast, there is no excuse to miss out on playing Brookwater.
The championship course is a stern test of golf, with elevated tee boxes combined with severely bunkered greens.
But Brookwater still offers an enjoyable level of playability for the higher handicappers. brookwater.com.au
Virginia Golf Club
If Queensland is the home of many great Aussie golfers, Virginia Golf Club in Brisbane’s northern suburbs is the nursery from which they emerged. As such, the club proudly calls itself the ‘Course of Champions’.
Legendary professional John Klatt conducted clinics at the club, with students including a young Greg Norman, with US PGA Championship winner Wayne Grady and former US PGA Tour player Andrew Buckle also spending some of their formative golfing years at the 27-hole parkland layout. Junior development remains an integral feature at Virginia and junior clinics run by head professional Shayn Barnham and teaching professional Brett Maxwell have attracted more than 90 junior members, six of whom are already playing off a handicap of 4 or better.
The changing nature of golf club membership has also been addressed at Virginia, with the club recently introducing a nine-hole membership for those who struggle to fit 18 holes into their weekly schedule.
At less than $500 a year, the new membership category provides for unlimited access to the club’s Heritage Nine, the ability to maintain an official GolfLink handicap and specially convened Heritage Nine competitions on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Virginia also welcomes back talented young golfers, with a proud history of hosting major events for leading professionals and amateurs.
The annual Virginia Golf Club pro-am regularly attracts a quality field, while southeast Queensland’s top amateurs vie for the Wayne Grady Cup. In 2016, Virginia will welcome many of the best female golfers in the country to contest the strokeplay rounds of the Queensland Women’s Amateur. www.virginiagolf.com.au
Links Hope Island
Links Hope Island’s prestige emanates a message that it is exclusive and private, but it is very much open for play for visiting golfers. In 2014, Links Hope Island changed hands. New majority owner – Chinese development company Golden Horse Nine Dragon Lake Holdings – purchased 553 of the 990 equity shares. Plans are already underway to develop a new 5-star hotel and bring a major golf tournament back to the highest-ranked Gold Coast course on the Australian Golf Digest Top 100 Courses.
Opened in 1993, a testament to the Peter Thomson, Mike Wolveridge and Ross Perrett design is the course has remained relevant despite few changes being made.
With Golden Horse’s acquisition also of Noosa Springs Resort on the Sunshine Coast, members at Hope Island have an expanded portfolio of courses at which they can play, including IMG Prestige properties worldwide such as Florida’s PGA National and Seminole courses, Walton Heath (England), Laguna National (Singapore) and both Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand.
But the message right now is clear: Links Hope Island is open to all golfers seven days a week.
Gold Coast residents can purchase a Priority Card for $299, which includes one full round, two twilight rounds, five buckets of balls on the range and a cap. There is also a two-course pass with sister property Noosa Springs for $199 that is valid for six months, a saving of more than 25 per cent. www.linkshopeisland.com.au
Sanctuary Cove Golf and Country Club
Sanctuary Cove has never been short on claims to fame since the resort’s opening in 1986; Frank Sinatra and Whitney Houston performing at the gala dinner; the first Arnold Palmer signature golf course in Australia; home to the nation’s first green jacket winner.
But the latest may be the most enticing for domestic and international travellers who take their golf clubs wherever they go.
While Palmer’s The Pines course has been a perennial occupant of Australian Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses, Ross Watson’s redesign of The Palms course in 2011 has given the facility two courses in our biennial ranking.
That makes Sanctuary Cove the only golf complex north of Adelaide with two current members in our Top 100 ranking.
Watson’s redesign of a tired layout that members happily left open to the public is now an interesting test of shotmaking. It has short par 4s, par 3s with two-tiered greens, blown-out bunkering and risk-reward opportunities on par 4s and par 5s that challenge the brave and put doubts in the minds of the timid.
The good news for visitors to the Gold Coast is The Palms remains accessible for play on most days as The Pines stays as the domain for members and guests of the InterContinental Resort only.
At 6,681 metres, The Pines is a serious test of golf and has undergone some bunker improvements in recent times. A member of Arnold Palmer’s design team spent some time at Sanctuary Cove mid-year to look at further upgrades of a layout ranked just 11 places higher than its little brother next door. sanctuarycovegolfclub.com.au