If you have ever been to the Gold Coast for a holiday, golfing or not, and you have flown into Coolangatta Airport you will be familiar with the sight. As the plane banks left over the ocean and heads west for the final approach, the long strip of beach and the seemingly endless stand of high rise apartments that stretch north come into view to the right. It is an iconic view that is stereotypically Gold Coast.
On a recent visit, I rediscovered a golfing sanctuary among the hustle and bustle and ever expanding jungle of concrete and glass. It had been nearly 10 years since I last played Surfers Paradise Golf Club, despite having played the layout dozens of times as a teenager on holidays throughout the 1980s.
Despite its name, the course is actually in Clear Island Waters, about five kilometres south of the bars and restaurants of Surfers’ famed Cavill Avenue. The Broadbeach to Nerang Rd borders the course to the north and there is residential on two other boundaries, but when you are deep into your round here you feel like you could be a thousand miles away.
It was very different when the club was formed by a small group of keen golfers, ex-servicemen and their friends in 1967. The club founders actually had their sights set on a parcel of land closer to the heart of Surfers Paradise, but property developer Bruce Small, who became Gold Coast mayor in the same year, convinced the group to purchase 92 acres of his land at Cypress Gardens and construction on the layout began just a few months later.
The layout was designed by then club captain Warwick Thomas and English-born Ken Eglit, who was one of the driving forces behind the formation of the club. He was later named the club’s patron and first life member. Sadly he passed away in February this year, aged 96.
Eglit and Thomas’ work has been tweaked over the decades but over the course of 52 years his design – laid out across less than 90 acres – has withstood the test of time. It was created to be a members’ course, but it didn’t stop the club hosting the Australian PGA Championship within two years of officially opening in 1968. Bruce Devlin captured the title in 1970 (making it back-to-back titles), while Billy Dunk shot 15 under for four rounds to win the following year. For many years, the club also hosted one of the biggest junior events in Australia – the South Pacific Classic – which boasted winners that ultimately moved into successful pro careers including Wayne Grady (1976), Ossie Moore (1977), Corinne Dibnah (1982), Nicole Lowien (1986) and Adam Scott (1996).
Today, Surfers is an easy-walking par-71, which measures 5,841 metres from the tips so you don’t have to be long from the tee to get value for your good shots.
“Eglit and Thomas’ work has been tweaked over the decades but over the course of 52 years his design – laid out across less than 90 acres – has withstood the test of time.”
The fairways are a little more tree-lined than they were in Devlin and Dunk’s days, but generally there is enough room fromtee-to-green to regularly pull the driver from the bag. However, there are no shortage of fairway bunkers and water hazards to be avoided. In fact, water comes into play on 11 holes.
The first of three par-5s at Surfers Paradise is also its longest at 529 metres from the back markers. It’s a tight driving hole with a small tributary of the Nerang River running the length of the hole to the right and then wrapping around the back of the green. The bunkerless fairway snakes its way right, then left, to a wide putting surface with three bunkers – one left and two through the back of the green.
Water and sand also play a major role on one of Surfers’ best par-3s – the 147-metre 5th hole. A pond right of the tee only comes into play for those, like me, that are prone to the occasional shank. But a picturesque lake to the left of the green is definitely in play for even the slightest mis-hit. The green, which slopes markedly from back right to front left, is surrounded by four bunkers with a ‘coffin’ shaped bunker wedged between the putting surface and the lake being the most difficult to escape from.
Heading for home there is a genuine chance of adding a birdie to the scorecard at the short par-4 17th. At 310 metres from the tips, it’s not a hole to be attacked with a driver unless you can bank on a left-to-right shot shape to follow the dogleg shape of the fairway as it veers around a lake to the left. The key here is to get your drive in play and take aim with a short iron into a receptive green that lies just beyond the lake.
The layout is beautifully presented by course superintendent Duncan Lamont and his team and – as it always has been – is a fun course to play for a wide range of golfers of varying abilities.
ADDRESS: 1 Fairway Drive, Clear Island Waters.
CONTACT: (07) 5572 6088, (07) 5575 1666 (pro shop); www.surfersparadisegolfclub.com.au
DESIGNER: Ken Eglit & Warwick Thomas (1967).
GREEN FEES: $56 (18 holes). Specials include – Play unlimited golf Monday, walking only $27; After 1pm for four hours of play, two people including a cart $85 (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday & Sunday).
PGA PROFESSIONALS: Paul Orchard and Ben Jewell.
COURSE SUPERINTENDENT: Duncan Lamont.
MEMBERSHIPS: Surfers Paradise Golf Club offers seven categories of memberships including three-, five- and seven-day male and female memberships. The seven day membership is currently open and offers seven day playing rights, unrestricted use of the golf club facilities as well as a $250 bar and bistro allowance. There are no green fees attached to this class of membership. There is also a seven-day twilight membership for those people who are time poor but still want to get their golf fix. For more Membership information, or to sign up, please contact the club on (07) 5572 6088.