Despite being already well-established among the nation’s Top-100 Courses, the team at Magenta Shores is continually striving to improve its acclaimed layout and climb even higher in the rankings.
The first six years of this century produced a boom in new golf course construction in this country.
This brief period saw the likes of Barnbougle Dunes, St Andrews Beach, Ellerston, The National’s Moonah Course, 36 holes at Thirteenth Beach and Moonah Links, Brookwater, Hamilton Island, The Vintage, Ranfurlie, Sanctuary Lakes, Pelican Waters, The Glades and Pacific Harbour all added to the Australian golfing landscape.
Most of these creations were crafted from beautiful golfing terrain, while others, like The Glades and Pelican Waters rose from disused floodplains, and Sanctuary Lakes laid upon salt flats.
And then there is the unlikely story of Magenta Shores Golf and Country Club, born out of a seaside rubbish tip to immediately cement its place among these aforementioned courses in the ranking of the Top-100 Courses in the country.
The strip of seaside land wedged between the sand dunes at the back of Magenta Shores beach and Wilfred Barrett Drive – linking The Entrance with Budgewoi on New South Wales’ Central Coast – was used as a rubbish tip for many years. While much of the northern end of the property had a wonderful undulating profile, the southern section (all the area to the right of the entry road) was the site of the landfill and as a result was flat and featureless.
The Ross Watson-designed Magenta Shores began with the trucking in of 250,000 square metres of sand to raise the profile of the land to eight metres above sea level in the southern section and bring the ocean into view on the first seven holes of the round.
The area from the 1st green through to part of the par-4 6th hole is all on top of the old landfill site. You can’t help but be amazed, looking at the idyllic golfing terrain now, of what lies under this area of the course. The sculpted wild grass-covered dunes look as if they were created by Mother Nature over generations, not by men in earth-moving equipment 15 years ago.
Watson says the rest of the site also had a wonderful thick sand base, which meant he could use all his creative juices on a golf course blank canvas.
“There were really no limits to what we could do with the land because of the sand underneath,” he said. “The only restrictions were that we had to tie in with the real estate and we couldn’t going into the forest areas along the northern boundary.
“It was a rare opportunity to work with a pile of sand on the ocean and shape it in any manner I wanted.”
RIGHT: The growing residential development lines the long par-5 18th hole. PHOTO: Brendan James.
The final result is outstanding and in the 14 years since Magenta Shores opened for play the par-72 layout has only gotten better, which is reflected in its ever-improving Top-100 Courses ranking. In 2020, Magenta Shores moved up to No.36 in the country, some six places higher than had been placed in 2014.
The high standard of presentation has always been a big tick for the course, while Watson’s design has, from day one, had a reputation for being challenging. But it hasn’t always been fair, which related more to the course set-up rather than the design itself.
In its early years, there was a propensity to let the rough surrounds of the bunkers grow long and wild and, for mine, the first cut of rough was a bit long and too penal for the average player. These matters were addressed some time ago and today the fairways are generous in width and, while the long fescue rough remains, it has been selectively used and/or trimmed back.
I have been fortunate enough to play Magenta Shores many times over the years and watching it mature, fill out and simply improve has been an interesting experience. The playing surfaces alone have come along in leaps and bounds.
The fairways – best described as having the pitch and roll of an unsteady sea – are in the midst of being converted from Legends couch to Santa Ana couch. The front nine conversion was completed in February this year, while the back nine will be done by the end of next February.
Several factors contributed to the decision to convert to the new grass. The Legend couch is susceptible to Poa Annua infestation, while the Santa Ana couch requires less water and has a shorter dormancy period.
I really like the club’s decision in this regard as I believe Santa Ana couch, which is easier to maintain, provides a better playing surface, especially for a course like Magenta Shores that is often subjected to high winds and forces players to adopt a ground game.
The Santa Ana can be extended right up to the edge of the putting surface providing a firm and consistent approach that is ideal for a links style course. This can’t be achieved with Legend couch and, for mine, it impacts the way you play the course and robs players of the opportunity to confidently reach for a 7-iron to hit a chip-and-run onto a green.
“It was a rare opportunity to work with a pile of sand on the ocean and shape it in any manner I wanted.” – Course designer Ross Watson
Watson’s design at Magenta Shores, over time with the maturity of the Santa Ana, will be enhanced by the conversion as the variety of shot options, particularly around the greens, increases. Many of the green sites at Magenta Shores have wide, approach areas as well as closely shaved steep slopes to feed misdirected shots away from the putting surface. The influence of these close-cropped areas on a player’s shot selection will become greater when covered with Santa Ana as it will provide a better surface to hit bump and run chip shots or even putt onto the green.
I really look forward to playing the course again when the Santa Ana is bedded in across all 18 holes. Given the fairways all lay upon a thick layer of sand, I can only imagine they will ultimately play firm and fast. This will benefit shorter, straight hitters and scare the hell out of better players, who will need to adopt a strategic approach rather than a one-dimensional driver and short iron plan.
One hole where the strategy has already dramatically changed with Santa Ana couch covering the fairway is the 523-metre par-5 2nd hole. No hole at Magenta runs as close to the beach as the lengthy hole sweeps right between grass-covered dunes right and seaside scrub left. A bunker in the middle of the fairway asks you to decide to go left or right, with each route having its benefits and pitfalls. Ultimately, some may choose not to use the driver so as to avoid the sand and hitting through the fairway into the scrub. While the change of grass will make the hole play slightly shorter for long hitters, it also brings plenty of trouble into play. For the shorter, accurate hitter, they will be able to negotiate the hazards, get within 100 metres of the green to be left with a simple pitch and run to the flag.
While much acclaim is given to the 100 percent man-made holes featuring between the 1st and 6th, I really like the holes that can be found north of the clubhouse and 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, for mine, 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 quite narrow and poor positioning off the tee shot can leave a difficult downhill lie approach with a short iron. A massive nest of bunkers 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 par-4 14th, which is rated the most difficult 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.
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 and thick rough. It is one of Watson’s favourites.
“It’s one hole that always jumps into my mind because it is a little ‘Postage Stamp’ type hole,” he said.
For mine, Magenta Shores is the finest design work of Watson’s career and is going to play even better once all the new fairways have had time to mature. A higher Top-100 Courses ranking is certainly not out of the question.
LOCATION: 1 Magenta Drive, Magenta, NSW, 2261.
CONTACT: (02) 4336 0100.
DESIGNER: Ross Watson (2006).
GREEN FEE: Magenta Shores G&CC is a private club. $120 (walking), $145 (including cart). Visitors are welcome to play but access is limited to invited members’ guests, organised groups of eight or more or guests staying at the adjoining Pullman Magenta Shores Resort.
COURSE SUPERINTENDENT: James Newell.
MEMBERSHIP: There are nine categories of membership on offer at Magenta Shores, ranging from discounted rates for young golfers up to the age of 29, to limited golf and unlimited golf options. An unlimited Individual membership costs $3,860 annually and adds other benefits and privileges, including motorised cart and shop discounts, free range balls, the ability to invite unaccompanied guests and more.
Magenta Shores also offers a dual membership category with the same benefits for two golfers for a cost of $6,255 per year.
STAY AND PLAY: Located on site, the five-star Pullman Magenta Shores offers two- and three-bedroom villas as well as studio king rooms. Non-members staying at the resort can secure tee times on the golf course and have access to a range of other facilities.
ACCOLADES: Golf Australia magazine Top-100 Courses ranking, No.36.