A s courses surrounding it in south-east Queensland have done the very ‘GC’ thing of having the odd nip and tuck, or in some cases an extreme makeover, Links Hope Island at the northern end of the Gold Coast has instead aged gracefully.
The presentation of the golf course each day would allow it to host a professional tournament next week if required but cosmetic changes to the design are virtually non-existent, the original layout holding its place in modern golf and earning widespread admiration as a result.
For the first time in their design partnership, the team of Peter Thomson and Mike Wolveridge was joined by Ross Perrett and together the trio not only created a stunning golf course from what Perrett described as a “featureless flat site that straddled two separate flood plains” but the centrepiece of a 360-hectare residential resort community that continues to thrive to this day.
As a five-time winner of the British Open, Thomson applied the design principles that are the cornerstone of links golf in Great Britain to many of his designs, regularly drawing inspiration from how the game is played at the home of golf, St Andrews. Applying those principles to a flat parcel of land in the midst of the Japanese-inspired Gold Coast golf boom of the late 1980s was in some ways a risk but delivered a point of difference to the resort-style courses going up all around it.
For Perrett, whose collaboration with Thomson would yield 80 new courses during the ensuing 23 years, Links Hope Island is where it all began.
“Hope Island was a very special project for me as it was the first project I worked on with Peter Thomson and Michael Wolveridge, who were both very generous in sharing their views on golf course design and advice on how to manage the client and consultants,” Perrett told Australian Golf Digest from his latest project in Thailand.
“All great golf courses adhere to classical principles of design in that they respect and respond to the available site, avoid fashion and gimmicks and have a well-balanced layout with a variety of memorable holes. The Hope Island course remains relevant because it is still fun to play and is a well-balanced layout set in a well-managed, landscaped setting.”
Just four years after opening the European Tour played the Johnnie Walker Classic at Hope Island and the layout tested all of their extraordinary skills, South African great Ernie Els the victor with a four-round total of 10-under par. All told there were 12 past or future Major champions in the field with Sir Nick Faldo, Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer all figuring in the top-10.
Despite the St Andrews inspiration that TWP poured into Hope Island, 1995 British Open champion John Daly shot 77-79 to miss the cut by 11 shots and, rather ironically, local resident and current club captain Peter Senior also failed to make it to the weekend.
Thommo’s Timeless Classic
Spend enough time in the company of golfers on the Gold Coast and the phrase, “I loooove Hope Island” is one that you will hear regularly.
Given their extensive catalogue of work all around the world, when it was suggested to Perrett that Hope Island ranks as arguably the company’s finest work he viewed it as something of a back-handed compliment. But given the scale of the project and the site they were confronted with, Australian Golf Digest architecture editor Darius Oliver had no qualms in describing it as TWP’s “greatest achievement”.
“The result is remarkable,” Oliver wrote in his book, Australia’s Finest Golf Courses. “An abundance of water may disturb staunch aficionados, but the thick tussocks of rough, penal pot bunkering (of which there are 128!), large moderate greens and beautifully crafted humps and hollows throughout the wide fairways help to create that genuine British feel.”
While Links Hope Island has four tee boxes on each hole to cater for every level of golfer, at its snarliest from the tips it tops out at a beefy 6,534 metres. That translates to 7,146 yards, or just 84 yards shorter than the famed Oakmont Country Club, site of the 2016 US Open.
The first hole is a gentle enough 339-metre par 4 with water down the left to give a little dig into your ribs if the first-tee jitters are disturbing your constitution, and then steps into the 498m par-5 second dotted by eight pot bunkers ready to turn a three-shotter into a disaster. The consistent theme that runs throughout the layout is the need for thoughtful course management and faultless execution, and the run home to the clubhouse is among the most exhilarating in Australian golf. At 407m, the 15th is rated the toughest hole on the course and a south-easterly wind makes it even more ferocious, while 16 is a devilishly tempting par 4 of just 320m with a sting in its tail for the foolhardy.
Seventeen is one of the most photographed par 3s in the country with a water carry of some 200m from the back tees which, into a southerly, can make the green nearly impossible to reach but for a rare few. The par-5 18th encapsulates everything that makes Links Hope Island such a unique experience, with its undulating fairways, pot bunkers and tight grasses framed by a massive lake to the left which edges in closer to the line of play the closer you get to the green.
With Thomson announcing midway through last year that his days as a course designer have now come to a close, playing the game the old fashioned way on a piece of golf paradise has never been more enriching.
A New Level of Luxury
After two decades of false starts under different owners Links Hope Island, under ownership of Mr Feng Di’s Golden Horse company, is inching ever closer to adding a component that would have seemed integral in the early days; somewhere for travelling golfers to stay.
“An exciting new dawn is on the horizon at Links and the future of the club is looking bright,” says Links Hope Island general manager Tracey-Lea Tiley.
“A fully integrated resort is planned with luxury accommodation that will enhance our current golfing experience; guests will soon be able to stay and play on course. At a time when many golf clubs are facing financial stress, Links is bucking the trend. At the heart of its resurgence has been the building of a vibrant atmosphere and culture supported by members and locals alike.”
Construction of the five-star hotel alongside the first hole is expected to begin in the early months of 2017 and will be accompanied by a world-class day spa that will offer the ultimate in pampering and relaxation.
It’s all part of the new Links Hope Island mantra of being a place that welcomes both members and visitors with the same high standard of service and with its sister property, Noosa Springs on the Sunshine Coast, packages a Queensland golf holiday capable of rivalling any other.
Links Hope Island
Hope Island Rd, Hope Island QLD 4212
(07) 5530 9000