The first thing you will notice as you arrive at The Coast Golf Club is its proximity to the ocean. It is certainly aptly named. The second thing you will likely notice, either by observation or from word of mouth, is that, for all its beauty, The Coast can bite – and it can bite hard.

Despite only measuring 5,495 metres from the members’ tees, the layout itself is very fair, but its geographical location and its susceptibility to the elements can – at times – make it feel incredibly intimidating.

So, as a mid-handicapper, who has a bad habit of losing balls on the stillest of days and on the flattest of courses, it was comforting to know I had plenty of ammo in reserve. Especially when a long-time member told me he had never once completed a round using the same ball.

There are seven holes that skirt the edge of the ocean. PHOTO: Supplied.

Whenever you look inland, which won’t be all too often, you will probably spot an old brick building standing on the hill in the distance.

The golf club was formed in 1965, but the Prince Henry Hospital (formerly The Coast Hospital) was the original custodian of a course designed in the late 1920s by Jim Ferrier. This was, of course, long before he won two Australian Opens and a host of state Opens, turned pro and headed off to the United States where he became the first Australian to win a professional major, the US PGA Championship, in 1947.

The layout was lengthened and enjoyed an extensive restoration in the late 1960s when members volunteered to take part in working bees alongside prisoners from the nearby Long Bay Gaol. By 1973 all 18 holes had been completed and were unveiled to the public.

James Wilcher was then given the difficult task of redesigning parts of the course that would have otherwise interfered with newly built houses in 2007. Today, The Coast is thriving as one of Sydney’s most popular public access courses.

Wind is the dominant factor on the par-3 4th, which stretches to 180 metres from the tips. PHOTO: Supplied.

Perhaps its biggest drawcard is that it offers seven holes that play directly adjacent to the ocean – something worth the green fee alone.

The 1st hole is not part of that collection, but as you stand on the tee and look across the property, you will instantly realise how geographically impressive the course is. The opening challenge – a 367-metre par-4 – also marks the beginning of an interesting quartet of holes, which can boast something that this writer is very fond of.

Each of the first four tee shots play to different directions of the compass: West, East, North then South. This means your game will be examined early, and to its fullest, by whichever wind is prevailing on the day of play.

The par-3 4th ends that enjoyable sequence, but it also begins one of the most scenic portions of your round and encapsulates everything about a day at The Coast. With Little Bay Beach at your back, this signature hole measures 146 metres and requires a fine shot over an unnerving gorge to safely find the back-to-front sloping green.

Club selection is made extremely difficult here – as it is across the entire course – by often strong winds, and over-clubbing will lead to quick, downhill putts. But this is certainly one of those memorable tests that has the potential to produce lifelong stories … for better or worse.

Rated No.1 on the index, the long par-4 13th has out-of-bounds left and the ocean right. PHOTO: Supplied.

The following hole plays in the same direction as its predecessor and offers panoramic views across the site and clifftops. Measuring 352 metres, the 5th is undoubtedly one of the toughest driving holes on the course. Anything pulled or hooked is destined for a watery grave, while anything pushed or sliced is likely to find a well-positioned dam.

A difficult approach shot awaits. And anybody who speaks to members will quickly be advised to leave their ball well below the hole to avoid the steep slope at the back of
the green.

Although some people at The Coast claim they have the best putting surfaces in the area, the club introduced a bent grass nursery in 2014 and plans to replace at least one green every two years. This process should enhance a player’s overall enjoyment on greens that currently run very true – but at times lack some character and slope.

Work is also being carried out on the back nine to improve grass coverage on the fairways, with a new irrigation system being installed late last year to wash away any salty sea spray that blows in from the ocean.

One of the highlights of the inward nine is the well-hyped 14th hole. The par-4 plays from one of the layout’s highest points and offers stunning views. Your tee shot will need to carry a huge gorge to safely find the fairway. This is a daunting task for any level of player, but spare a thought for those playing from the tips, who will require the better part of 200 metres worth of carry to avoid reloading.

Potentially the toughest of The Coast's par-4s, the 14th hole. PHOTO: Supplied.

Once on the fairway, the hole veers slightly from left to right, following the edge of the cliffs, towards a raised green that can be very tough to hit, especially with a strong northerly tailwind. Par is a very good score here – and so is the view across Little Bay Beach.

First-time visitors are likely to struggle with their tee shots at the par-4 16th. The correct playing line and landing area is somewhat difficult to spot, and club choice can therefore feel baffling. Ideally, you will need to play your 180-metre club to the left half of the fairway, which will leave you with a short iron approach. Should you go any longer, you’ll face a steep downhill lie, and if you rip driver you could even find the lateral water hazard protecting the front of the green.

The 18th hole does what every closing hole should do and produces a range of scores. Anybody who fancies themselves a ‘bomber’ will be able to attack the green off the tee, while the more tactical player is able to lay-up and rely on their wedge game. It is exciting. Just like any round at The Coast.  

FACT FILE

THE COURSE

LOCATION: 1 Coast Hospital Road, Little Bay, New South Wales, 2036

CONTACT: (02) 9661 5367

WEBSITE: www.coastgolf.com.au

DESIGNERS: Members and Jim Ferrier (late 1920s/early 1930s); Members (1973); James Wilcher (2007).

COURSE SUPERINTENDENT: Jordan Roach.

PGA PROFESSIONALS: Greg Green.

SLOPE RATINGS: 135 (Men’s blue tees), 132 (Men’s white tees); 129 (Women’s red tees), 126 (Women’s yellow tees).

PLAYING SURFACES: Kikuyu/couch (fairways); poa annua/bent (greens).

GREEN FEES: $22 – $55 (depending on seasonal dates and times). $110 midweek for two players and a cart (Monday to Thursday).

THE CLUB

MEMBERSHIPS: Full seven-day membership at The Coast costs $229 per month – for 14 months – and includes joining fees and yearly subs. Under-30s membership includes the same benefits and costs $92 per month.

RECIPROCAL CLUBS: NSW (Coraki GC, Cowra GC, Forbes GC, Hay GC, Hawks Nest GC, Lismore GC, Maitland GC, Muree GC, Parkes GC, Port Kembla GC, Queanbeyan GC); QLD (Headland GC, Rockhampton GC); VIC (Heidelberg GC, Northern GC, Rossdale GC).

WEDDINGS & CORPORATE GOLF: The Coast is perched atop the picturesque cliffs at Little Bay in Sydney and offers a stunning ocean-front setting to tie the knot. It can accommodate all of your requests using its state-of-the-art facilities. Contact Nora for more details: (02) 9311 7422. From competitions and signage to administration and food, The Coast is one of Sydney’s best kept secrets when it comes to corporate golf. Its spectacular setting will provide a memorable day for your guests. Contact the club for packages: (02) 9311 7422.