THE fortified front gates are a dead giveaway. Such high-security measures generally safeguard something of particular value, importance or prestige. Riverside Oaks Resort ticks all three of those boxes.

When you navigate your way through the grand entrance and begin your journey down the long driveway, you are immediately hit with a sense of anticipation – this isn’t going to be your everyday golf experience.

Little more than an hour’s drive northwest of Sydney and hidden in the tranquil surrounds of Cattai on the Hawkesbury River, Riverside Oaks is facing one of golf’s modern day dilemmas – stick with tradition or move forward with ambition.

Riverside Oaks Resort

Tradition, to be fair, has served Riverside Oaks well throughout the years. After all, this is a place that hosted some of the biggest tournaments in Australian golf during what was its golden era of the 1980s and ‘90s. Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and Australian Golf Digest columnist Brett Ogle were just some of the sport’s elite to stride the fairways of the resort, which boasts the Australian PGA Championship and the now defunct Tournament Players Championship on its portfolio.

“Big greens – I always loved the big putting surfaces there,” recalls Ogle, who won the 1990 Australian PGA Championship on Riverside Oaks’ Gangurru course. “It’s a track that suited my game because you could get away with a bit off the tee and still hit the generous-sized greens. It’s why I’ve always rated Riverside Oaks as a great course for amateurs because the golf is always fun and never too brutal.”

In 2015, the fun went to another level following the opening of the resort’s second 18-hole layout – the Bungool course – designed by renowned Aussie architect Bob Harrison and described as a true risk-reward experience. Initial player feedback on Bungool was glowing, but a debut at No.71 in Australian Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses for 2015/16 justified the resort’s expansion plans, and proved its execution matched its ambition.

Riverside Oaks Resort

The Deal That Changed Everything
Like many resort courses that thrived during the Norman era, Riverside Oaks was starting to show its age and was in need of a facelift. Winds of change arrived in 2009 when the resort was acquired by the Nanshan Group – China’s biggest golf course operator. It was a deal brokered to benefit both parties – the private joint-stock enterprise group added an iconic Australian property to its stable of 15 championship courses in China, while Riverside Oaks was suddenly under the rule of owners with deep pockets and even deeper visions. They have since invested heavily in the resort, much to the delight of club members and general manager David Scott.

Riverside Oaks' clubhouse offers stunning views over its iconic Gangurru Course.
Riverside Oaks’ clubhouse offers stunning views over its iconic Gangurru Course.

“In 2015, we opened Sydney’s newest championship golf course (Bungool) and built resort accommodation consisting of six executive suites and 30 deluxe rooms,” says Scott. “We also renovated the heritage-listed Bungool homestead, turning it into a unique functions venue. All this work has given the existing facilities a new lease on life, including the iconic Gangurru course that is now consistently voted among the top public-access courses in the country.”

But Scott said the most significant changes for the Gangurru course were still to come, and will have the Australian golf industry talking.

“The next step for the resort includes the addition of a large residential estate that would incorporate a redesign of the original course,” reveals Scott.  “Discussions with world-famous course architects have begun and point to an exciting future for the course.”

Included in the Gangurru course redesign will be the construction of a state-of-the-art golf academy and upgrades to the clubhouse. Nanshan also have bold plans to build a hotel and day spa, facilities that would make Riverside Oaks unrivalled with its 36 “new” holes.

Greens staff work round the clock to keep both courses in mint condition.
Greens staff work round the clock to keep both courses in mint condition.

Two Top Courses, One Great Stay
First, a friendly heads-up: you may never, ever see as many kangaroos on a golf course than you will at Riverside Oaks. Anywhere. But while the native wildlife bounce around in their thousands, there’s no evidence of them on the fairways or greens, such is the sterling work of the resort’s round-the-clock greens staff.

As it stands, Riverside Oaks is a unique blend of old and new. To the left on your drive in is the original par-72 Gangurru layout, which remains challenging but fair at 6,311 metres. Gangurru’s greens and fairways have undergone a significant improvement program, while the bunkers have all been refurbished to make this layout a timeless and enjoyable challenge for golfers of all ages and abilities.

The par 3s are a particular highlight, while playing every shot in front of Skippy and his friends certainly adds some ‘gallery’ pressure.

Across the other side of the driveway is one of the hidden gems of Sydney golf. Unlike the tree-lined original course, Bungool is more spacious and strategic, bringing golfers hard against the banks of the Hawkesbury River. My immediate impression after playing the opening dogleg-right par-4 was, why didn’t they build the first course here?

Bungool's par-4 second is bordered on the right by forest that is home to ancient aboriginal drawing caves.
Bungool’s par-4 second is bordered on the right by forest that is home to ancient aboriginal drawing caves.

This is land that was meant for a golf course, and a good one at that. Bungool’s greens and bunkers are trademark Bob Harrison – tough, strategic and aesthetically pleasing, all in one. While the native rough is a little too penal in some areas, landing areas are quite generous for the most part and the Hawkesbury River views add to a course that’s set to continue its ascent up the Top 100 rankings as it matures.

“Being ranked No.71 in Australian Golf Digest’s Top 100 ranking is a great reward for all the hard work put in by the staff at Riverside Oaks since the idea of a new golf course was first put in place,” says Scott.

“Bob Harrison has done a great job of designing a true risk-and-reward course with beautiful scenery of the Hawkesbury River and surrounding cliffs. To be ranked high up in the top 100 courses in the country after only its first year of operation is an outstanding achievement and this will only improve as the course matures. The addition of such a world-class golf course alongside the already highly-acclaimed original course has turned Riverside Oaks into a must-visit golfing destination.”

Scott said the feedback from professionals competing in the previous two NSW PGA Championships had been extremely positive, not just of the condition and layout of the two courses but the facilities and service they experienced.

Playing in front of a watchful court of kangaroos adds some 'gallery' pressure to your scorecard.
Playing in front of a watchful court of kangaroos adds some ‘gallery’ pressure to your scorecard.

Riverside Oaks’ 36 first-class resort rooms – including six executive suites – are still so fresh they smell like a display home. A pet hate for anyone these days is when you play an enjoyable golf course, only to have your experience spoiled by poor-quality accommodation and food. No such problems here, with the deluxe view rooms all coming with new king-size bedding, appliances, wifi and some great views overlooking the course.

With stunning views of the Gangurru layout and the surrounding 587 acres of bushland, Riverside Oaks Brasserie is perfect for long, lazy lunches with family and friends. Its seasonal Australian food and wine menu is focused on fresh produce and great flavours that will have you coming back.

Adjacent to Bungool’s first tee is the resort’s beautiful, 1900s heritage-listed cottage overlooking spectacular views across the Hawkesbury River. This is the perfect location for a corporate lunch or dinner, or that special occasion with family and friends. Bungool serves contemporary cuisine and operates for bookings of 15 people or more.

“Riverside Oaks is slowly but surely gaining the national and international recognition that it deserves,” says Scott. “The recent hosting of major professional and amateur tournaments has certainly assisted in gaining that awareness.

“As the resort continues to grow and improve, so too will our reputation as one of Australia’s leading golf facilities.”

Riverside Oaks Resort

The Details
Riverside Oaks Resort
74 O’Briens Rd, Cattai NSW 2756
Phone: (02) 4560 3200

Gangurru Course 
Monday to Friday  $75
Saturday, Sunday & Public Holidays $99
(Includes motorised cart)

Bungool Course
Monday to Friday $75
Saturday, Sunday & Public Holidays  $99
(Includes motorised cart)


Membership includes:

7-day access to both Gangurru and Bungool golf courses, GPS-equipped motorised cart, 15% off food from the Brasserie, 10% off at the Pro Shop.

Mens $2,400.00

Ladies $1,800.00

Young Adult $1,800.00 (18-27 years)

Junior $798.00 (12-18 years)

Children $0.00 (12 and under)