Several proactive capital-city golf clubs are considering residential developments to secure their long-term future as well as modernise facilities. However, the urban fringe and regional Australia remains the future for ‘greenfield’ golf communities.

The profession of golf-course architect is a tale of various job descriptions: draftsman, surveyor, civil engineer, landscaper, botanist, accountant and golf historian. But matchmaker is probably a hat many architects didn’t foresee wearing when they entered the business.

Increasingly, golf-course architects are fielding calls from property developers seeking leads about golf clubs that may wish to partner in a joint venture. It’s big business, according to veteran golf-course architect Neil Crafter.

Crafter + Mogford Golf Strategies has had approaches from developers to say: “Hey, do you know of any golf clubs that might be willing to talk to us about a possible development on their land?”

“It can be like a dating introduction-type service,” Crafter adds. “Certainly there’s the potential for business for golf-course architects.”

The catch is that golf clubs must own the land on which their golf course sits. Brighton Lakes (née New Brighton) and Strathfield golf clubs in Sydney have netted huge financial windfalls by selling off land for residential golf estates. Strathfield Golf Club sold off 2.2 hectares of its land to Metro Property Development for $52.5 million. The deal allowed Strathfield to retire a $2 million debt, fund construction of a $23 million clubhouse, undertake a $6 million course renovation and invest the remaining proceeds.

Merewether Golf Club in Newcastle has partnered with property developer Third.i (pronounced Third Eye) to build 140 seniors living apartments to be known as Merewether Residences. Rather than sell off part of its golf course, Merewether is leasing a 1,400sqm piece of land to Third.i for 99 years.

In New South Wales, residential dwellings designed for over-55s have been permitted on golf courses even if the zoning was classified as recreational (non-residential). The NSW Government has deemed there is a need for more seniors housing.

Australian Golf Digest is aware that a number of proactive clubs are considering residential developments to secure their long-term future as well as modernise facilities. Two clubs in Sydney’s north are pursuing a seniors living development, along with a Canberra-based club and another in Adelaide. However, clubs are wary of saying too much about potential projects until development applications have been signed off. Such is the litigious (and sometimes frivolous) nature of real estate.

“In the case of some of these [clubs], they’re able to put funds back into getting a better golf experience for the golfers even though it might be on a slightly reduced footprint,” Crafter says. “They’re looking at their financial viability and ultimately the quality and playability of their golf course.

“Not every club is in a position to be able to do it. Not every club wants to do it. But in some instances, it’s a marriage of convenience from the golf clubs and the developers to be able to develop residential properties that are on a golf course. That’s certainly an attractive market capture. Handled well and planned well, they can be very positive.”

Crafter believes it’s just the beginning of golf clubs getting into bed with property developers. “It’s inevitable that it will continue. The surface has only just been brushed. I’m sure there’s a lot more clubs and developers that will eventually get together as land in our cities becomes more valuable… I think the existing golf clubs with their reasonably large landholdings will become a bit of a target for developers to approach them.”

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The conversion, and evolution, of Sydney’s Chatswood Golf Club could be a model for more suburban golf clubs in the future.

Declining membership and increasing costs led Chatswood Golf Club on Sydney’s north shore to embark on a development to secure its long-term viability. An over-55s residential community is currently under construction while its golf course will be re-imagined to become a superior 12-hole layout.

Watermark Residences at Newgreens Chatswood is said to be the ‘culmination of seven years of careful planning’. The four-storey seniors village will comprise 106 luxurious apartments on the site of Chatswood’s former clubhouse and carpark and will not encroach onto the golf course ( The new clubhouse will include a bistro-style restaurant, café, gymnasium, heated indoor hydrotherapy pool, cinema and bar/function area. Both Chatswood and Watermark have agreed there will be no poker machines in the new facility.

Crafter has been engaged to redesign the Chatswood course, which will be reconfigured to 12 holes. The former par-65 layout had been problematical, squeezing 18 holes into approximately 20 hectares in the valley around Lane Cove River. The new par-45 layout will have five par 3s, five par 4s and two par 5s. It will be playable as 18 holes with a second loop of six holes. The practice area will include a ‘Himalayas’ putting course. Chatswood has been closed for the past year, using fill from excavation work to reshape fairways. The relaunch is anticipated for late 2024.

The success of Bougle Run in Tasmania should allay concerns for Chatswood about bucking conventional thinking with its redesign. The 14-hole layout adjacent to Barnbougle Lost Farm made history as the first course with fewer than 18 holes to grace Australia’s Top 100 Golf Courses ranking (debuting at No.63).

Jeff Blunden is the pre-eminent authority on residential golf developments in Australia. The managing director of Golf Business Advisory Services (GBAS) says the Chatswood joint venture is the club’s chance to make better use of land and create better golf holes.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to create a modern alternative out of a confined space,” Blunden says. “It will still be an 18-hole experience and include better practice facilities. I think it will become really popular with females on the north shore. It will be a really good golf course for the older male market as well.”

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The largest retirement living project currently being undertaken in Australia is Palm Lake Resort Pelican Waters on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, which is back in the spotlight after the opening of its reconfigured 18-hole golf course designed by Greg Norman. Single and double-storey homes with a mix of golf-course and water frontage are available in the exclusive over-50s estate.

Originally, the 2,800-lot Pelican Waters community was a successful joint venture between Macquarie Bank and Norman’s Great White Shark Enterprises. In 2018, Palm Lake Group purchased Pelican Waters Golf Club and an adjoining 20-hectare undeveloped parcel of land for $15 million. Palm Lake Group has built numerous seniors living resorts and aged-care facilities since 1977.

At Palm Lake Resort Pelican Waters, the architecturally designed homes feature European appliances, high-end furnishings and keyless front-door locking. Double-storey homes feature an elevator. There is no stamp duty or council rates. Stage 1 homes have already sold and Stage 1B has just been released in the lock-and-leave lifestyle community.

Homeowners receive a complimentary Club Car motorised golf cart as part of a welcome gift. Palm Lake Resort Pelican Waters has been designed with dedicated cartpaths in the masterplan. Each home’s floorplan has a double garage with a dedicated storage space for a golf cart.

The Springs Country Club is the main community hub at Pelican Waters with five precincts: Sonora social precinct has a fully licenced rooftop bar and dining hall with water views; Eldorado sports precinct features an eight-rink undercover lawn bowling green, four-lane tenpin bowling alley, tennis and pickleball courts, billiards room and table tennis area. Cerante arts and leisure precinct has a movie theatre, craft room and dedicated music area; Mirador is the wellness centre; Mirage has an outdoor swimming pool, shady cabanas and sunken firepit lounge.

The resort is adjacent to Pelican Waters Golf Club, now owned by Palm Lake Group. Both nines have been swapped on Norman’s par-71 layout. The greens on holes 10, 11 and 16 have been remodelled while the 17th is a completely new hole. The Norman group has also built an 18-hole mini-golf course.

Merewether Golf Club’s enterprising approach isn’t requiring the Newcastle club to sell off any land.


Golf-course views are an appealing aspect for property buyers. Hence why developers are seeking to benefit from the aesthetic that golf courses provide. It really is a marriage of convenience for clubs to partner with property developers.

“Very few residential developments have been built through golf passion,” says industry expert Blunden. “Let’s not kid ourselves, the reality is that they’ve been real-estate driven. The golf is there to monetise the real estate and make it worth more.”

Growth corridors in Australia’s capital cities have been a major focal point for residential golf developments during the past 20 years. Sanctuary Lakes, Sandhurst, Setters Run and The Heritage were major communities on Melbourne’s outskirts. Macquarie Links and Twin Creeks are notable developments in Sydney that have reached maturity.

Progress continues unabated at the Brookwater community south-west of Brisbane where tennis champion Ash Barty calls home. Land is currently selling in the Dress Circle precinct, described as the ‘jewel in the Brookwater crown’ of the estate that features a Greg Norman/Bob Harrison golf course.

Developed by Springfield City Group, more than $18 billion has been invested into the burgeoning metropolis around Brookwater that’s being touted as Brisbane’s second CBD, 35 minutes from the Queensland capital. Brookwater is within easy access of 12 schools and 22 child-care facilities in Greater Springfield.

Land with absolute golf-course frontage is selling from $910,000 in Dress Circle. The 14 homesites have elevated, panoramic views over the fourth fairway. The large blocks range in size from 715sqm to 1,061sqm.

Also in Dress Circle, elevated ridgeline homesites are selling from $615,000. These ready-to-build blocks with north-facing views of surrounding bushland range from 494sqm to 669sqm. Landowners at Brookwater receive a complimentary design experience from an in-house architect to help build their dream home.

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The most iconic golf course in south-western Sydney is a hive of activity with land being sold at two separate residential estates on its perimeter in the suburb of Gledswood Hills. Prime blocks with golf-course frontage have sold for more than $1 million at Lakeside Golf Club Camden, originally co-designed by five-time Open champion Peter Thomson.

Sekisui House began construction at Gledswood Hills in 2012. Norman Estates At Gledswood Hills is Sekisui House’s final release and is scheduled for completion in 2025. It comprises 190 architecturally designed Shawood homes adjoining a Greg Norman nine-hole, par-3 course that is set to reopen once Wests Group Macarthur can establish a temporary facility. This community joins a select portfolio of Norman Estates enclaves that have been built around the world and is the first of its kind in Australia.

Founded in Japan in 1960, Sekisui House is one of the world’s largest home builders, with sustainability as a core corporate target, becoming a world leader in the construction of net-zero-energy houses. At Norman Estates, Sekisui House, along with Greg Norman Developments, is offering a mix of terrace and freestanding homes starting from $1.3 million. With a brand new sales centre in the heart of the community, the much-anticipated Dress Circle residences will be the next release, adding another level of sophistication to the existing collection of Shawood homes.

In 2022, Stockland partnered in a joint venture with Sekisui House to sell the remaining land adjacent to Lakeside Golf Club Camden. Lakeside at Gledswood Hills will be released in five precincts surrounding the existing Thomson/Wolveridge layout that has been modified by Sydney golf-course architect James Wilcher.

Approximately 300 blocks will be released at Lakeside by Stockland in five stages. Land is currently selling in The Bower precinct adjacent to the 13th hole. Prices range from $619,000 (277sqm) to $880,000 (526sqm). Homesites in The Fairway next to the ninth hole start from $712,000 for a 376sqm lot. These blocks are just a few hundred metres from historic Gledswood Homestead & Winery and Emerald Hills shopping centre.

Gledswood Hills is 57-kilometre by car to Sydney’s CBD while the M5 and M7 motorways offer easy access to employment hubs. The future Western Sydney Airport is located 15 kilometres away and an extension of the South West Rail Link has been proposed from Leppington to the ‘Badgerys Creek Aerotropolis’.

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Significant progress has been made towards major infrastructure improvements at Wilton’s Bingara Gorge master-planned community, south-west of Sydney. Bingara Gorge is a 450-hectare site that will eventually comprise 1,800 homes upon completion in 2024.

Since taking over from Lend Lease almost two years ago, Metro Property Development is addressing delicate issues. A source of frustration has been that only nine of the 18 holes designed by Graham Marsh were playable. A proposed bridge linking the two nines has been delayed due to environmental concerns. In July, Metro was on the verge of submitting a development application to construct the bridge.

Meanwhile, Metro has lodged a DA with Wollondilly Shire Council to build a country club on a 7,280sqm parcel of land adjacent to the championship-length course. Plus, an amended DA has been approved to construct a retail neighbourhood centre with supermarket, 13 specialty shops as well as indoor and outdoor dining.

More than 900 homes have already been built at Bingara Gorge, which features 200 hectares of open space, playgrounds, walking and cycle paths. Wollongong Beach is just 33 minutes away. As part of Wilton 2040 Vision, more than $770 million has been allocated by the NSW Government to be invested into roads, intersections, bridges and cycleway improvements.

Land and house-and-land packages are both selling in the Ridgeline and Fairway North precincts. Prices start from $582,000 for a 375sqm block. A prime allotment with golf-course frontage is priced at $1.3 million for 1,479sqm.


Given that large parcels of land are scarce in capital cities while the cost is prohibitive, its stands to reason that residential golf developments are more likely to appear in regional Australia. An anticipated development on the NSW South Coast is under construction at Sussex Inlet Golf Village in the Shoalhaven, renowned for white sandy beaches along 125 kilometres of coastline. Sussex Inlet is a traditional holiday haven three hours’ drive from Sydney (two-and-a-half hours from Canberra) and just 35 minutes from Jervis Bay National Park.

Sussex Inlet Golf Village is a partnership between Sheargold Group and Lucas Property Group. Sheargold is a family business with a history of residential development around Wollongong and the Illawarra region. The master-planned community at Sussex Inlet will eventually comprise more than 700 dwellings in three precincts (Jacob’s Range, Badgee’s Reach and Northwood). Standard internal lots and blocks with golf-course frontage are available.

Two stages have been released for sale with about 80 lots in each stage. Block sizes range from 450sqm to 700sqm. The final lots in Stage 2 will be released to coincide with the official opening of a display village in August or September. Stages 3, 4 and 5 are undergoing planning approval with releases expected in 2024.

Buyers can purchase land and select a builder to design their home. Alternatively, Hotondo, G.J. Gardner, Metricon and New Living Homes are currently offering house-and-land packages. Three-bedroom, single-storey dwellings are priced from $795,000.

The existing Sussex Inlet golf course is a picturesque nine-hole layout known for hundreds of eastern grey kangaroos that inhabit the property next to Conjola National Park. Sheargold has engaged Wilcher (Golf By Design) to upgrade and integrate the course into the residential development. It’s envisaged the final layout will feature 12 holes (3,012 metres/par 43). Landowners will receive complimentary membership of the golf club, valued at $1,520.

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In paddlesteamer country, more than half the allotments have sold in The Golf Club Estate at Rich River, the boutique development at Moama on the NSW side of the Murray River. Rich River Golf Club identified a vacant parcel of land surplus to its needs and proceeded to develop that into a 51-lot residential estate.

It’s one of many projects being undertaken by the flourishing club. These include golf-course improvements, renovating the bistro, building another on-site motel, relocating both the maintenance shed and driving range as well adding a pitch-and-putt course.

The 24 remaining blocks at Rich River start from $270,000 for a standard internal lot, ranging in size from 451sqm to 513sqm. Four blocks remain with golf-course views over the ninth fairway of Rich River’s East course, which hosted the 2023 NSW Open. These are priced at $305,000 with a minimum of 442sqm.

Keeping active is a major selling point for the Rich River estate. Apart from two 18-hole golf courses, residents have access to a 17-bay driving range, three-rink lawn bowling green, tennis courts and croquet pitch.

The demography of property buyers at Rich River has surprised Stephen Morgan, marketing agent at Ray White Echuca. “It’s a different price range. I thought a lot of people from Melbourne would be buying them – the older retired couple. But most of them have been locals at this stage. Probably 75 per cent of them. And varying from 40s upwards. So it’s been a bit of an eye-opener. I thought everyone would be 55, 60-plus and semi-retired, and coming up from Melbourne.”

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The Hunter Valley has been the most prolific location for residential golf developments in regional NSW. Pacific Dunes Port Stephens is a 135-hectare master-planned community at Medowie, 25 minutes from Newcastle. Wilcher designed 18 holes in a tranquil bushland setting. In 2006 Pacific Dunes was recognised as best Residential Master-planned Lifestyle Development from the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA). Final blocks at the
400-lot estate sold in mid-2022.

Since 2003, The Vintage at Pokolbin has flourished as a truly integrated residential and tourist development around a championship-length golf course designed by Greg Norman and Bob Harrison. The Vintage has won a UDIA award for Subdivision of the Year while Chateau Elan has been recognised twice as Top Luxury Hotel in NSW. The Mediterranean-themed resort offers 5-star luxury with its impressive day spa. The Stevens Group was the original partner with Medallist at The Vintage. Most of the land in the 482-lot residential development has been sold. Meanwhile, new owner Sunshine Group is spending substantial money on capital works.

Elsewhere at Rothbury in the NSW Lower Hunter Valley, Capital Corporation has revised its long-awaited golf project to provide a minimum of 400 allotments in a mixture of strata-title lots and permanent residential houses. Tentatively titled ‘Lovedale Farm’, the 238-hectare property lies across the road from The Vintage.

In 2011 Capital Corporation had plans for a $150 million Jack Nicklaus-designed golf resort with 300 dwellings for permanent residential as well as 300 hotel/tourist accommodation rooms. But that ambitious project has been shelved and Darius Oliver will now design the 18-hole layout.

Oliver made his name critiquing golf courses as author of the Planet Golf books and website. The Victorian has also written several architecture columns for Australian Golf Digest. He established himself as a bona fide course architect with his work at Cape Wickham on Tasmania’s King Island, which debuted at No.3 on Australia’s Top 100 Courses.

This will be Capital Corporation’s first residential golf development, however it has an extensive history of construction across Sydney since 1991. Building a golf course in the Lower Hunter has its challenges with regard to clay-based soil, water flow and summer heat, says Blunden, a consultant on the project. From a developer’s perspective, the challenge is to create a sustainable golf-club operation so as to not to be saddled with long-term ownership of a golf course.

Blunden says Capital Corporation has taken time to learn from mistakes made by other residential golf developers. It’s been fine-tuning the planning with tourism elements to make Lovedale Farm a food-and-beverage hub as well as a golf destination. A brewery is being considered like that at St Andrews Beach on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. Pending approval, the developer hopes
to begin construction at Lovedale Farm by mid-2024.