If you thought Lakelands was off-limits for your next Gold Coast golf trip, think again.

It wasn’t all that long ago that in order to play at Lakelands Golf Club you needed to be one of two things: Well-off or well connected.

At a golf destination such as the Gold Coast where the options are many and varied, Lakelands was inevitably the course to leave longingly behind as the gated entry made it abundantly clear this was a piece of golf paradise at which you could look but could not touch.

Thankfully, the first Jack Nicklaus signature golf course in Australia is now more accessible than ever, all the while maintaining its heightened sense of occasion.

Following a change of ownership, the former exorbitant joining fees were controversially scrapped and a full playing membership at Lakelands is available for less than $5,000. There are membership categories for country members (who live more than 150 kilometres from the course), juniors (12-17 years of age), intermediate (18-25 years of age) and corporate members who can purchase packages consisting of either 80 or 120 rounds.

It’s a response to a more challenging economic landscape and allows more golfers to enjoy one of the great experiences in Australian golf. “We host a number of golf tour operators and where possible they will finish the week here because they know they will get a first-class experience that will leave a lasting impression on their guests,” says golf and membership manager Rowan Beste.

“With the silky oaks that line the boundary, there are still people on the Gold Coast who don’t even know the course is here. But the feedback from members is that, with the way the club is now operating, they have never been happier.”

Constructed on what was a flat, uninspiring piece of land midway between the Gold Coast beaches and hinterland, Nicklaus constructed a test of golf that opened in 1997 and is fair to all-comers, building to a crescendo as the round progresses.

There are few tee shots that evoke fear in the golfer, Nicklaus preferring to let you prosper from the tee and test your mettle with the approach shots and strategy.

A perfect example is the 342-metre eighth hole, which features a small pot bunker just right of the fairway centre. The trap invites you to hit a bolder tee shot to the right for a better-angled approach rather than the conservative line to the left, which leaves a more difficult second shot over water to a shallow green.

With water down the entire left side, the tee shot at 10 is perhaps the most challenging on the golf course, while shotmaking starts its greatest examination on the 397m 12th hole. Again, the view from the tee box is by no means daunting, but unless you play down the left side of the fairway you’ll be faced by a treacherous mid-iron over water to another shallow green.

The par-3 14th measures just 133m from the back tees but features a predominant south-easter that tends to spring up out of nowhere. In addition, a cascading waterfall draws your eye and the short iron in hand suddenly seems a lot more difficult to hit.

The par-5 16th offers an opportunity to improve your scorecard with two lusty blows and then with a par-3 of 210m and a closing par 4 measuring 414m it’s time to desperately cling on to whatever good work has been achieved earlier in the round.

If you spend some time on the driving range you may catch a glimpse of rising Aussie talent in Michael Sim and Ray Beaufils, senior stars such as Wayne Grady, Rodger Davis, Brian Jones and David Merriman or Korean superstars Jiyai Shin and Inbee Park who regularly use Lakelands as their Australian base when the northern winter kicks in back home. There has never been a better time to join Lakelands but if you just happen to be visiting the Gold Coast, there are times available for social players every day of the week, with special twilight rates available from September through April.

Lakelands Golf Club
Par 72, 6,489m
Slope Rating: 138 
Access: Seven days a week
Green fees: $120 (twilight rates available after 2pm and 3pm September-April).
Address: 100 Lakelands Drive, Merrimac, 
Qld 4226
Phone: (07) 5579 8700 
Web: lakelandsgolfclub.co