The size and scope of residential golf developments in Australia have changed dramatically during the past 20 years.


When the living-on-the-fairway phenomenon was at its peak near the turn of the century, major developers such as Medallist were eyeing large swathes of land on the fringes of capital cities. Land parcels needed to be large enough to turn a profit after building the required infrastructure (roads, sewerage) as well as an 18-hole
golf course.

But such opportunities are rare today given the exorbitant price of land and the scarcity of large development sites. Increasingly, the trend by developers is towards building small boutique residential communities alongside an existing course.

A case in point is Sekisui House’s $1 billion investment at The Orchards in the suburb of Norwest in Sydney’s burgeoning Hills District. Construction recently commenced on the second stage at The Orchards, comprising 57 golf-side apartments with uninterrupted views across Castle Hill Country Club [below].

In 2016 Sekisui House bought 8.1 hectares of land at Norwest Business Park, 31 kilometres north-west of Sydney’s CBD. The Orchards will eventually comprise 1,300 apartments in seven stages. Building heights will range between six and 12 storeys. The Japanese developer’s masterplan includes two hectares of protected green space, an open-air cinema plus cycle and walkways.

More than 200 residents have moved into the first stage (Imperial), which was a 121-apartment building with four-bedroom formats. Downsizers are said to have contributed to apartment sales in an economic climate with softer lending conditions and record-low interest rates.

The second stage, Aire, features 57 apartments overlooking the Castle Hill layout. Apart from designer finishes and golf-course views, Aire residents will have access to private rooftop amenities including an infinity pool, lounge and dining facilities. The building’s architecture is unconventional. Aire’s material palette is drawn from nature, while its curved shape is meant to resemble raked river pebbles in connection with the location and landscape. Practical completion for Aire is expected to be in the first quarter of 2022.

‘Increasingly, the trend by developers is towards building small boutique residential communities alongside an existing course.’

Across town in Sydney’s south-west, Sekisui House is behind a major residential golf development at The Hermitage in Gledswood Hills. A nine-hole short course designed by Greg Norman is a major feature of the estate that will eventually comprise more than 2,500 new dwellings.

The Hermitage is a 320-hectare master-planned community with seven parks/reserves, local village and a proposed primary school. It has a distinctive oriental influence throughout, stemming from the design philosophies of Japanese architect Shawood. High-quality craftsmanship and flowing floorplans are features of Shawood homes with an emphasis on optimising views and light.

Norman’s par-3 layout will not open for play until the completion of a new clubhouse, which will be operated by Wests Group Macarthur. However, Hermitage residents already have access to a championship-length course next door at Lakeside Golf Club Camden, the 18-hole course originally designed by Peter Thomson, Mike Wolveridge & Ross Perrett. The Norman Group has created six new greens and four new holes at Lakeside (which is also managed by the Wests League club).

The Greg Norman brand continues to be popular among developers. In 2018, Palm Lake Group purchased Norman’s Pelican Waters Golf Club along with an adjoining 20-hectare undeveloped site on the Sunshine Coast for almost $15 million.

Continuing the trend of building residential communities near existing courses, Palm Lake Group lodged plans for between 250 and 350 homes as well as an aged-care facility at Pelican Waters. The lifestyle community will be the developer’s third over-50s lifestyle community on the Sunshine Coast.

Australian owned and operated for more than 40 years, Palm Lake Group has 35 luxury residential communities in 25 locations across Australia. More than 11,000 people live in a Palm Lake Group community.

Earlier this year Palm Lake Group began a relationship with the Queensland Open, which hosted the 2020 tournament at Pelican Waters. The partnership with Golf Australia and the PGA Tour of Australasia allows the developer to showcase its proposed over-50s lifestyle communities in south-east Queensland.

At Wallan on Melbourne’s northern outskirts, new Tuscan-style villas are currently available at La Dimora Retirement Resort next door to Hidden Valley Golf & Country Club. Arcadia Group has developed the eastern and northern sides of Hidden Valley into La Dimora village, which is described as Victoria’s premier destination for over-55s.

Situated 55 minutes from Melbourne’s CBD, Hidden Valley is the former secluded country estate of businessman Robert Holmes à Court. Touring professional Craig Parry designed its par-73 layout, which features an island green on the 18th hole.

Apart from golf and walking trails, La Dimora residents have complimentary access to the country club’s facilities that include a heated indoor swimming pool, bar and bistro, gymnasium, yoga/pilates studio, tennis courts and bowling green.

La Dimora is set among more than 180 hectares of rolling hills. With distinctive terracotta roofing tiles, the Tuscan villas have a major point of difference to architecture found at other residential golf estates around Australia.


Age is just a number for golf-avid seniors

Continuing the lifestyle of golf has become a huge factor for many seniors when selecting a retirement home. Close access to golf courses is a major selling point for RCA Villages, which operates nine communities across Melbourne.

All RCA Villages are in close proximity to golf courses. Its tenth village, Treetops, will be located on the former Amstel Golf Club site, just across the road from Ranfurlie Golf Club and Settlers Run Golf & Country Club [below]. Treetops is anticipated to welcome its first residents by mid-2021.

Photo: Gary Lisbon

As a family-owned business, RCA’s philosophy has always been to establish its villages near amenities within easy reach – mostly on foot. For residents at Beleura Village Mornington and Martha Bay by RCA Villages, that means golf is literally around the corner with Mornington Country Club less than two kilometres away. RCA’s Martha Cove Village is directly across the road from Safety Beach Golf Club. And in Melbourne’s west, Point Cook Village is opposite Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club.

Adrian Holton-Picard, 83, is a resident at Beleura Village where golf is a conversation starter. There are 48 golfers at Beleura – about a quarter of the residents. Holton-Picard and his fellow residents play at courses along the Mornington Peninsula. Twice a week (Monday and Thursday) they have a permanent booking at The Cups, the nine-hole layout at The Dunes Golf Links.

But that wasn’t always the case. Initially in 2012, four residents decided they wanted to play golf and would get together for nine holes at a course designed by former pro Maurice Bembridge.

When Holton-Picard arrived at Beleura in 2014, the social club had expanded to eight golfers who would play at HMAS Cerberus naval base, Mount Martha and The Cups. By 2017 the group had grown to 28 regular players, ranging in age from early 60s to early 90s.

Many of the residents were members of Mornington Peninsula clubs. Nevertheless, they formed the Beleura Village Golf Society (based on the Golf Society of Great Britain) in order to prepare a timesheet, run competitions, compile results and calculate handicapping for their weekly rounds. Adding to the camaraderie, many Beleura golfers play lawn bowls together.

It’s a combination of factors that make a retirement village desirable, according to Holton-Picard. He and his wife, Rhonda, moved into Beleura just a few hundred metres from where they lived previously. They looked at different retirement villages on the peninsula before choosing Beleura for the lifestyle it provided.

“I’m an extremely avid golfer. I live for my golf. So it had a big bearing [on the selection]. I could continue playing,” says the captain of Beleura Village Golf Society.

“If you’re a golfer you know that you’ve got a further outlet. You know that you can go and play golf with your village members. So there is that ability to be able to carry on with your lifestyle, even though you’ve come into a retirement-type village.”

Golf is also flourishing down the freeway at Martha Cove Village, literally across the road from the 14th tee at Safety Beach Golf Club. Martha Cove has an estimated 45 golfers from approximately 140 units.

“It’s a growing group of people because we’re so close to the golf course. People that haven’t played before are playing. Some of them are in their seventies,” says Peter Stickley, 78, who, incidentally, runs an annual hickory-shafted golf tournament.