South East Queensland, and the Gold Coast in particular, are home to Australia’s greatest collection of resort golf layouts. There are over 20 courses within 45 minutes drive of Surfers Paradise.
Commencing in the late 1980’s, Japanese and other investors drove a boom in course construction that has continued to this day. Often the course was created by reclaiming swamps to form raised fairways and a series of interconnecting lakes and canals that serve as water hazards. But there are also hillier courses set amongst stately stands of towering native gums in this lush subtropical paradise.
above - The mighty Brookwater, new to South East QLD
All the top resort courses feature the sort of privileges usually enjoyed only by members of exclusive private clubs - fully equipped professional shops with extensive hire equipment, practice ranges, locker rooms (often with Japanese style baths), licensed restaurants and bars, motorized cart hire and on-course food and drink service. At several courses luxurious five star accommodation is available right alongside the fairways.
Considered by many to be the finest golf course on the Coast is Peter Thomson’s Links at Hope Island. The grooming of greens and fairways is immaculate, with white sand in the 128 pot bunkers. It may not be a natural links in the classic style, but it sure does play like one. Think twice before you tackle it in the wind. The imposing contemporary Venetian style clubhouse is open to all with magnificent locker rooms, casual and fine dining, or simply a comfortable lounge or bar for that drink after the game. There’s under cover car parking too.
Just across the road at Sanctuary Cove there’s a whole Resort Village of restaurants, shops, a marina, hotel complex and, oh yes, two 18 hole golf courses. Fred Bolton designed The Palms, which is open to the public, whilst Arnold Palmer’s The Pines is reserved for houseguests or members. The Pines has an Augusta feel to its tree-lined fairways and is regarded as one of our toughest tests of golf. Almost worth the price of a stay just to play this great layout.
Greg Norman’s design of The Glades opened to rave reviews in 2000. It is a championship layout with gently undulating manicured couch fairways and slick Bent greens. The trademark bunkering will make you think, and there’s water in play on several holes. In all, nine hectares of wetlands are home to ducks, jabirus, egrets and other birdlife. Troon Golf provide a premier experience, complete with course guide, bag tag and divot tool.
Lakelands, the first Jack Nicklaus signature course in Australia offers five tee positions, plenty of water hazards, one of the prettiest par threes I’ve ever played, with a tiny waterfall cascading down beside the green, and extensive bunkering alongside fairways and around greens. There’s an imposing clubhouse with full dining facilities, and as with many of the resort courses, a circulating drink cart provides on course refreshments. International visitors will recognize the warm ClubCorp service.
A favourite course of mine has always been Robina Woods. Here the layout is carved out of established forest, amongst tall eucalypts. Try to arrange your game for a Thursday, when the tiger tees are used and prizes are awarded to any player bettering his handicap.
The region’s newest course is a 45 minute drive towards Brisbane. Brookwater is a stunning challenge designed by Greg Norman and set in natural hillsides and valleys surrounded by towering gums. The undulations and the dramatic Norman-style bunkering ensure that this is a very stern test of golf. Also managed by Troon.
A short drive to Beaudesert will find you at Kooralbyn Resort in the Gold Coast Hinterland. Again the course is carved out of natural forest, and so forms quite a contrast to the low-lying Gold Coast courses. Five star accommodation is available right on the course.
Brookwater's beautiful Par three 16th hole.
With a unique Australian charm Gainsborough Greens is located at Pimpama on Australia's Gold Coast and features an outstanding 18 hole course and clubhouse which provide golfers with the challenge, comfort and convenience they expect from the world's best golfing venues.
The course nestles among 230 hectares of unspoiled natural beauty. It even encompasses a fauna and flora sanctuary. Don't be put off your stroke if you notice members of the gallery "wearing" a tail, pouch, webbed feet or feathers - that's par for the course around here. The fairways are generous width and trouble will only be found if you go looking for it.
With two immaculately groomed championship courses set amongst countless lakes and bunkers the Royal Pines Resort is another quality Gold Coast destination. The backdrop is provided by the hinterland mountains to the west, and the Gold Coast skyline to the east.
Each course is complete with its own clubhouse and Pro-shop for drinks and snacks. The East course is home to the Australian Ladies Masters and the final of the Holden Scramble.
Greg Norman represented Palm Meadows as Touring Professional and his tips in the 1990 Daikyo Cup course guide are a great collector’s item. The course is flat, but has a series of interconnected lakes (water on 14 holes) and strategic bunkering (82 bunkers) to add to the challenge. Designed by Graham Marsh, the fairways are generous and played from the regular tees should provide some encouraging scores.
The finishing hole is one of the best par 5’s in Australia, requiring an audacious water carry for big hitters but providing a safer three shot route for others, with a second water crossing before the green.
Beautifully groomed with lush, very gently undulating to flat fairways and meticulously manicured type 328 couch greens Colonial Golf Course (formerly Paradise Springs) is widely regarded as one of the Gold Coast’s best –conditioned courses, the major hazards are the myriad of sparkling ponds and waterways that provide both storage and drainage.
Parkwood International mixes the best features of a traditional Australian golf course with the Gold Coast Resort style. Set in naturally undulating bushland the course combines established eucalypts with imported palm trees. There is a series of lakes and ponds in play on many holes, with the ninth green almost surrounded by water.
Finally for those lucky enough to get a game there is also the Greg Norman designed The Grand Golf Club which had the honor of being the first Queensland golf course in almost 30 years to host the Australian Open in 2001.
Abandoned and then restored in 1997 by Greg Norman The Grand's rapid rise up the Australian golf course ranking's and to the host club of a major professional tournament is testament enough of the course's superb quality.
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by ausgolf writer Selwyn Berg