For more than five decades, a drive through the centre of Maroochydore on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast would ultimately see you pass one or two boundary fences of the Horton Park Golf Club.

But by the late 1990s, residential and commercial development of the CBD had reached saturation point and the course was being ‘squeezed’ from all sides. The drums of change were starting to beat loudly. In 2004, discussions began to relocate away from the town centre as the local council pushed forward with its plan to build a transport corridor through part of the course.

It took seven years of talks with developers, members and town officials before the Sunshine Coast Regional Council paid the club $42 million for its 53 hectare CBD site. The club was then without a course.

The two-tiered green with its subtle breaks can lead to an easy three putt on the short par-4 6th hole. PHOTO: Brendan James.

A proposal to buy nearby Twin Waters Golf Club was put to a member vote twice, and was twice rejected before a search was made for land within close range of Maroochydore.

A 102 hectare parcel of flood prone former cane fields at Bli Bli – about seven kilometres north-west of the original course – was eventually selected and purchased by the club before Graham Marsh was commissioned to design the new course.

It took more than three years to construct the club’s par-72 course and modern clubhouse with the first rounds being played at the new Maroochy River Golf Club in June 2015. In the three and a half years since the official opening, its reputation as a fine test of golf and the quality of its playing surfaces has grown.

RIGHT: The short par-3 12th hole is one of the best one-shotters you can play on the Sunshine Coast. PHOTO: Brendan James.

Given the flood-prone nature of the property, the land profile was raised considerably during construction and provided a 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 a water hazard – to get a shorter or more direct line to a flag.

“ … They (bunkers) are visually intimidating enough to make you second guess your club selection or playing line.”

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 majestic Mt Coolum stands as a distant backdrop to the 5th and 12th greens. PHOTO: Brendan James.

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.

The sun sets across the Maroochy River course and the par-4 14th hole. PHOTO: Brendan James.

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 – one of the best one-shotters to be found on the Sunshine Coast – 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 playing surfaces at Maroochy River and, in particular, the Bermuda Tifeagle greens are superb. Marsh’s green contouring and variety of shapes have been complemented by the smooth rolling surfaces and are a lot of fun to putt on.

RIGHT: The long par-5 7th hole tempts only the bravest trying to hit the green from long range. PHOTO: Brendan James.

One very positive point to note is the firmness of the greens. I have played Maroochy River twice during the past year and both times the greens, and their surrounds, were firm which allowed for a variety of running or high approach shots to be played. More courses around the country should try and follow suit.

The club has hosted four state events since it opened and will host the Australian Men’s Senior Amateur Championship later this year, two years after hosting the Women’s Senior Amateur national title. Perhaps more glowing is the fact the course has hosted more than 200,000 rounds in that time, making it one of the most popular courses in the region.

“The playing surfaces at Maroochy River and, in particular, the Bermuda Tifeagle greens are superb.”

The impressive design and presentation saw Maroochy River debut at No.65 in Golf Australia’s Top-100 Public Access Course ranking published last month and it appears destined for higher honours in years to come.


LOCATION: David Low Way, Bli Bli, Queensland.

CONTACT: (07) 5373 1000.


DESIGNER: Graham Marsh (2015).

SLOPE RATINGS: Men – Black 126, Blue 124, White 120, Yellow 114; Women – White 131, Yellow 127, Red 121, Orange 100.

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


PGA PROFESSIONALS: Sean Seymore, Di Pavich, Marcus McPherson.

GREEN FEES: $65 (18 holes), $37 (9 holes), $39.50 (cart).

The kidney-shaped 15th green can lead to some fun if you leave your drive or approach shot on the wrong side of the flag. PHOTO: Brendan James.


MEMBERSHIPS: There are eight membership categories available including seven-day full memberships costing $1,349 annually for men, while ladies cost $1,347. There is a joining fee of $1,500. Juniors (between 13 and 18 years) pay $257.20 (boys) and $255.65 (girls). Call (07) 5373 1000 for more information.

FACILITIES: The club is home to the Queensland Golf Performance Centre, which is located on the driving range with two indoor/outdoor bays, an indoor high performance room including putter fitting, K-Vest 6D, SAM Pressure Plate and a fully-equipped gym.

CORPORATE GOLF: Groups of any size, up to 144 players, can easily be accommodated. The club’s experienced staff can arrange competitions for your guests, including nearest the pins, long drives and straight drives, as well as whatever daily competition you prefer.

RECIPROCAL CLUBS: The club has reciprocal rights with 27 clubs around Australia and New Zealand where members get discounted rates. Check the club’s website for the full list.