The term ‘hidden gem’ is over-applied in golf-course circles. However, it fits when discussion turns to Newcastle Golf Club. Even most Novocastrians would be hard-pressed to describe where it is. Yet across the Hunter River from the city in the little-known northern suburb of Fern Bay lies one of the nation’s best golf courses. Like a little slice of the Melbourne Sandbelt – only hundreds of kilometres to the north – Newcastle reveals its full-bodied character with an outstanding collection of holes in a secluded bushland setting within earshot of the Pacific Ocean.

Newcastle is an old-school design with modern touches. Best known for its trilogy of great holes beginning from the par-4 fifth, there is far more substance to the layout than merely three strokes of genius. The third hole, which isn’t really a par 3 or a par 4 but is instead something in between, and the roller-coaster fairway of the par-5 10th hole are features unique to the course.

Subtle tweaks in recent years, including the clearing of some ground-level scrub and the reintroduction of sandy waste areas in places, have enhanced Newcastle’s immense appeal.

Next up for the club is an extensive and exciting redesign, which will include several entirely new holes penned by course architect Bob Harrison. Work could begin as early as next year.