The golfing landscape has changed dramatically since Sanctuary Cove opened its doors in 1987, when it quickly became a doyen of the Australian golf resort industry. Golfers fell in love with the country’s first fully integrated resort and its ideal setting among four man-made harbours on the Gold Coast’s picturesque Coomera River. Add in two golf courses – one being Arnold Palmer’s only Australian design – residential living, a five-star hotel and 300-berth marina and Sanctuary Cove’s popularity is no mystery. In 2017, Sanctuary Cove will celebrate its 30-year anniversary, so Australian Golf Digest visited the Gold Coast resort to see how it stacks up in the modern Australian golf world.
The Pines Course
The legendary Arnold Palmer chose Sanctuary Cove to be his only Australian golf course design. The seven-time Major winner was drawn to the foundations – 101 hectares of pine forest – as well as the opportunity to route holes through groups of pine trees and around six large man-made lakes. These water hazards are a feature of the course – to the eye and the scorecard – and come into play on 14 holes.
The Pines reflects a lot of The King’s personality – it requires brute strength, a lot of shots played in the air and there are certainly shades of the tree-lined seclusion seen at Augusta National, where Palmer enjoyed the most of his Major championship success.
What takes the golfer at first is the sheer beauty of the towering pines framing most holes, and the picturesque pine straw at their bases. That combination makes for some spectacular and intimidating tee shots. Again, these reflect Palmer’s aggressive style in that golfers are invited to take risky lines, only to get to the ball and realise the rough cuts in and out of the fairway edges.
The front nine is fairly tame until you arrive at two of the highlights – the enjoyable par-4 sixth, which demands and accurate drive before a short water carry to a tiered green guarded by bunkers. The par-3 seventh also requires a large water carry to a green dissected by a ridge.
The stretch from the eighth to the 11th is regarded as one of the most difficult of any Australian resort course, with two brutally long par 5s, both longer than 530 metres, and two tough par 4s measuring more than 430m. Another test is on hand at the course’s most photographed hole – the 201m, par-3 13th. A 200m water carry to a tiered and heavily-bunkered green.
The Pines has a course rating of 74 from the black tees and 72 from the blue. It slipped out of the top 50 on the Australian Golf Digest Top 100 rankings, to No.52. However, the course is in great condition as it eyes a return to the No.25 ranking it boasted in 2008.
The Palms Course
While The Pines is exclusive to members and InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort guests, the Palms is open to the public. Originally designed by Fred Bolton, The Palms is receiving good reviews since undergoing an $8.8 million redesign in 2011 by renowned architect Ross Watson. The changes were immediately justified when The Palms debuted on the Australian Golf Digest Top 100 courses ranking at 77. It then jumped to No.63 on the biennial rankings in 2014, 11 places behind The Pines – its more popular counterpart. The majority of the course is brand new, besides a small portion of the original routing that remains. Watson breathed life into the course with the tees, greens and bunkers completely overhauled.
Another reason for its surge in popularity is the fact it is a lot more forgiving than The Pines – at least from tee to green. Tee shots are far more open, with wider fairways and rough populated by palm trees that offer less challenging escapes, as well as some holes that allow high handicappers to miss a fairway over.
The new routing is set among century-old Cabbage Palms and features short par 4s with plenty of character. The course bears its teeth in the form of deep greenside bunkering and green complexes with tough contours that demand precise iron play – and a sound long putting game.
At 5,904m off the championship tees, The Palms is not overly long but compensates with plenty of water hazards and sharp doglegs. Tee placements have been designed to suit a variety of playing conditions and golfers of all abilities.
Work and Play
Sanctuary Cove Golf and Country Club is fast becoming a popular destination for corporate golf days, with a dedicated corporate golf co-ordinator tailoring business outings to individual clients. Guests are always impressed when they receive a Sanctuary Cove tag on arrival, as well as the convenience of a bag drop service and personalised nameplates. These highly professional days offer corporate merchandise, teaching clinics conducted by PGA professionals and a wide range of food and beverage options.
Enjoy Your Stay
Sanctuary Cove offers one of the best stay-and-play packages on the Gold Coast, with 243 guest rooms and suites available at the InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort. From the luxurious Classic rooms and suites to the magnificent Manor Suite for brides, accommodation at the InterContinental Sanctuary Cove caters for family vacations, romantic getaways, meetings and events. Best of all, they’re nestled among a picturesque setting featuring fountains, gardens, a marina and two golf courses. For those not wanting to tee it up on The Pines or Palms layouts, there is a range of pamper treatments available at the Champions Hair Beauty Day Spa. The InterContinental Sanctuary Cove’s location is also ideal as the famous theme parks and beaches of the Gold Coast are only a short drive away.
Sanctuary Cove Golf and Country Club