GOLF is the primary reason people visit a particular golf resort, but for a select few spots across Australia, it’s a larger-than-life personality and a genuine welcoming atmosphere that bring visitors back.
By staying attuned to every member and guest’s whims and needs, and by providing personalised experiences and attention that make them feel like VIPs, Bonville Golf Resort – 10 minutes south of Coffs Harbour on the New South Wales north coast – continues to raise the bar in pursuit of the perfect golf experience.
“We’re not just an iconic golf course, we’re a destination,” says Bonville Golf Resort’s marketing manager Christopher Winn, who knows a thing or two about what makes a star-attraction, having previously worked at the famous Big Banana Fun Park. Winn says there have been three key pillars driving Bonville’s incredible rise to fame (which includes making Golf Digest’s World’s Greatest Golf Resorts in 2016), a journey that started in 1992 as a design blueprint to replicate the beauty of Augusta National before going on to scoop accolade after accolade into its 25th anniversary year.
“For us the focus has always been presenting an outstanding golf course, first and foremost,” says Winn.
“Secondly, we ensure we match that golf experience with top-class dining and accommodation. And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, we insist on providing an unrivalled level of customer service.”
Many resorts in Australia would be advised to take note of Bonville Golf Resort’s operations. Like the golf course itself, it’s as if the staff at this place believe they have a mandate to run it like Augusta National, rolling out the red carpet for everyone, regardless of whether they’re a celebrity or candlestick maker.
“Our goal is to ensure that when people leave Bonville Golf Resort they leave with every intention of coming back next year,” says Winn. “Repeat business is what we pride ourselves on.”
If you’re looking for an unforgettable getaway, here are 14 reasons why Bonville Golf Resort should be at the top of the list:
1. Stellar Reputation
Bonville is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s most beautiful golf courses and is the only four-time winner of Australia’s Leading Golf Resort by the World Travel Awards. Golf Digest ranked it as one of the world’s greatest golf resorts in 2016 and just recently it was named Australia’s Favourite Golf Course. Suffice to say, word has spread fast.
2. It’s Australia’s Augusta National
It’s a tag the club prefers to leave out of its marketing, but the evidence is there for all to see – Bonville is the closest thing to Augusta National Aussies will find. Designer Terry Watson was given the go-ahead to build something that resembled golf’s hallowed turf and he has come up trumps. From the tall, flooded gums and immaculate fairways to the tranquil creeks, azaleas and dramatic elevation changes from tee to green, playing Bonville tricks you into thinking you’re vying for a green jacket.
3. A safe bet in any weather
This course has the best drainage in Australia, says Bonville’s head teaching professional Richie Gallichan, who has seen countless downpours do little to dampen the golf fun at Bonville. “Just a few weeks back we had 600 millimetres of rain get dumped on us in the space of a few days and we had golf carts back out on the course within 48 hours,” recalls Gallichan, who played on the Australasian and Asian tours before settling into the Bonville life. “I’ve played a fair bit of golf all over the world and I’ve never seen better drainage on a golf course.”
4. A fair test for all abilities
Your golf ability matters little when you arrive at Bonville. The course has been designed as such that serious players are tested and tantalised with risk-reward shots, while higher handicappers have adequate bailout zones following recent course amendments. “This course is in my top-five in Australia for several reasons, but playability is the big one,” says Gallichan. “We used to have a few holes where severe slopes would punish good shots into greens, but we’ve improved those to allow for a fairer test of golf and the feedback has been very positive.”
Picking a favourite hole at Bonville is like picking your favourite child. All holes are perfectly framed by towering gums and greenery but in golf terms, the final four holes set up a finish you won’t forget in a hurry. The 357-metre par-4 15th is a knee-knocking dogleg that requires nothing but precision on your approach to a green guarded by water. The water theme continues at the 16th, a 372m par 4 with a lake on your left ready to swallow any errant tee shots, and a funky green up ahead that slopes awkwardly to the left. Escape here without any damage and it’s onto the spectacular 142m, par-3 17th, where you have to successfully clear water and avoid the bunker behind the green to walk off with three or better. The drama concludes at the 460m par-5 18th – one of the most iconic finishing holes in the country that rewards and punishes the golfer in equal measure. Two well-struck shots that navigate a dogleg left can set up an eagle putt on an enormous green, but fall short in the creek crossing the fairway or find the sand on either side of the putting surface, and racing to the clubhouse for the wine list could be your best option.
6. It’s only going to get better
Bonville will continue to invest money into the layout as it surges up Australian Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses ranking. The removal of ill-positioned bunkers and severe greenside slopes is only the beginning. Incremental improvements on the greens and tee boxes are also planned. As the club’s anniversary catch-cry says: “At 25, Bonville is just getting started!”
General manager Brad Daymond has been at the property since the day it opened in 1992 – initially as head golf professional, transitioning to general manager in 2001. Daymond says, “We have been on a wonderful journey gradually improving all facets of the property over an extended time period, with our ultimate goal being to provide a wonderful overall experience for all of our guests. This includes from the moment of booking through to departure. It has been an enjoyable journey so far and the Bonville team will continue in our quest to incrementally improve our offering.”
7. The Only Restaurant An Aussie Golf Course To Be Awarded A Chef’s Hat
As the sun goes down, Bonville’s Flooded Gums Restaurant is transformed into an intimate fine dining experience and the best Coffs Harbour has to offer.
The award-winning team has created a modern seasonal menu that changes to complement the season, so you are always guaranteed the freshest local produce and flavours. I was tempted by the master stock braised Orara Valley beef brisket with miso glaze, edamame puree, chilli oil and fired leek. Heaven on a plate.
With the subtly lit flooded gum-lined fairways providing a dramatic vista, the soft glow of candlelight, and in winter, the crack and flicker of a cosy open fire, the Flooded Gums Restaurant is the perfect setting for the best meal you’ll eat in a long time.
8. One seriously impressive wine list
The moment this scribe opened the wine list he knew Bonville was the real deal. Among the pages and pages of labels listed by bottle and glass was Rockford’s Basket Press shiraz – the wine that made me truly appreciate red. Turns out the consulting sommelier, Niels Sluiman, of sister property Jonah’s Restaurant Whale Beach in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, works closely with the Bonville team to ensure the wine offering enhances the overall Bonville experience.
9. You’ll be mesmerised in between shots
You can’t walk Bonville. Apart from the hilly terrain, there are some 12 kilometres of cart paths to navigate, including a long stretch between the 15th green and 16th tee that cuts through stunning tropical forest. It’s what makes the Bonville experience unlike any other in the country. It’s like Jurassic Park with a golf course in the middle of it. “I often sneak out to that exact spot to have my lunch – it’s magical,” says Winn.
10. The legends play there
The very first person I said hello to on my visit to Bonville last month was Australian Olympics chef de mission Kitty Chiller – one of many sporting celebrities who call Bonville their “home away from home”. Rugby legend John Eales is also a regular, as is the New South Wales State of Origin rugby league team. A quick walk through the clubhouse “wall of fame” will reveal many other household names that have swung a club at Bonville over the years – many of which return annually. Keep your eye out while you’re there.
11. Location, location, location!
At the foot of the Great Dividing Range and just a 10-minute drive from the Coffs Harbour Airport and CBD, Bonville is ideal for those looking for great golf with beach benefits. With seven daily flights direct to Coffs Harbour from Sydney and regular take-offs to and from Brisbane and Melbourne, getting to Bonville is a breeze. For those who prefer to commute on the road, the six-hour drive up the Pacific Motorway from Sydney’s CBD is stress-free, with the resort’s front gate on North Bonville Road only minutes off the motorway.
12. The perfect business trip
One of the hidden secrets of Bonville Golf Resort is its capacity to host large corporate groups. The club can cater for boardroom meetings of two to larger, theatre-style seminars of 200 people. “Our indoor venues open out onto wide verandahs and overlook the resort’s amazing course and gardens,” says Winn.
Of course, such intimacy and seclusion at Bonville Golf Resort will keep your delegates focused on the conferencing task at hand before they get blown away by the golf and grub on offer later in the day.
13. A lesson learned
Head teaching pro Gallichan was no slouch as a player, holding eight course records in Australia. Not surprisingly, he’s a terrific coach, too, who has transformed the games of countless members and visitors during their stay. With Level 2 certification on TrackMan, Gallichan is one of the only PGA-accredited coaches between Newcastle and the Gold Coast who uses the technology in his lessons. “Everyone talks about the superb golf course, but we’ve got great teaching facilities here,” says Gallichan. “We recently installed an undercover practice area to allow for lessons in any weather.”
14. Everything is at your fingertips
Overlooking the first fairway, Bonville Golf Resort offers 30 rooms on site including eight executive spa rooms and five executive view rooms. Luxury pillows are an added bonus after a big day of golf, while all rooms feature Molton Brown amenities, and all of the modern inclusions you would expect including WiFi, Foxtel, Air Conditioning and a very comfortable bed – a reminder of why you won’t ever have to leave the resort during your stay.
Bonville Golf Resort
Par 72, 6,084m
Slope Rating: 144 (Blue tees)
Public access: Seven days a week
Green fees: From $115
Address: North Bonville Road, Bonville NSW 2450
Phone: (02) 6653 4002