A GREAT WEEK­END – CEN­TRAL COAST

Ev­ery golfer loves a week­end away with their friends. Here, we re­veal where to play, stay and eat dur­ing a golf get­away to the Cen­tral Coast, just north of Syd­ney.

Golf Australia - - CONTENTS - WORDS & PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BREN­DAN JAMES

Ev­ery golfer loves a week­end away with their friends. Here, Bren­dan James re­veals where to play, stay and eat dur­ing a golf week­end on NSW’s Cen­tral Coast.

From Bro­ken Bay at the mouth of the Hawkes­bury River to south of Newcastle, the Cen­tral Coast in­cludes a mix of bays and in­lets, pris­tine beaches, lakes and lush hin­ter­land.

The re­gion is a very pop­u­lar hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion with great beaches, heaps of fam­ily friendly ac­tiv­i­ties and a wide range of ac­com­mo­da­tion choices to suit all bud­gets.

It is also a pop­u­lar get­away spot for golfers too with plenty of cour­ses to choose from. If you are look­ing for the high­est ranked lay­outs in the re­gion, you can fill three days of golf play­ing Ma­genta Shores, Shelly Beach and Kooin­dah Wa­ters, which are all in close prox­im­ity to each other. It is a week­end I can thor­oughly rec­om­mend.

DAY 1

First stop was the ac­claimed Ma­genta Shores

Golf & Coun­try Club, which is the only pri­vate course on the Cen­tral Coast. How­ever, if you stay in the ad­join­ing Pull­man Ma­genta Shores Re­sort there are play and stay pack­ages avail­able and guests have ac­cess to tee times seven days a week.

Af­ter check­ing in it was straight to the 1st tee. Match ups and side bets were quickly ne­go­ti­ated and we were off … no bet­ter way to spend a Fri­day af­ter­noon.

From the Pa­cific Ocean vis­tas of the front

SHELLY BEACH HAS IM­PROVED MARKEDLY DUR­ING THE PAST DECADE WITH THE COURSE NOW FULLY IR­RI­GATED.

nine to the shel­tered dunes of the in­ward half, Ma­genta Shores is not only vis­ually stun­ning, it is a premium test of your golf­ing skill.

The site is lumpy and ex­posed … per­haps a lit­tle man­u­fac­tured in parts, which is to be ex­pected as much of the ter­rain is man-made. More than 250,000 cu­bic me­tres of sand was trucked in to raise the land, cov­ered by holes 1 to 8, above what was for­merly a sand mine and rub­bish tip.

Ross Wat­son’s de­sign is su­perb. The rolling fair­ways and ever-present sea breezes make for peren­nial diƒculty even at times when the wind is at your back.

His cre­ation loops sev­eral times, con­stantly chang­ing the di­rec­tion of play through­out the round and ex­am­in­ing the di…er­ent skills of each player. The one stretch of holes run­ning in the same di­rec­tion o…ers you some respite, es­pe­cially in a southerly breeze. The short par-4 5th, po­ten­tially drive­able par-4 6th and short par-5 8th all play down­wind in a southerly and in­vite golfers into lusty hit­ting.

It was here that I had my first win of the week­end; cap­i­tal­is­ing on three scrubby shots onto the green be­fore rolling in a 25-footer for birdie and col­lect­ing a dozen skins, which would go some way to pay­ing for din­ner that night.

While 16 holes at Ma­genta Shores are dis­tinctly links style, the two holes that bor­der the Wyrra­ba­long Na­tional Park on the north­ern bound­ary fea­ture more trees and have a slightly di…er­ent char­ac­ter about them. The 326-me­tre 13th is a won­der­ful short par-4 that re­quires a straight tee shot and a qual­ity pitch. It’s eas­ier said than done though as the fair­way is quite nar­row and poor po­si­tion­ing of the tee shot can leave a diƒcult down­hill lie ap­proach with a short iron. A mas­sive scheme of bunker­ing can be found all along the right edge of the green.

A pre­cise tee shot is also needed on the next hole – the 381-me­tre par4 14th, which is rated the most diƒcult at Ma­genta. The tough­est ele­ment of this hole is the drive. Left of the fair­way traps on the left is not the play, while the fair­way runs out on the right around the 240-me­tre mark, where the hole be­gins to sweep left to­wards the large green. With a sti… breeze blow­ing from the south­east, all four in the group strug­gled to find the fair­way here and a pair of dou­ble bo­gey sixes halved the hole. The golf was fun, but not of a con­sis­tently high stan­dard.

With the halved 14th hole be­hind us it was on to ar­guably Ma­genta Shores’ most mem­o­rable o…er­ing – the 124-me­tre par-3 15th. This is a ter­rific one-shotter with a rel­a­tively small green – in com­par­i­son with oth­ers at Ma­genta Shores – and is well ex­posed to the wind, bring­ing deep bunkers and thick rough into con­sid­er­a­tion. No won­der it’s one of Wat­son’s favourites.

For mine, the mark of a good hole is the ques­tions it asks as you stand on the tee. There’s noth­ing worse than the de­sign and set-up of a hole dic­tat­ing what club and shot you need to hit. Tes­ta­ment to the qual­ity of the 15th was how all four in our group ap­proached the tee shot. Each had a di…er­ent club, rang­ing from 6-iron through to pitch­ing wedge, and each had a di…er­ent plan of at­tack into a breeze that was gust­ing up to about 25km an hour. The re­sult: four pars. The sun was just near­ing the hori­zon was we putted out on 18 and thoughts were quickly turn­ing to food. In the name of sat­is­fy­ing hunger pangs, it was de­cided to “do the ac­counts” over din­ner in the re­sort restau­rant.

Bar­retts Restau­rant didn’t dis­ap­point. Af­ter

my win on the 8th and a few loose dol­lars grabbed on the back nine, I treated my­self to some oys­ters Kil­patrick and the beef ten­der­loin, which were both de­li­cious. There was even a lit­tle room left to tuck into a cheese plate, as the round post-mortems con­tin­ued.

DAY 2

The open­ing round post-mortems con­tin­ued well into the wee hours, which was fine as our Satur­day tee time at Shelly Beach Golf Club was not un­til af­ter 1pm

Af­ter a big sleep in, we ven­tured into The En­trance with a few of the lads crav­ing a fried food pick me up. We found the Big Tuna Fish Co. fish and chip­pery on the main drag and in­vested heav­ily in their fine cui­sine, which was de­voured in dou­ble time as we sat in Memorial Park over­look­ing the in­let to Tug­gerah Lake.

Hang­overs fed, it was o… to make our tee time. Shelly Beach is an easy-walk­ing, 6,007 me­tres from the tips, which was wel­comed by my play­ing part­ners.

The three most mem­o­rable holes also o…er the best ocean views. The 366-me­tre par-4 5th is a devil of a hole where a blind drive needs to be fol­lowed up with a pre­cise mid- or short iron to the green, de­pend­ing on the strength and di­rec­tion of the breeze.

The fol­low­ing hole mea­sures just 337 me­tres from the tips but this ocean­side o…er­ing is still rated No.7 on the stroke in­dex for a rea­son. It is a tight driv­ing hole, es­pe­cially into the wind, and club se­lec­tion for the ap­proach is al­ways tough in the windy con­di­tions that of­ten pre­vail

The par-4 16th is one of the best, or most in­ter­est­ing, of the home­ward bound holes. It is a short-par 4, at 315 me­tres, of sub­stance where your drive needs to be po­si­tioned for the best an­gle to ap­proach a flag cut any­where on the di­ag­o­nally lay­ing green, which has been cut out of a steep sand dune. Where the 5th and 6th holes might play into the wind, the 16th hole will play down­wind but it won’t make this short o…er­ing any eas­ier.

Shelly Beach has im­proved markedly dur­ing the past decade with the course now fully ir­ri­gated and some changes to the orig­i­nal Al Howard de­sign. While it is not as chal­leng­ing as Ma­genta Shores up the road, it is a whole lot of fun, es­pe­cially when the wind blows.

As the non-drinker in our four­some, I pock­eted all the cash bar one lone skin on day two so din­ner was on me. While eat­ing our fish and chips ear­lier, I spot­ted a Thai restau­rant – Bang Rak Thai – on The En­trance Rd, which proved to be a great find. The Pad Kapow chicken was the best I have eaten any­where.

It was no sur­prise that the drinkers wanted to get their head on the pil­low early as our day three tee time at Kooin­dah Wa­ters meant an early start. It didn’t, how­ever, pan out that way as a few hours of poker back at the re­sort rolled on into the wee hours.

DAY 3

Af­ter a slow start we still man­aged to source some qual­ity ba­con and egg rolls and co…ee and com­fort­ably make the 30-minute drive to

Kooin­dah Wa­ters for our 8 o’clock tee time. Another Ross Wat­son cre­ation, this time in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Craig Parry, Kooin­dah Wa­ters is short, tight and rus­tic, with its un­kempt swamps and or­ange-hued bunkers with rail­way-sleeper faces. Parry’s con­tri­bu­tions came with the club golfer in mind, mostly sug­ges­tions to widen some fair­ways and o…er al­ter­na­tive op­tions to the hero shot. Wat­son con­curred and the re­sult was a lay­out that, while tight and trou­ble-strewn, still o…ers mul­ti­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties to take on am­bi­tious car­ries and dar­ing lines.

Kooin­dah Wa­ters, like Ma­genta Shores, is a fine ex­am­ple of how an or­di­nary site can evolve into some­thing beau­ti­ful.

Pre­ci­sion is of the ut­most im­por­tance on the 6,083-me­tre lay­out, as is cer­tainty over club se­lec­tion. Sev­eral ap­proach shots re­quire wa­ter car­ries with lit­tle lee­way o…ered as a bail-out. In many in­stances the loom­ing wa­ter is ob­vi­ous, as you will see on the all-carry par-3 2nd and 17th holes, but on other oc­ca­sions the trou­ble is more sub­tle, with a hid­den bunker or other haz­ard lurk­ing par­tially out of view.

The ob­vi­ous trou­ble didn’t seem to worry the long marker of our group, Jacko, who al­most holed his tee shot with a 6-iron at the 149-me­tre 2nd. At no stage did his shot fly over the wet­lands, in­stead he aimed well left and sliced his shot onto the putting sur­face. Sadly (well not re­ally), he couldn’t con­vert the three-footer for his first birdie of the trip. He didn’t have to wait long though.

On the par-5 8th, we all care­fully ne­go­ti­ated our way down the fair­way with the ex­cep­tion of Jacko, who cut his drive into the fair­way bunkers down the right, chipped out and then laid up short of the haz­ard that iso­lates the green from the fair­way. Surely he was out of the hole … not so. He pitched in from 50 me­tres and scam­pered to the next tee with our cash in his pocket.

It was to be Jacko’s day. Three more birdies,

KOOIN­DAH WA­TERS, LIKE MA­GENTA SHORES, IS A FINE EX­AM­PLE OF HOW AN OR­DI­NARY SITE CAN EVOLVE INTO SOME­THING BEAU­TI­FUL.

two from chip-ins, made it hard for the rest of us to over­haul the 16-marker.

His best (and most lu­cra­tive) birdie came at the 298-me­tre 14th. With a swamp left of the driv­ing zone and an ar­ray of fair­way bunkers scat­tered left and right, there is more room nearer the green and it ar­guably makes more sense to bust a tee shot as close to the flag as pos­si­ble. Just be sure to avoid the wicked lit­tle pot short and right of the shal­low green. Jacko dumped his wedge ap­proach into the pot bunker, but it didn’t mat­ter. He still grabbed all the skins on oŒer when his bunker shot bounced once, hit the base of the flag and stayed in the hole.

Jacko fin­ished the day with 43 points and all the money. Thank­fully I wasn’t driv­ing home with him.

The panoramic views on most holes at Shelly Beach add to the plea­sure of a round here.

The su­perb short par-3 15th hole at Ma­genta Shores can be played so many ways.

Kooin­dah Wa­ters’ chal­leng­ing but pretty open­ing hole sets the scene for the rest of the round.

Wa­ter and sand play prom­i­nent roles in pro­tect­ing par at Kooin­dah Wa­ters.

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