There’s something absolutely beautiful about golf by the sea. It’s where the roots of the game can be found, and where it seems to make the most sense.

A salty sea breeze filling the nostrils is one of the game’s most enjoyable  natural accompaniments.

Which makes the construction and ongoing success of the Ross Watson-designed Magenta Shores Golf & Country Club, a celebration of how a golf course can not only markedly improve the environment but also provide great pleasure to the senses.

The strip of seaside land wedged between the sand dunes at the back of Magenta Shores beach and Wilfred Barrett Drive, just north of The Entrance on NSW’s North Coast, was used as a rubbish tip for many years and the smell was far less inviting than the ocean’s perfume.

The par-3 15th hole is the shortest and arguably best of the one-shotters at Magenta Shores. PHOTO: Brendan James.

When Watson made his first site inspection in the early 2000s, much of the northern end of the property had a wonderful undulating profile, while the southern section (all the area to the right of the entry road) that had been the site of the tip was flat and featureless.

The first stage of the construction saw 250,000 square metres of sand fill trucked in and used to raise the profile of the land by up to eight metres above sea level in the southern section. The new landscape also brought the sea into view.

The area starting from the 1st green through to the par-4 6th hole lies on top of the old landfill site but you wouldn’t know it to look out over these holes today. To cast your eye over the terrain now it is hard to imagine that every dune, every bump and hollow was created by man. You could swear blind this course has been in the ground for decades but the truth is Magenta Shores only celebrated its 10th anniversary last year.

The par-5 2nd hole brings the ocean and nearby The Entrance into view. PHOTO: Brendan James

The remainder of the site covers all sand, which gave Watson a blank canvas to get really creative with the bunkering and green sites.

The final result is outstanding and in the decade since Magenta Shores opened for play the layout has been able to maintain its presence among the top layouts in the country. In 2016, Golf Australia ranked Magenta Shores at No.39 in the nation’s Top-100 Courses, which was an improvement of three spots on its 2014 rank.

And with important changes currently being implemented, you can expect that Magenta Shores will continue its climb up the rank.

The club has undertaken three key initiatives, all designed to improve the playability of the course for golfers of all standards, while also making the course more sustainable, especially in regards to water.

At the time of writing, the club was a third of the way into a program of converting all its fairways from Legend couch to the more durable and less-thirsty Santa Ana couch. Two on-site nurseries have provided all the stolons for planting and the conversion of the 1st to 6th fairways was well-advanced during my visit.

The par-3 4th hole looks like it has been plucked from a British or Irish links. PHOTO: Brendan James.

The Santa Ana couch fairways will require less water, but the club has also made moves to become even less dependent on the local water supply by expanding its water storage capacity by 300 percent through enlarging its irrigation lake.

These two initiatives alone will, ultimately, significantly improve on the already high quality of presentation of the playing surfaces.

The club is also addressing an issue with some of the smaller bunkers on the course, which would often see players either plugged or with difficult lies up the face of a bunker. Several greenside bunkers have recently been converted to revetted-wall faces with flat sandy bases – a style of bunker found on links courses throughout Great Britain and Ireland.

The crumpled terrain has given rise to some terrific holes like the downhill par-5 8th hole. PHOTO: Brendan James.

One of the things I really like about Magenta Shores, and any quality links course for that matter, is the variety of shot options available to you, especially around the greens. Watson’s design is fully complemented by the preparation of the course in this regard. Many of the green sites at Magenta Shores have well-manicured, and wide, approach areas as well as closely shaved steep slopes to feed misdirected shots away from the putting surface. But these close cropped areas also allow you to bump-and-run chip shots onto the green or you can even putt from 30 metres away.

While much acclaim is given to the 100 percent man-made holes that feature between the 1st and 6th, I really like the holes that can be found north of the main resort area.]

Of these, the downhill par-5 8th, long par-4 9th and the narrow journey of the short par-5 10th set up what is a cracker back nine that does not have a weak hole among them.

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 different 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 relatively narrow and poor positioning of the tee shot can leave a difficult downhill lie approach with a short iron. A massive scheme of bunkering can be found all along the right edge of the green.

The sandy approach to the par-5 18th hole. PHOTO: Brendan James.

A precise tee shot is also need on the next hole – the 381-metre par-4 14th, which is rated the second hardest on the course. The toughest shot here is getting the drive in the right position. Skirting the fairway traps on the inside of the dogleg left is ideal as this will leave a more direct line to the green.

Arguably Magenta Shores’ finest offering comes next – the 124-metre par-3 15th. The relatively small green – in comparison with others at Magenta Shores – is well exposed to the wind and is bound by deep bunkers, well-trimmed slopes and thick rough beyond. This hole has been enhanced in recent times with the removal of coastal scrub between tee and green, which now provides an unobstructed view from the tee.

The 15th is a fine example of what the entire Magenta Shores course has to offer – challenging holes, beautiful surrounds and fun golf.



LOCATION: 1 Magenta Drive (off Wilfred Barrett Drive), Magenta, NSW, 2261.

CONTACT: (02) 4336 0100.


DESIGNER: Ross Watson (2006).

SLOPE RATINGS: 142 (Black tees), 138 (Blue), 137 (White), 138 (Red) and 133 (Yellow).

PLAYING SURFACES: Bentgrass (greens), currently converting fairways from Legends couch to Santa Ana couch.


PGA PROFESSIONAL: Natt Whittington.


MEMBERSHIPS: There are nine membership categories covering a wide range from young juniors through to the seasoned golfer. Magenta Shores is an equal opportunity club, owned by the members, where men and women have equal playing and voting rights with mixed competitions. Full individual membership is available from just $3570pa. Add a partner or friend as a Dual Member for a total of $5790pa. (A joining fee may apply for Individual and Dual.) You’ll receive an ‘Exclusive members welcome Pack’ including four TrackMan Lessons with club fitting, a custom-made set of Cobra golf clubs with Odyssey putter and golf bag as well as a $500 golf shop voucher.

There are clinics for juniors, new or recent golfers and the very latest in teaching facilities. The club also has regular new initiatives such as par-3 and 9-hole competitions.

RECIPROCAL CLUBS: The Cut (WA), The Heritage (Vic), Portsea GC (Vic), Sanctuary Cove G&CC (Qld), Palmer Sea Reef (Qld), Links Hope Island (Qld), The Brisbane GC (Qld), Saujana G&CC (Malaysia), Woking GC (UK), Pyle & Kenfig (UK),

STAY AND PLAY: Magenta Shores is a private club but it is possible for non-members to play the course by staying at the adjoining five-star Pullman Magenta Shores Resort. This enables the club, in partnership with the hotel, to successfully facilitate a wide range of play and stay events and corporate days.