The Sunshine Coast - One of the most inviting places on earth
Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast, an hour north of Brisbane, has long been regarded as one of Australia’s true treasures with its magnificent beaches, warm tropical climate, quaint coastal holiday towns and stunning National parks with Pacific Ocean lookouts.
Over the years, in golfing terms, however the Sunshine Coast has played poorer cousin to the over developed Gold Coast. During the past two decades new golf courses have popped up constantly throughout the ever-expanding Gold Coast, while further North the Sunshine Coast was seemingly left deprived of quality championship golf courses. Back in the late 1980’s resort courses on the Coast at Coolum and Twin Waters Golf Club were finally built and enjoyed considerable acclaim but as a golfing destination the region continued to flounder.
This is all set to change as during the past three years the Sunshine Coast has developed into a true quality golfing destination with two new Championship golf courses built. Only an hour north of Brisbane, the Coast can now lay claim to four high quality resort golf courses - Twin Waters Golf Club, Noosa Springs, Hyatt Regency Coolum and Pelican Waters, as well as a host of fine country courses.
The ambitious development at Noosa Springs (1997), one of Australia’s favourite holiday playgrounds, was the first course developed on the Coast in almost a decade and was shortly followed by the Greg Norman designed Pelican Waters (2000).
Noosa as a region features the holiday homes of many of Australia’s wealthiest people, with exquisite al fresco dining and expensive designer boutique stores aplenty on the famous Hastings Street shopping strip.
Noosa Springs Resort
Just 3 minutes from the main Noosa hub is the new Noosa Springs Resort, which opened in 1998. Still under construction and due for completion later in 2001 is an opulent Clubhouse complete with spa and stunning balcony views, and a 5 star 250 room hotel adjacent to the first fairway.
above - the tee shot on the tough 5th at Noosa Springs
The course itself is set against the backdrop of the Noosa National Park and winds its way around a series of man made lakes and alongside Noosa’s Lake Weyba. Water comes in to play on 13 of the holes and many require precise shotmaking although there is generally a bail out area for the high handicappers.
The most intriguing hole on the course is the short par 4 5th hole (right), one of the finest holes on the Coast. At just 329 metres from the back tees the hole wont frighten you with length but will with precision as both the tee and approach shot require pin point accuracy to avoid water hazards that run the entire length of the hole on the right hand side.
The hole bends severely to the right at about the 200m mark and then straightens as it stretches towards the green. The direct route from the tee will require a carry of at least 215m over water to reach the fat part of the fairway and only a pitch into the green. The smart play is to lay up with a 3 wood or long iron left of the water and a fairway bunker, which protects the bend. From the lay-up position you are left with only a wedge but it must be played up the length of a very narrow green which falls away on the right into the menacing lake. Anything right is wet, while any ball too far left will leave a tough chip shot up a slope and then down the green with the water staring at you in the face. The hole is a tremendous test of skill as it can be played a dozen or so ways with each requiring two very precise shots.
With the new 5 star hotel and the sensation Resort facilities which hotel guest will have full use of, Noosa Springs will surely become one of Australian golf’s premier destinations. While in the region though don’t miss out on the other Sunshine Coast gems.
Pelican Waters, which opened in 2000, has already established a reputation as one of Australia’s finest resort golf courses. Golf Australia magazine rated the course as the 10th best resort course in Australia, not bad for a course less than a year old. In time I’m certain this Greg Norman design will be considered one of the very best tracks anywhere in Australia as it features a collection of sensational golf holes, situated in a stunning natural Australian setting at Golden Beach near Caloundra. The course is gently undulating and runs alongside numerous lakes with natural swampland reeds adding to the character of the numerous water holes.
Some holes are carved out of the natural forests meaning there can be a contrast in the playing surfaces with some fairways bordered by the tall gums providing less run than the more open water holes.
In describing the appeal of Pelican Waters it is important to include a footnote that the author is a single figure golfer as many of the great challenges of the course may prove a little daunting for some high markers. The course is a shade under 6400m from the back tee and provides some stunning challenges as several risk vs reward shots are set-up to test your skills and either thrill or disappoint depending on the outcome of the gamble. The bunkering is a little reminiscent of the Sand Belt in Melbourne with large deep bunkers and perfect white sand providing a glorious contrast to the lush fairways and numerous water hazards.
With a well appointed modern clubhouse, restaurant and pro shop the after round facilities are the equal to the superb surfaces you play on throughout the course. The magnificently groomed fairways and fast true Bermuda 328 greens at Pelican Waters have ensured that, in just its first year, this track is the Sunshine Coasts new golfing jewel. Don’t miss it!
Hyatt Regency Coolum
With the emergence of Pelican Waters and Noosa Springs as true Championship tests of golf it is remise not to also mention the two established resort courses on the Coast, Coolum and Twin Waters. Both tracks are still every bit as good as when they were first built and a golf tour of the Sunshine Coast is not complete unless all four have been experienced.
The golf course at the Hyatt Regency Coolum was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jnr, and represents one of his most subtle designs. Unlike other Trent Jones courses you wont find any of the huge undulation or the trademark double and triple tiered greens. The course is a subtle challenge rather than an intimidating brute. Indeed the designer himself described the course at Coolum in a similar vain "This course is not designed to punish champions, just to find out who they are"
Indeed the layout is not super long at 6263m with the longest Par 4 390m and only one other Par 4 over 370m. What it lacks in length it makes up for with a most unique combination of contrasting landscapes. Holes 4 through 8 are carved out of native marshy swampland, while many holes on the back 9 run around a series of man made lakes and through a native Australian bushland setting. The challenge of Coolum is in the courses variety as well as the tricky design philosophies that were employed to create the numerous hazards around the course.
18th fairway For me the highlight of Coolum is the holes that adjoin the Pacific Ocean. Holes 4 through 8 are played on the Beach side of the main highway, which runs through the course, and are carved around native swamps. Long marsh reeds grow out of the swamps making the hazard feel all the more intimidating, and making precise shot-making imperative.
These holes provide a tremendous challenge to golfers while remaining totally fair for golfers of all standards. The 4th and the 8th are reasonably long and nicely undulating Par 5’s. Avoid the marsh on these holes and you’ll make your Par. The 5th and 7th are short Par 4’s and again the challenge lies in avoiding the marsh. Both greens are small targets with the marsh guarding the front of the greens.
A combination of good stroke play and strategic gambling are required at Coolum to walk away with a decent score. The subtleties of Trent Jones Jnr’s design here may surprise some golfers more familiar with his more extravagant courses. Regularly rated amongst Australia’s Top 30 courses, until 2000 Coolum had also played host to the annual Coolum Classic tournament won by such Tour stars as Ian Baker-Finch and Stuart Appleby.
Twin Waters Golf Club
The Twin Waters resort boasts a resort golf course of significant importance in Australian golfing circles. The course, which is often rated amongst Australia’s Top 30 golf courses, was one of the first collaboration in Australia by renowned architects Peter Thomson and Mike Wolveridge, who have designed such gems as Hope Island, National Ocean, Moonah Links, and The Links Port Douglas in the ensuing years.
Twin Waters is an interesting course in many ways, not the least being for its contrast to the other courses in the region. Whilst retaining a resort course feel at all times the course has been designed with the game’s true origins well and truly in mind. Not a links course but a links style design, Twin Waters embraces the old adage that golf is a game for all seasons and all players. The course is not difficult to walk, nor is it overly taxing on that new box of balls in your bag, its tough but not unfair and open to the elements most of the time.
The course features many physical characteristics of the ancient game of links golf including gently rolling fairways, small pot bunkers as well as patches of thick rough and open greens where the running links style approach shot is well suited. There are the usual water hazards and lush green fairways synonymous with resort golf, but the links golf elements at Twin Waters provide a nice contrast.
Built in the late 80’s and part of an overall resort development, Twin Waters will provide some respite for golfers who have tackled the challenges of nearby Coolum and Pelican Waters.
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by ausgolf writer Darius Oliver