A decade ago, the club’s future was uncertain. Today, it is one of Queensland’s most impressive golf hubs with a nationally-ranked golf course, mini golf course, first class practice facilities and an expansive clubhouse.

The back story of this success dates back more than 50 years and the foundation of the Horton Park Golf Club, which was the green centrepiece of Maroochydore.

The sun sets over the Maroochy River course, and the 1st hole (right) and 7th (left). PHOTO: Brendan James.

By the late ‘90s, residential and commercial development of its surrounds had ‘landlocked’ the course in Maroochydore’s CBD. It became apparent to some within the club that pressure would soon be applied move from the city centre.

Plans to relocate away from the centre of the CBD were first tabled in 2004 when the club was told by council it planned to build a transport corridor, including a train line, through part of the course. The writing was on the wall.

When the club was approached by global investment firm Babcock & Brown with an incredible deal worth tens of millions of dollars, it was an offer too good to refuse. But the global financial crisis and the subsequent collapse of the firm put a swift end to that deal by the end of 2008.

The collapse of the deal left Horton Park at a crossroad and the members were divided as discussions continued about the club’s future with some wanting to stay put, some keen to sell up and buy nearby Twin Waters Golf Club and the remainder wanted to build a new course and relocate.

Club selection on the par-3 12th hole is important to help avoid the spine running through the green. PHOTO: Brendan James.

The status quo was broken in 2011 when the Sunshine Coast Regional Council paid the club $42 million for its 53-hectare site with a view to redeveloping Maroochydore’s CBD into a commercial and entertainment hub.

But where would the club go?

The proposal to make an offer to buy Twin Waters was put to a member vote twice, and was twice rejected.

The club then ramped up its search for a new home and the board met with the likes of former Open Champion and Sunshine Coast-born Ian Baker-Finch and other design firms to inspect sites within close range of Maroochydore. But it was a 102 hectare stretch of flood prone former cane fields at Bli Bli – about seven kilometres north-west of the original course – that was eventually chosen and purchased by the club, with Graham Marsh winning the commission to design the new course.

“Most of the preliminary work was complete and council was pressuring us to move,” club General Manager, Charlie McGill, said.

“The council were happy for us to purchase Twin Waters because they could move in straight away and start developing Maroochydore’s new CBD. But the members voted against buying Twin Waters and the council served us with resumption papers.”

Bunkers and wetland line the entire length of the tight driving par-4 13th hole. PHOTO: Brendan James.

Next year marks the 10th anniversary of construction work starting on the course.

It took more than three years to build the club’s new par-72 course and modern clubhouse, but with the last drinks being served at Horton Park on May 31, 2015, the first rounds were played on the newly-named Maroochy River Golf Club the following day.

Given the flood-prone nature of the property, the land profile was raised considerably during construction and provided a relatively blank canvas for Marsh to create a layout, which needed to appeal as a challenge for players of all standards.

He has hit the mark on that front. The expanse of land allowed Marsh and his design team to offer wide fairways, big greens and four tees on each hole. The broad avenues of play are welcoming to the high handicapper or casual player, while the accomplished player is offered the opportunity on most holes to take a more aggressive line – skirting a scheme of bunkers or water hazard – to get a shorter or more straight-forward line to a flag.

There is a variety of playing lines into the green on the short par-4 15th hole. PHOTO: Brendan James.

The par-4 10th is a fine example. From the tips, the slight dogleg right hole stretches to 390 metres but the shortest route to the green is to take on the first of three bunkers near the right edge of the fairway. Big hitters can carry the first bunker but they can get a bounce into one of the two smaller traps beyond. The safe playing line wide of the sand leaves a longer shot and also beings a harder approach where a bunker short left of the green is more in play.

The bunkering is a real feature of the journey. The shape and size varies a lot, and while the depth of many leans towards the shallow side, they are visually intimidating enough to make you second guess your club selection or playing line.

The only hole devoid of bunkers is the 399-metre 18th hole, which ranks as the hardest hole at Maroochy River courtesy of its length and the only forced water carry during the round. It is a tough closer that may have been inspired by similar holes that regularly feature on the PGA Tour. With water all down the left side of the hole – and separated from the slight dogleg left fairway by a wide cut of rough – few players will willingly drive to the left half of the fairway. Shorter hitters will need to lay-up short of the water hazard, cutting the fairway off from the green that lies beyond, and rely on their wedge and putter to make par. There are water hazards scattered right across the layout, with hazard stakes to be seen on 14 of the 18 holes, but it is only with the clubhouse sitting in front of you and 17 holes behind you that it can have the greatest impact on your scorecard.

That said, in nearly all cases the water hazards don’t really come into play and they only become a worry when you hit wildly away from the broad fairways. Even on the 136-metre par-3 12th hole where a lake borders the entire right side of the hole, it is possible to hit away from the water and still have a chance at making par.

The bunkerless long par-4 18th hole with Mt Coolum in the background. PHOTO: Brendan James.

It is early days for Maroochy River. The landscape is still quite sparse, which you might expect from what is meant to be a links-style layout. But there have been dozens of trees planted but, like the water hazards, they are predominantly well away from the playing lines.

Six years after opening, the playing surfaces at Maroochy River and, in particular, the Bermuda Tifeagle greens, have matured beautifully and are superb. Marsh’s green contouring and variety of shapes have been complemented by the surfaces and are a lot of fun to putt on.

Maroochy River has been impressing course ranking judges since opening. It cracked a spot in Golf Australia magazine’s Top-100 Courses ranking in January 2016 – less than seven months after opening – and has risen in this list and the Top-100 Public Access Courses ranking every year since.


LOCATION: David Low Way, Bli Bli, Queensland.

CONTACT: (07) 5373 1000.

WEBSITE: www.maroochyrivergolfclub.com.au

DESIGNER: Graham Marsh (2015).

PLAYING SURFACES: Greenlees Park couch (tees and fairways), Bermuda Tifeagle (greens).


PGA PROFESSIONALS: Maroochy River is home to the Queensland Golf Performance Centre with lessons available from Sean Seymore, Di Pavich, Marcus McPherson and Louis Fesolai.

GREEN FEES: $65 (18 holes), $37 (9 holes), $40 (cart). Mates rates promotion – 18 holes for four players (including two carts) $280.

MEMBERSHIPS: Memberships are currently full but email reception admin@maroochyrivergolfclub.com.au to place your name on their waiting list.

MINI GOLF: Designed and built by Mini Golf Creations, Maroochy River’s 18-hole mini golf course is the first of its kind on the Sunshine Coast with beautifully landscaped humps and hollows, water features and sand traps. Green fees: $15 adults, $10 children.