WALK­ING ON SUN­SHINE

If the thought of en­dur­ing an en­tire win­ter with­out play­ing a sin­gle round of golf in short sleeves fills you with dread, you might want to con­sider mak­ing an es­cape to Queens­land’s Sun­shine Coast.

Golf Australia - - NEWS - WORDS & PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BREN­DAN JAMES

If the thought of shiv­er­ing through win­ter golf fills you with dread, you might want to con­sider mak­ing an es­cape to Queens­land’s Sun­shine Coast, writes Bren­dan James.

The strik­ing stretch of Queens­land coast­line – from Bri­bie Is­land in the south to Noosa Heads in the north – is one of this coun­try’s great tourist des­ti­na­tions, which ex­plains why 3,394,000 Aus­tralians vis­ited the re­gion in 2016. Wedged be­tween more than 100km of pris­tine beaches and the beau­ti­ful Glasshouse Moun­tains, the Sun­shine Coast has evolved into the idyl­lic lo­ca­tion to re­lax and un­wind. It’s a place where you can spoil your­self at a day spa, feast on five-star cui­sine, feel the sand be­tween your toes on a beach walk or, of course, play golf un­der deep blue, sun-drenched skies. Bet­ter still, for those shiv­er­ing in the south­ern states, you can do all this dur­ing win­ter.

The Sun­shine Coast spoils golfers with a broad range of lay­outs – from world-class re­sort and pub­lic ac­cess cour­ses to a se­lec­tion of high-qual­ity mem­ber clubs that wel­come vis­i­tors out­side com­pe­ti­tion times. Here’s what you’re miss­ing by stay­ing at home. Pa­cific Har­bour Golf & Coun­try Club cel­e­brated its 10th an­niver­sary in 2016 and the re­views af­ter a decade con­tinue to speak highly of the Bri­bie Is­land lay­out, just 70 min­utes’ drive north of Bris­bane Air­port.

The stun­ning Ross Wat­son-de­signed course – com­ple­mented by a mag­nif­i­cent $11 mil­lion club­house – was ranked at No.28 in Golf Aus­tralia’s Top-100 Pub­lic Ac­cess Cour­ses ear­lier this year, which marks 10 suc­ces­sive years ce­mented within the top-30 of the list.

While the views to­wards the Glasshouse Moun­tains from the club­house deck are cer­tainly mem­o­rable, it is the qual­ity of the golf course that will have you long­ing to re­turn.

Wat­son’s cre­ation presents a stern chal­lenge for bet­ter play­ers with­out be­ing too hard for the ca­sual or hol­i­day­ing golfer.

The ac­claimed de­signer has a pen­chant for cre­at­ing su­perb par-3s and he doesn’t dis­ap­point at Pa­cific Har­bour, with all four cov­er­ing a range of dis­tances that de­mand tee shots with di’er­ent clubs in the bag.

The 4th mea­sures 184 me­tres from the tips but a wide en­trance to the putting sur­face is ac­cept­ing of tee shots that land short and run on, while there is no such lux­ury on the 142-me­tre 7th.

This is Wat­son’s homage to the world­fa­mous is­land green 17th hole at TPC Saw­grass in the United States – the home of the Play­ers Cham­pi­onship – although Wat­son’s ver­sion is only a semi-is­land putting sur­face. Like Saw­grass, the green is perched above the wa­ter with a tim­ber wall ris­ing from the juice. The 136-me­tre 13th, known as Kakadu, skirts the edge of some wet­lands and plays into a pre­vail­ing breeze,

so club se­lec­tion is vi­tal. This is also the case when play­ing the penul­ti­mate hole – a 205-me­tre brute that fea­tures the long­est bunker in the South­ern Hemi­sphere ( just on 200 me­tres long). This bunker forms a beach bar­rier be­tween the fair­way/green and a lake that flanks the en­tire right edge of the hole. Hence, the hole is known as The Beach.

Troon Golf has re­turned to man­age Pa­cific Har­bour in re­cent times, which co­in­cides with an im­prove­ment in the pre­sen­ta­tion of the lay­out.

Bri­bie Is­land is one of the sand is­lands of More­ton Bay and its nat­u­ral sand base pro­vides the per­fect foun­da­tion for grow­ing qual­ity play­ing sur­faces on rolling ter­rain that also boasts ter­rific drainage. Even though Bri­bie Is­land Golf Club is a stones throw from the sea, it is 18 holes in a bush­land set­ting that is as close to oŠer­ing a Mel­bourne Sand­belt ex­pe­ri­ence than any other Queens­land lay­out. There are some holes here that are re­ally not that far re­moved from those you would find at Wood­lands or Yarra Yarra in the heart of the Sand­belt.

The Sand­belt-style bunker­ing is one of the high­lights of the 6,162-me­tre par-72 lay­out, which fea­tures fair­ways thickly lined in parts by a wide va­ri­ety of native trees. The rough is fairly sparse and sandy lies are com­mon.

Head­ing north from the is­land, a leisurely 60-minute drive will have you on the 1st tee at Pel­i­can Wa­ters Golf Club – one of the finest Aus­tralian ex­am­ples of how mod­ern golf course de­sign­ers can cre­ate a lay­out just about any­where. De­sign­ers Greg Nor­man and Bob Har­ri­son trans­formed flood prone wet­lands just south of Caloun­dra into one of Queens­land’s finest cour­ses. In fact, the 6,289-me­tre (from the tips) par-72 was listed at No.21 in Golf Aus­tralia’s Top-100 Pub­lic Ac­cess Course rank­ing ear­lier this year, mak­ing it the top-ranked lay­out on the Sun­shine Coast.

Dur­ing their years to­gether as a de­sign team, Nor­man and Har­ri­son – both keen stu­dents of the de­sign work of Dr Alis­ter MacKen­zie – turned the de­sign clock back al­most a cen­tury to cre­ate lay­outs with short par-4s, risk-an­dreward par-5s and the oc­ca­sional punch­bowl green. Pel­i­can Wa­ters is no diŠer­ent.

The first six holes of the lay­out are su­perb. From the back mark­ers, there is noth­ing too stren­u­ous in terms of length but strat­egy and shot place­ment is very im­por­tant.

Of these holes, three are par-4s and the long­est is the 1st at 355 me­tres. But it is the 5th hole, known as ‘The Pas­sage’ that will im­press. At 345 me­tres, it is a clas­sic par-4 with a gen­er­ous fair­way flanked by wa­ter left and four large fair­way bunkers hug­ging its edges at strate­gic points. The lake cuts the fair­way in two just short of the green, which lies di­ag­o­nally to the line of the fair­way. Two cav­ernous bunkers can be found be­hind the green to trap the player who takes too much club for fear of fall­ing short into the wa­ter.

The fol­low­ing hole, a 149-me­tre par-3, known as the ‘Glasshouse’, is a ter­rific hole that ap­pears to have been loosely mod­elled on two of golf’s most fa­mous par-3s – the 12th (Golden Bell) and 16th (Red­bud) at Au­gusta Na­tional, home of the Masters. The tee shot is played over wa­ter to a Redan-style green and there is plenty of area short, right of the green to leave a ‘good miss’.

Pel­i­can Wa­ters’ near­est neigh­bour to the north, was the teenage stomp­ing ground of

1991 Open Cham­pion Ian Baker-Finch.

Caloun­dra Golf Club is a tra­di­tional bush­land course where ac­cu­racy and good shot­mak­ing are de­manded by the of­ten tight lay­out.

Stretch­ing to just 5,960 me­tres o  the back mark­ers, the par-71 has some very im­pres­sive holes sur­rounded by lush veg­e­ta­tion which is home to kan­ga­roos and a wide va­ri­ety of birds in­clud­ing rain­bow lori­keets. The ter­rain varies from rel­a­tively flat to un­du­lat­ing, with some of the best holes cov­er­ing the more dra­matic land­scape.

An­other im­pres­sive Sun­shine Coast mem­bers’ course can be found 20 min­utes to the north at Bud­erim.

It is hard not to be struck with the view that con­fronts you as you round the cor­ner of the club­house from the Head­land Golf Club car park en route to the pro shop.

The view of the Mooloolaba coast­line from the club’s bal­cony is one of the best on the Sun­shine Coast and adds to the mem­o­rable round you will have at Head­land, a well-de­signed course that has been host­ing vis­it­ing golfers since it was a nine-hole course back in 1958.

To­day, Head­land is a mod­ern lay­out with large, rolling greens cov­ered with beau­ti­fully main­tained Ber­muda grass.

Vast tracts of the lay­out can be seen from the club­house bal­cony but some of the best holes are across the lower reaches of the cour­ses and

DE­SPITE STILL BE­ING IN ITS IN­FANCY, THE PLAY­ING SUR­FACES AT MAROOCHY RIVER AND, IN PAR­TIC­U­LAR, THE BER­MUDA TIFEAGLE GREENS ARE SU­PERB.

can­not be seen. By far the best of these is the 340-me­tre par-4 12th, which is one of the more vis­ually im­pres­sive holes on the Sun­shine Coast. Com­ing out of a chute cre­ated by a wall of trees left and right, the drive needs to be into the right of the fair­way to avoid kick­ing down into the lake that comes into play about 150 me­tres from the tee. The lake then closely hugs the left edge of the short grass all the way down to the long green, which is pro­tected by a sole bunker cut into the short, left fringe. By far the best miss with your ap­proach is to the right but even then you will need to chip over some mounds onto the green.

The Sun­shine Coast’s lat­est golf­ing ad­di­tion is a new course for an old club.

For more than 50 years, the Hor­ton Park Golf Club was the green hub of Ma­roochy­dore.

By the late ‘90s, res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment of its sur­rounds vir­tu­ally land­locked the course in the re­gional cen­tre’s CBD, which launched a decade long search for a new home for the club.

The club lo­cated a 102 hectare stretch of flood prone for­mer cane fields at Bli Bli – about seven kilo­me­tres north-west of the orig­i­nal

course and across the Maroochy River, which the club adopted as its name to be­come the Maroochy River Golf Club. Gra­ham Marsh was com­mis­sioned to de­sign the lay­out, which opened for play in 2015. Given the flood-prone na­ture of the prop­erty, the land pro­file was raised con­sid­er­ably dur­ing con­struc­tion and pro­vided a rel­a­tively blank can­vas for Marsh to cre­ate a lay­out, which needed to ap­peal as a chal­lenge for play­ers of all stan­dards.

He has hit the mark on that front. The ex­panse of land al­lowed Marsh and his de­sign team to o­er wide fair­ways, big greens and four tees on each hole. The broad av­enues of play are wel­com­ing to the high hand­i­cap­per or ca­sual player, while the ac­com­plished player is o­ered the op­por­tu­nity on most holes to take a more ag­gres­sive line – skirt­ing a scheme of bunkers or wa­ter haz­ard – to get a shorter or more straight-for­ward line to a flag.

The par-4 10th is a fine ex­am­ple. From the tips, the slight dog­leg right hole stretches to 390 me­tres but the short­est route to the green is to take on the first of three bunkers near the right edge of the fair­way. Big hit­ters can carry the first bunker but they can get a bounce into one of the two smaller traps be­yond. The safe play­ing line wide of the sand leaves a longer shot and also brings a harder ap­proach where a bunker short left of the green is more in play.

The bunker­ing is a real feature of the jour­ney. The shape and size varies a lot, and while the depth of many leans to­wards the shal­low side, they are vis­ually in­tim­i­dat­ing enough to make you sec­ond guess your club se­lec­tion or play­ing line.

De­spite still be­ing in its in­fancy, the play­ing sur­faces at Maroochy River and, in par­tic­u­lar, the Ber­muda Tifeagle greens are su­perb. Marsh’s green con­tour­ing and va­ri­ety of shapes have been com­ple­mented by the al­ready smooth rolling sur­faces and are a lot of fun to putt on.

High qual­ity fair­ways and greens are also a feature of the nearby Twin Wa­ters Golf Club.

With its spa­cious fair­ways, rum­pled putting sur­faces and vast tracts of sub-trop­i­cal veg­e­ta­tion, the Peter Thom­son and Mike Wolveridge-de­signed Twin Wa­ters has been a ‘must play’ of Sun­shine Coast golf ever since it opened for play in 1991.

The course doesn’t ap­pear to be the most di”cult test around yet it plays far tougher than first im­pres­sions sug­gest. Thom­son and Wolveridge pot bunkers are dot­ted across most fair­ways like moon craters, all de­signed to swal­low any­thing bounc­ing to­wards them. The greens are mostly broad and feature gen­tle rather than wild un­du­la­tions but those sub­tleties en­sure they are di”cult to read. Many are ‘push-up’-style putting sur­faces with runo­s that turn many a good iron shot into a missed green and a chal­leng­ing up-and-down. The most mem­o­rable hole is the 379-me­tre 8th, which bears a slight re­sem­blance to the Road Hole at St An­drews. Rather than driving across a ho­tel, how­ever, the carry here is across a lake and bunkers be­fore a tough ap­proach to a raised green with a sin­gle, deep pot bunker guard­ing the left side and all man­ner of strife over the back. Two more di­er­ing par-4s on the back nine ex­am­ine your shot-mak­ing. The 12th fair­way nar­rows the longer you hit the tee shot as 10 bunkers tighten the land­ing zone on the 325-me­tre hole, while the 13th doglegs left around two pots with wa­ter fur­ther left. The green is de­fended by a large scoop in the front that will send any weak ap­proach shot back into the fair­way.

From a Sun­shine Coast golf main­stay to some­thing of a hid­den gem, Mt Coolum Golf Club will sur­prise any golfer who is yet to ex­pe­ri­ence it.

Set at the foot of the spec­tac­u­lar Mt Coolum, the course opened for play as a nine-holer in 1976 and was known as the Sun­coast Beach Golf Club. A name change to Mt Coolum came in the mid-80s and a fur­ther nine holes were added and com­pleted in 1992.

With the course be­ing built in two stages, pos­si­bly with di­er­ing bud­gets and across vary­ing lsnd­capes, there is a def­i­nite mix of tight tree-lined fair­ways and wider more gen­er­ous land­ing zones. There is also an in­ter­est­ing blend of small sub­tle slop­ing greens and larger un­du­lat­ing greens … all of which com­pen­sate for the course only mea­sur­ing 5,901 me­tres from the cham­pi­onship mark­ers.

The best holes cover the south­ern half of the course. These in­clude the chal­leng­ing trio of holes in­clud­ing the 523-me­tre par-5 4th, 194-me­tre par-3 5th and the 531-me­tre par-5 6th, which cut through and loop around wet­lands and are heav­ily lined by melaleu­cas. These are not only de­mand­ing holes for all play­ers, they lie in a beau­ti­ful set­ting where plenty of birdlife abounds.

Sim­i­larly, the back nine loop of the 13th, 14th and 15th holes are equally as im­pres­sive for their beauty.

Mt Coolum has six par-5s – in­clud­ing four on the back nine – with the most mem­o­rable be­ing the 433-me­tre 17th, which doglegs left around a scheme of bunkers be­fore turn­ing back to the right around the edge of a lake. Your fi­nal ap­proach here can be over wa­ter to a well-bunkered green with Mt Coolum o­er­ing an im­pos­ing back­drop. Mt Coolum’s fa­mous neigh­bour, the Palmer Coolum Re­sort is one of Queens­land’s truly iconic cour­ses hav­ing hosted the Aus­tralian PGA Cham­pi­onship for 11 years.

But its re­cent his­tory has been tu­mul­tuous since a third of the course was re­designed in 2009 as the holes clos­est to the beach were sub­di­vided for res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment. In the years since, high-pro­file busi­ness­man Clive Palmer took over ownership, the re­sort ac­com­mo­da­tion was closed for re­fur­bish­ment and spec­u­la­tion about the future of the lay­out filled in­ter­net golf­ing fo­rums and the twit­ter­sphere.

Hav­ing vis­ited the course for the com­pi­la­tion of this feature, I can re­port the course is open for play and its con­di­tion is pretty good, but still a long way from the glory days when it was an ab­so­lute must to in­clude on your Queens­land golf bucket list.

An­other re­cent change has seen the re­ver­sal of the nines, which brings the iconic 18th hole – the scene of so much drama dur­ing its tour­na­ment host­ing years – into play mid-round. It’s still a very good hole but as the clos­ing test of a round it was a great hole. Palmer Coolum might ar­guably be the most fa­mous course on the coast, but just down the road you will find per­haps the least known lay­out, which has also emerged from rough times re­cently. Pere­gian Golf Course was a mys­tery to the golf­ing pub­lic for much of its first 10 years af­ter open­ing in 2003 as it was a strictly mem­ber­sonly lay­out.

As of late, the Pere­gian course and driving range has en­joyed a new lease on life. The course closed for sev­eral months in mid-2016 af­ter the golf club was forced into ad­min­is­tra­tion and then liq­ui­da­tion. Be­fore year’s end, the Golf Ser­vices Man­age­ment com­pany – which also man­ages sev­eral Vic­to­rian cour­ses in­clud­ing St An­drews Beach, Ran­furlie and Bay Views – stepped in to save it.

Nearly eight months on, the cen­tre­piece of the resur­gence is the re­fur­bished course, which has un­der­gone sig­nif­i­cant works. Fair­ways have been re-laid, ir­ri­ga­tion up­graded and a large-scale tidy-up were all car­ried out, the re­sults of which are now be­gin­ning to bear fruit.

De­signed by Phil Scott, fa­ther of Masters Cham­pion Adam Scott, the par-72 can be en­joyed by play­ers of all stan­dards, which is im­por­tant for a course in the heart of a golf hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion.

Across all 18 holes, golfers are pre­sented chal­lenges that are far more en­joy­able than they are in­sur­mount­able, an ap­proach that en­cour­ages fun golf. Each par-4 and par-5 o–ffers choices on the tee to the bet­ter play­ers, while there are no daunt­ingly long tee shots re­quired over or be­tween haz­ards that might send a higher hand­i­capped player back to the

club­house in search of more balls.

The open­ing four holes are quite gen­er­ous and, in time, will be played among rows of lux­u­ri­ous homes as the Pere­gian Springs res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment con­tin­ues to ex­pand.

Scott’s first gem is the 312-me­tre par-4 5th. Qual­ity short par-4s al­ways ex­cite and the 5th rates as the best of the four on o­er at Pere­gian.

Com­ple­ment­ing the in­vest­ment in the course is a full fleet of brand new golf carts, well stocked Pro Shop, prac­tice putting and chip­ping area as well as first-class locker-room fa­cil­i­ties, which are open to the pub­lic seven days a week.

Noosa is the cos­mopoli­tan hub of the Sun­shine Coast with the restau­rants and bou­tiques of fash­ion­able and iconic Hast­ings St its main at­trac­tion.

Less than five min­utes’ drive from Hast­ings St you will find the Noosa Springs Golf & Spa Re­sort. On ar­rival the first thing to cap­ture your at­ten­tion is the spec­tac­u­lar Mediter­ranean-style club­house, perched high above the golf course, which o­ers views of nearby Lake Weyba and the Noosa Hin­ter­land. Then there is the Gra­ham Pap­worth-de­signed golf course, which winds its way across gen­tly un­du­lat­ing ter­rain, through pock­ets of rain­for­est, along lake banks, into Blood­wood forests be­fore open­ing up to fair­ways flanked by Me­laleuca trees.

Noosa Springs is not a long lay­out at 6,180 me­tres from the tips. But what it lacks in dis­tance it more than makes up for in plac­ing de­mands on strat­egy and club se­lec­tion.

Some of the best holes at Noosa Springs can be found on the front nine. The 339-me­tre par-4 2nd is vis­ually stun­ning with Noosa Na­tional Park and the beau­ti­ful Lake Weyba to be found be­yond the out-of-bounds fence left of the fair­way.

The 141-me­tre 4th hole is ar­guably Noosa Springs’ best par-3 where your tee shot must carry wa­ter all the way to a huge semi-is­land green.

Wa­ter also plays a ma­jor role on the fol­low­ing trio of par-4s. The 5th, 6th and de­mand­ing 7th holes flank one of the many large lakes to be found at Noosa Springs. While the lake is in­tim­i­dat­ing, es­pe­cially for your tee shots on each, Pap­worth has made sure there is enough room for golfers of all stan­dards to safely nav­i­gate their way from tee to green with­out in­cur­ring a penalty.

The in­ward nine un­du­lates more than the out­ward half and winds past Noosa Springs’ ex­pan­sive res­i­den­tial precinct. De­ci­sions are re­quired on the 15th and 17th tees, the for­mer a long par-5 made even longer by a creek cut­ting the fair­way in the driving zone that ef­fec­tively forces it to be played as a three-shot­ter for all but the big­gest hit­ters, and the lat­ter a 340-me­tre par-4 with wa­ter guard­ing the left side of the green, mak­ing find­ing the right po­si­tion from the tee paramount.

Tucked away from the glitz and glam­our of Hast­ings St is Noosa Golf Club (pic­tured above and be­low). The lush haven for hol­i­day­ing golfers cel­e­brates its 80th an­niver­sary this year and has rarely looked bet­ter.

Whilst main­tain­ing its nat­u­ral set­ting – the course was first re­designed in the late 1970s by Jack New­ton, while fur­ther ren­o­va­tions were made in the early 2000s to en­hance the greens and many dog­leg­ging fair­ways.

The sharpest turns ap­pear at the 416-me­tre 3rd and 321-me­tre 11th, two par-4s where the abil­ity to shape the ball is es­sen­tial. The 3rd is a big dog­leg left that plays far shorter if you can hug the left edge or turn the ball around the cor­ner. Con­versely, the 11th twists right and while dis­tance is less im­por­tant here, the penalty for erring is greater as huge stands of pa­per­barks and other as­sorted tow­er­ing flora will block any drive lost right or that’s too long and not faded to match the shape of the fair­way. Bal­anc­ing these tighter holes are sev­eral straight holes where flex­ing a lit­tle might o  the tee is an ad­van­tage.

Three of Noosa’s four par-3s mea­sure be­tween 130 and 138 me­tres yet each one presents a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge. The 135-me­tre 5th, a newer hole than the oth­ers af­ter the old 3rd hole was re­moved from the lay­out, is a bunker-strewn down­hiller with dis­tinct sec­tions to the green, while the 141-me­tre 7th plays to a putting sur­face that feels smaller than it mea­sures as it drops o  at the sides. The 12th plays de­cep­tively up­hill from a shel­tered tee to a green an­gled to favour a left-to-right ap­proach.

Rolling fair­ways and sprawl­ing bunker schemes are com­mon traits at Maroochy River.

Pel­i­can Wa­ters’ 6th hole, known as Glasshouse, is one of the best par-3s on the Coast.

Head­land is an im­pres­sive lay­out renowned for its qual­ity play­ing sur­faces.

Gra­ham Marsh’s work at Maroochy River can be en­joyed by play­ers of all abil­i­ties.

The par-3 2nd hole at Twin Wa­ters brings wa­ter into play early in the round.

Holes weav­ing through wet­lands is a mem­o­rable as­pect of a round at Mt Coolum.

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