STARTED to take notice of the New South Wales Central Coast?
There’s a reason for that. Actually, there are a few.
If you’re a homebuyer, it’s probably because Sydney doesn’t have a single freestanding house within 10 kilometres of the CBD for less than $1 million. Not one. Yet 90 minutes north, buying a home near one of the Central Coast’s stunning beaches for less than $500,000 is still possible.
If you’re a golfer, it’s likely due to the fact four courses in the Australian Golf Digest Top 100 made significant moves in the 2016 ranking. After welcomed changes, Kooindah Waters was the biggest mover, climbing five places. It was closely followed by the seaside creation at Magenta Shores (three), as well as Newcastle and Pacific Dunes (one).
Combined with the eye-catching ocean views at Shelly Beach Golf Club – which happens to be surrounded by charming coastal villages like Toowoon Bay and Long Jetty – there’s never been a better time for golfers to try the Central Coast for their next escape. Need more reasons to revisit the region? Here are five you shouldn’t look past.
1. Now 10 years old, Magenta Shores is more forgiving
Ross Watson’s design – built on coastal dunes in between Toukley and The Entrance – turned 10 in 2016. The turf and greens have matured well and there are some truly thrilling holes. But shortly after opening, Magenta Shores formed a reputation as being one of the most brutal courses in New South Wales. During the past couple of years, however, Magenta has scaled back areas of the course to be more forgiving for all abilities. Some of the coastal scrub has been cut back on a few holes so errant balls can at least be found, several bunker complexes have been given a facelift and there is now a fifth set of tees (yellow) forming a short ladies course.
The changes have been widely applauded, and Magenta Shores climbed three places in this magazine’s Top 100 rankings accordingly. Now, the No.23 layout in Australia is more enjoyable for everyone. And with its magnificent collection of short and medium-length par 4s and picturesque par 3s, golfers are now soaking up the stay-and-play package in conjunction with the attached Pullman Resort.
2. Shelly Beach’s coastal views are still majestic
Shelly Beach Golf Club is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable rounds on the Central Coast. And only minutes from The Entrance, it’s also in an incredibly convenient location for holidaying families.
Shelly Beach’s appeal stems mainly from its spectacular ocean views, most of which are enjoyed from the front nine. Vistas of crashing waves form the background of the signature stretch of holes, starting at the fifth. This 361-metre par 4 runs parallel to the ocean and features an intimidating blind tee shot, while the sixth may be the most spectacular hole on the course. This medium length par-4 has magnificent coastal views to the left and a tee box perched just above the beach. The seventh is the third consecutive par 4 on the water’s edge but is narrower and shorter than its predecessors.
While the back nine is inland, large, established trees line most fairways and excitement is created by downhill tee shots and uphill approaches. The course returns to the coast at the par-3 18th – its 40m putting surface sitting peacefully behind pine trees and the beach.
Beautifully conditioned Kikuyu fairways are also a highlight at Shelly Beach, and a relatively light first cut of rough keeps all handicaps in the game. Post-round, be sure to grab a drink in the clubhouse or balcony overlooking the coastline and course.
3. Kooindah Waters – enjoy the best conditioning on the Coast
Membership at Kooindah Waters is bucking the industry’s declining trend and growing year-on-year. Why? This championship course in Wyong, also designed by Watson, is in its best condition and has never been more accessible in its 10-year history.
Cart paths were installed on the final six holes, meaning carts can be driven on every hole year-round. New drainage has been established on four holes that previously had issues during heavy rain.
The result is Kooindah Waters boasts fairways that are a stunning shade of emerald green and rolled to almost tournament perfection. Perhaps the course’s strongest feature are its greens, arguably the truest putting surfaces on the Central Coast.
While Kooindah lacks the sand dunes and ocean views of Magenta, manufactured lakes, natural wetlands and some bold bunkers create excitement throughout the entire round. Ranked No.86 in the country, Kooindah boasts 18 different holes that wind through a woodlands setting for a highly enjoyable round. The many water carries here will test your ballstriking – particularly island green par 3s at the second and 17th. The latter’s aqua carry starts an exciting finish, culminating with the tough 397-metre par-4 18th – ranked No.1 on the card. For golfers wanting to stay, there’s also a Mercure resort with 84 rooms, an award-winning restaurant, indoor and outdoor pools, spa, sauna, gymnasium, tennis courts and an Endota day spa.
4. Sleepy seaside villages have come into their own
Because Toowoon Bay and Long Jetty are a few minutes away from the busy hub of The Entrance, these secluded villages have become ideal for visiting families.
When you’re not relaxing on the picturesque, horseshoe-shaped Toowoon Bay Beach, a host of trendy cafes (try Coast89 or Two Birds Gallery) have become perfect breakfast and lunch spots for tourists, while neighbouring Long Jetty has an excellent range of coffee shops and boutique stores to peruse. On the water, some of the most popular activities around this area include snorkelling – or watching whales and dolphins as they migrate past the coastline.
5. Two of Australia’s best courses are an hour away
If Kooindah Waters, Shelly Beach and Magenta Shores aren’t enough, the Central Coast spoils avid golfers with an ideal location on doorstep of the mid-north North Coast and Newcastle region.
Just over an hour’s drive up the coast from The Entrance will have you at two of Australia’s finest layouts – Newcastle Golf Club and Pacific Dunes. Both have improved noticeably during the past two years and each has climbed one spot in our Top 100. Newcastle Golf Club is continually ranked within the best 20 courses in the country and this year improved to 19th place. There are some fantastic holes here, including the fifth, 10th and sidehill sixth, while the short par-3 seventh has been ranked inside the world’s best 18 holes outside of the US and British Isles.
Only 15 minutes away is Pacific Dunes, which in our most recent ranking was promoted to No.54 in Australia. Close to the holiday destinations of Port Stephens and Nelson Bay, this scenic 6,403m par-72 layout meanders its way around lakes and through tree-lined fairways to keep the golfer fascinated for 18 holes. Its collection of strategic dogleg par 4s is a standout.
Recently, Pacific Dunes gave travelling golfers another excuse to visit with the completion of its $3 million Country Club – The Greenhouse – in March.
The highly anticipated venue now offers a modern facility for all golfers to enjoy a fresh and seasonal breakfast, lunch and dinner menu, clubhouse bar, 200-seat function centre and pro shop.
After playing this immaculately conditioned course designed by James Wilcher, be sure to enjoy Pacific Dunes’ inside and outside dining – in one of the most environmentally sustainable buildings in the Port Stephens region.