THIRTY-SIX years have passed since a giant winking kangaroo named Matilda wowed onlookers at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. This month the Games return to South-East Queensland for the first time since then, as the Gold Coast stages the 21st edition of what began as the British Empire Games.
We prefer to think of the region as the ‘Golf’ Coast, for this sun-soaked stretch of the state’s coastline is home to a collection of Australia’s favourite courses. With that in mind, we’ve come up with a selection of courses from Brisbane to Coolangatta.
To encourage golfers to look beyond the courses in the immediate vicinity of the Glitter Strip (many of which are closed during the Games), we focused on where to find great golf within your budget.
Keeping in mind that Games officials have told local residents to stay off the roads during this period, finding a course that’s open and happy to have you is key. So we identified four mini-destinations: Brisbane, Brisbane’s outskirts, northern Gold Coast and southern Gold Coast. And in keeping with the Games theme, we awarded courses with our own gold, silver and bronze medals.
Let the Games begin!
GOLD: Brisbane Golf Club
The current Queensland Open venue is one of the rising stars among Australian golf courses. Brisbane’s decision to convert its putting surfaces to Champion Ultra Dwarf proved to be a masterstroke as players raved about the greens at the past two state opens. The first club in Australia to adopt this strain of grass, Brisbane took the risk and is now reaping the rewards. Its 15-place jump on Australian Golf Digest’s latest Top 100 Courses ranking did not go unnoticed in the suburb of Yeerongpilly.
“Since its inception, this list has been an essential guide to alert Australian and international golfers of the finest courses in the country,” said Brisbane general manager Geoff Kuehner. “For the clubs it has also been a tool for change, challenging them to embark on course improvements. At Brisbane, the committee, management and staff have vigorously accepted that challenge.
“We are the only golf course in the country with Champion greens, a surface which can be found on more than 700 golf courses in the US and a surface that enables a smoother, faster and more consistent ball roll,” Kuehner said.
“We have always had a very strong layout, but in the past five years the condition of the course has improved markedly,” added Brisbane’s club president, Phil Wikman. “Every hole has its own personality and while ours is not a long course, even the very good golfer is capable of a bogey or birdie on any one of the 18 holes.”
Brisbane does allow access to non-members who submit a letter of introduction to the director of golf. Visit the club’s website for more details: brisbanegolfclub.com.au
Green fee: $150 interstate visitor ($60 member guest);
SILVER: Oxley Golf Club
Priding itself on a friendly welcome, Oxley also offers a sneaky good golf course that wends its way between stands of established trees that frame most holes.
Green fee: from $36.
BRONZE: Jindalee Golf Club
A neat and tidy nine-hole course in Brisbane’s west that, among other things, features a wickedly good green complex at the par-3 fourth/13th holes.
Green fee: $22.
GOLD: Brookwater Golf & Country Club
The Queen of Queensland golf, Brookwater has assumed top spot among Sunshine State courses in Australian Golf Digest’s biennial ranking of our Top 100 Courses. The 16-year-old layout in Brisbane’s south-west ranks 24th in the land after recent upgrades. A tree removal program combined with refurbished green complexes improved playability without compromising on the design nous exhibited by Greg Norman and former design partner Bob Harrison.
“During this process we considered the playability, agronomy, golf strategy and maintenance practices and are confident the end result will appeal to the members and future hotel guests alike,” Norman said when his company’s alterations were first received 12 months ago.
Playability was a key component of the revision. Long regarded as one of the premier public-access courses in the country, Brookwater also owned a reputation for sheer difficulty. Today it is still as thorough a challenge as ever – with just a little less emphasis on toughness.
Green fee: $100; brookwater.com.au/golf
SILVER: Gailes Golf Club
The only Brisbane course other than Royal Queensland to host the Australian Open (doing so for Bobby Locke’s victory in 1955), Gailes remains a tremendous test today.
Green fee: from $15.
BRONZE: Sandy Gallop Golf Club
Ipswich’s premier course, Sandy Gallop is an undulating bushland layout traversed by Deebing Creek. Recent improvements have made the course better than ever.
Green fee: from $22.
Northern Gold Coast
GOLD: Links Hope Island
It’s now a quarter of a century since Peter Thomson, Michael Wolveridge and Ross Perrett unveiled their much-talked about creation that is at the epicentre of an upscale, gated, waterfront community. Hope Island pays homage to the great links of Britain with its rounded, pot-style bunkers that have became synonymous with the Thomson brand.
It has stood the test of time in a period when Australia experienced a once-in-a-lifetime golf boom. At No.43, Links Hope Island was the highest-ranked public Gold Coast layout in our Top 100 Courses.
The standard green fee of $140 to $150 is about what you should expect to pay for a top-50 layout in superb condition. Therefore, the twilight rate (after 2pm) represents exceptional value at $79 with a GPS golf cart.
Hope Island Marina has a collection of restaurants and bars, while ample 4-5-star accommodation options are located nearby.
Green fee: from $79; linkshopeisland.com.au
SILVER: Arundel Hills Country Club
American designer Fred Bolton designed a beautiful parkland-style layout in a tranquil setting. Two years ago it switched from bentgrass greens to more sustainable TifEagle Bermuda surfaces. A course that returned to our Top 100 ranking this year, Arundel Hills is arguably the most under-rated course in South-East Queensland.
Green fee: $89 (with cart), $69 (walking).
BRONZE: Tamborine Mountain Golf Course
A little hidden gem for all levels of golfer situated in the Gold Coast hinterland. At 1,900 feet above sea level, this nine-holer has good drainage and frequently receive good reviews about the quality of its putting surfaces.
Green fee: $26.
Southern Gold Coast
GOLD: Surfers Paradise Golf Club
As far as Gold Coast layouts go, Surfers Paradise is about as understated as they come. Just 10 minutes from the famous beaches of Surfers Paradise – 60 minutes from Brisbane for those who are staying in the state’s capital – this tree-lined par-71 gem has a little bit of everything. Open seven days a week and home to both the Australian PGA Championship qualifiers and the South Pacific Ladies Open Classic, ‘Surfers’ dishes up top-shelf golf minus the pretentiousness that can be associated with some parts of the Glitter Strip. Tavern-style food is the perfect way to cap off a great day with your playing partners and with memberships starting from $11.44 per week, it’s little wonder this place is widely regarded as the fastest-growing club on the coast.
PGA Tour of Australasia winner Damien Jordan is just one of the countless visitors who keep coming back. “What I love about Surfers Paradise Golf Club, apart from being located smack-bang in the heart of the Gold Coast, is it’s a great track for players of all abilities and it’s in great condition at this time of year,” Jordan says. “The greens roll very true and you just know you’re in for a relaxing day out with your mates when you drive through the gates.”
Green fee: from $19.50; surfersparadisegolfclub.com.au
SILVER: Coolangatta Tweed Heads Golf Club
One of the premier courses on the Gold Coast with 36 championship holes, both the River and West courses here boast lush fairways and big greens that are sure to be in tip-top shape around the time of the Commonwealth Games. With both competition and social days spread throughout the week, and plenty of carts available for large groups, Coolangatta Tweed Heads is one of the best-value golf options on the Glitter Strip.
Green fee: $55.
BRONZE: Putt Putt Mermaid Beach
You didn’t see this one coming, did you? But make no mistake, when you can’t get on a course, what’s better than taking on your family or friends in a competitive game of mini golf? Putt Putt Mermaid Beach is the ultimate mini golf experience and you can’t miss it – located on the Gold Coast Highway. With three themed 18-hole courses, games arcade, 19th-hole refreshments, barbecue zone and free on-site parking, leave the clubs in your hotel room.
Green fee: from $6.30 per course.